Saffron Walden Church, Essex

The church, whose spire dominates the approaches to Saffron Walden, is the largest church in Essex, larger even than Chelmsford Cathedral. It seems probable that the first church here was a Saxon one made of wood. This was replaced in the early Norman period and the core of today’s church dates from 1130. The church was rebuilt and enlarged in the 1250s and then once again 200 years later in around 1450 under the aegis of Master Mason John Wastell, who was also then engaged in the building of King’s College Chapel in Cambridge.

That rebuild left the town with a magnificent structure that eclipses any of the other churches in the county by some considerable margin. For many years it had only a tower, the 193 foot spire was not added until 1832 (making the church also Essex’s tallest).

A good deal of the money for the church building work would have come from the harvesting of the saffron which gave the town its name (it was formerly Walden, then Chipping Walden). Also the owners of nearby Audley End House contributed to construction and repair work, particularly the First Lord Braybrooke at the very end of the 18th Century.

Saffron Walden not only has the largest church in Essex, it also has a castle and the largest concentration of ancient and Listed buildings in the county and is, perhaps, the most rewarding Essex town for the visitor.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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