Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

St. Marys Church (Saffron Walden)

St. Mary the Virgin is the parish church of the historic Essex market town of Saffron Walden.

It is a magnificent church, and is the largest in Essex, with a length of nearly 200 feet. It stands on top of a hill, with its wooded churchyard leading down to the town's streets.

There were two previous churches on the site, and this one was begun in the late 15th century. Much of the work was undertaken by the famous master mason John Wastell. There is, however, a crypt from one of the earlier churches, dating from the 13th century.

Norman Scarfe wrote that St. Mary's "rears its long line of decorous battlements in all-round defence against the forces of darkness".

The South porch has two storeys, and is vaulted and turreted, and the East end and West tower each have two turrets. The tower is surmounted by a fine crocketed spire.

There are outstanding spandrels in the nave. Some of these are decorated with representations of the saffron flower, from which the town gained much of its wealth, as well as its name. Others are of Biblical characters.

The rood screen and loft were designed by Sir Chrles Nicholson in 1923, and the organ, with its 3500 pipes, was constructed in 1824.

There are 12 bells in the tower, one of the largest peals in England, and the society of bellringers has a 300 year history.

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