The Autumn 2015 edition of the Journal included articles featuring: a fascinating study of the paintings of William Tomkins of Audley End; a look at the six Essex barons who were among the 25 involved in Magna Carta; some insights into a remarkable set of solicitors’ deeds; a local connection to the slave trade; a link between the town and Napoleon Bonaparte; memories of Sewards End – and more.
In June 2015, the Saffron Walden Historical Society, under its imprint SWHS Publications, was proud to bring into publication a new book by Elizabeth Allan, Chepyng Walden. The photograph shows the author at the launch of her book, a landmark volume offering a unique and detailed portrait of Saffron Walden in the 15th century, a time when it was still known as Chepyng (or Market) Walden. The author vividly brings to life the town as it grew and changed almost six centuries ago, leaving a legacy we still enjoy today: this was the dynamic period when the magnificent church was being built, there was a rich cultural life, sophisticated trading patterns and saffron was becoming an important crop. A remarkable and scholarly book, fully illustrated with maps, charts and photographs, it has rapidly become a classic reference for everyone with an interest in the history of medieval life in the finest market town in Essex.
Edited by Jacqueline Cooper. Design by Nick Crawley. Fully illustrated in colour.
Chepyng Walden – A Late Medieval Small Town: Saffron Walden 1438-1490
by Elizabeth Allan
On sale from Saffron Walden Tourist Information Centre & Harts Books. The TIC can advise postal charges. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Geoffrey Ball, a regular contributor to the Saffron Walden Historical Journal, has been awarded a prestigious national prize by the British Association for Local History. The photograph shows him receiving the prize from David Hey at the BALH agm in Birmingham in June.
Geoffrey, who lives in Saffron Walden, received the BALH Publications Award 2015 in the short article category. The article, published in the Autumn 2013 issue of the Journal, explored the history of the WW2 agricultural committee in the town and district, the so-called ‘War Ag’, based on the rare survival of its records in the Town Library.
Journal Editor, Jacqueline Cooper, commented: ‘There are very few awards for local historians, so this one matters – it’s from the British Association of Local History for the best short article in a local history journal. We are so pleased for him – Geoffrey has been one of our most prolific contributors ever since the Journal first started, and it is good to see his excellent research and writing recognised in this way.’
Geoffrey specialises in the history of agriculture and associated trades and has written a large number of articles for the Journal over many years, some of which are gathered together in the SWHS Publications volume, Land Agriculture & Industry, on sale at the TIC in Saffron Walden.
SWHJ No 29 – cover
Issue no 29 of the Journal features unusual view of Saffron Walden High Street, designed by Nick Crawley, cleverly blending a view from the top of the High Street in 1820 with the same view today. Articles included an archaeology dig discovering human remains at the Tudor Works site; a WW1 story about the treatment meted out to a member of the Friends’ Meeting House, High Street, Cornelius Barritt who was victimised as a conscientious objector; a nostalgic wander by Bruce Munro down the High Street early 1950s; the life of one of its residents, Dr Hedley Bartlett, whose medical practice was in the High Street; the history of the oldest retail business in the street, Gray Palmer who kindly sponsored this issue of the journal. Articles on local villages include a pioneering study of how pastoral landscape evolved in Anglo Saxon times; an analysis of the undertakers’ records in Sampfords; an archaeology find in Wicken Bonhunt; and a look at a curious building in the grounds of Elm Grove. The major new publication by the Society, a history of Walden in the 15th century, is reviewed along with other new local history books.
The beautiful gold Saxon Ring acquired by Saffron Walden Museum, found in the fields of NW Essex, is featured with a splendid colour photograph on the front cover of the Saffron Walden Historical Journal, No 28.
Another specially-commissioned article is by Christopher South, the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire broadcaster, recalling his memories of 1950s Walden. Christopher was a junior reporter on the Saffron Walden Weekly News at that time and writes fondly, and often hilariously, of the personalities he encountered and the atmosphere of the town half a century ago.
Another article that will bring back fond memories is Geoffrey Ball’s research on the story of Blyth & Pawsey, the firm of agricultural engineers who once were a big employer in the town.
The recent closure of the Methodist Church in Castle Street, has prompted a look at the history of this church which now no longer has any chapels left in NW Essex, its members having joined other churches.
Littlebury author Lizzie Sanders contributes the last of her articles on the hamlets of Audley End, using little-known old maps to recreate the history of North End, just outside the town but once within its boundaries.
There is also an article about Samuel Pepys and his connection to the town, the Charter Weekend held in Saffron Walden, WW1 centenary events, the story of a Quaker who travelled to America in the 18th century, a study of an unusual house in West Road, Saffron Walden and the memories of the Head Woodman on the Audley End Estate.
The wide-ranging impact of the First World War on life in Saffron Walden is the theme of the Spring 2014 issue of the Saffron Walden Historical Journal, a bumper issue of 40 pages which was published on 28 April 2014. More than dozen specially-commissioned articles are complemented by about 70 illustrations, including many never published before, and numerous photos of the men of Walden who fought in the war, 159 of whom did not return. Photos of some of these men, recently found in a cupboard, are published for the first time.
Starting with one man’s personal account of soldiering right through the war, the journal continues with an in-depth and very perceptive analysis by John Howard of the reasons behind the extraordinary anti-German riot which took place in the town soon after the outbreak of war. The immense efforts needed on the Home Front are the subject of other articles by Jacqueline Cooper. As the war developed, military tribunals were introduced with increasing numbers applying for exemption. The conduct of these tribunals and the experiences of conscientious objectors are examined by town historians, Malcolm White and Martyn Everett. Local residents have loaned some remarkable postcards which reflect what must have been the most noticeable effect of WW1 on the streets of the town – the billeting of thousands of troops in 1915 and other times. This affected the economy of the town and impacted on children’s education. Saffron Walden’s expert on WW1, Robert Pike, has contributed a number of articles, while the role played by women in the war is exemplified in Deborah Lowe’s detailed biography of one remarkable nurse.
This issue also has a new look. The journal team has sadly lost the services of former deputy editor, Gordon Ridgewell who has moved out of town: ‘We would like to pay tribute to Gordon’s work,’ commented editor Jacqueline Cooper. ‘He has given his expertise, energy and enthusiasm over the past ten years through more than 20 issues, and helped to make the journal an important part of the town’s history scene.’ Martyn Everett has now become deputy editor, with the graphic design now in the hands of Nick Crawley, who has redesigned the journal.
On 12 May 1984 the Saffron Walden Historical Society helped to organize a major Essex History Day at Saffron Walden Town Hall. Continue reading