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St Mary the Great, Sawbridgeworth, Herts - - 358893.jpg
St Mary the Great, Sawbridgeworth
Population 8,458 (2011)
OS grid reference TL481151
  • East Hertfordshire
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district CM21
Dialling code 01279
Police Hertfordshire
Fire Hertfordshire
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament
  • Hertford and Stortford
List of places
HertfordshireCoordinates: 51°48′50″N 0°09′00″E / 51.814°N 0.150°E / 51.814; 0.150

Sawbridgeworth is a small, mainly residential, town and also a civil parish in Hertfordshire, England.


Sawbridgeworth borders Harlow and is four miles south of Bishop's Stortford, twelve miles east of Hertford and nine miles north of Epping. It lies on the A1184 and has a railway station that links to Liverpool Street station in London. The River Stort flows through the east of the town, past the Maltings.


Underlying the town at some depth is the London Clay stratum, with a thick layer of Boulder clay laid down during the ice ages, including the Anglian. The soil on top of this is a loam, with erratics of conglomerate known as "Hertfordshire puddingstone" found around the town.

Nearby villages

  • High Wych
  • Spellbrook
  • Much Hadham


Prior to the Norman conquest, most of the area was owned by the Saxon Angmar the Staller.

The Manor of "Sabrixteworde" (one of the many spellings previously associated with the town) was recorded in the Domesday Book. After the Battle of Hastings it was granted to Geoffrey de Mandeville I by William the Conqueror. Local notables have included John Leventhorpe, an executor of both King Henry IV and King Henry Vs' wills and Anne Boleyn, who was given the Pishiobury/Pishobury estate, located to the south of the town.

Entrance to Great Hyde Hall, near Sawbridgeworth, Herts. - - 216852
Entrance to Great Hyde Hall; it was known simply as Hyde Hall when it was held by the Jocelyn family in the 16th and 17th centuries
Neale(1818) p2.134 - Hyde Hall, Hertfordshire
Print of Hyde Hall (1818) by J. P. Neale

The mansion and surrounding land was acquired by Sir Walter Lawrence, the Master Builder, in the 1920s. He built a cricket ground and pavilion in the grounds where the great and the good of the cricket world came to play against Sir Walter's home team, which often included his three sons: Jim, Guy and Pat. Sir Walter also had two daughters: Molly and Gipsy. Hyde Hall was sold in 1945 and became a school.

Much of the town centre is a conservation area; many of the buildings date from the Tudor, Stuart and Georgian periods. Great St Mary's church was originally built in the 13th century (although a church on the site existed in Saxon times) and includes a Tudor tower containing a clock bell (1664) and eight ringing bells, the oldest of which dates from 1749. Historically, it is unclear where the apostrophe lies in "Great St Mary's", and even which St Mary it was, and why it is "Great". Ralph Jocelyn of Hyde Hall, who was twice Lord Mayor of London in the 15th century, is buried here; images of many of his family and other locals have been engraved on brass, and hence the church is popular for enthusiasts of brass rubbing. The ghost of Sir John Jocelyn, known for his love of horses, is reputed to appear riding a white horse on the old carriage drive every 1 November.

The town's prosperity came from the local maltings, owned by George Fawbert and John Barnard; in 1839 they set up the Fawbert and Barnard charity to fund local children and their education, funding a local infant school that still exists today.

By the time of the Norman conquest, or soon after, Sawbridgeworth's rich farming land was fully developed for cultivation as was possible with the means available at the time: it was the richest village community in the county. It is, then, hardly surprising that many important medieval families had estates here. The land was divided amongst them, into a number of manors or distinct estates; the Lord of each manor had rights not only over this land but also over the people who farmed it. The number of manors increased during the Middle Ages, by a process of subinfeudation, that is the granting out of a part of an existing manor to a new owner so that the new manor was created. Many manors sprang from the original Domesday Book holding of the de Mandeville family. The first came to be called Sayesbury manor, from the de Say family who inherited it from the de Mandeville's in 1189. The many important people who held these manors built themselves houses with hunting parks around them; when they died their tombs enriched the parish church, so that today St Mary's has one of the finest collections of church monuments in the country.

During the Second World War RAF Sawbridgeworth, which is not in the civil parish, operated Supermarine Spitfires, Westland Lysanders, North American Mustangs and de Havilland Mosquito, amongst other types - for a complete history of the airfield, see the book 'Where the Lysanders were .....', written by Paul Doyle and published in 1995 by Forward Airfield Research Publishing. The joinery works, located between the canal and the railway and owned by the building contractor Walter Lawrence & Son Ltd, built over 1,000 Mosquito fuselages for de Havilland during the Second World War. Subsequently it reverted to making joinery and doors for the building trade. The joinery works was closed in about 1982 and houses were built on the site.

Sport and Recreation

Sawbridgeworth Town F.C., a non-league football club, plays at Crofters End.

Sawbridgeworth Cricket Club is one of the leading cricket clubs in the south of England, fielding five senior sides on a Saturday and seven colts sides, from ages nine to fifteen. The 1st XI plays in the Home Counties Premier Cricket League, and the other league sides play in the Hertfordshire Cricket League. The main ground is Town Fields, situated behind Bell Street. The second ground is at the Leventhorpe School.

Sawbridgeworth also has tennis and bowls clubs.

Apart from the historic nature of the town, attractions include local river cruises in the summer, an annual fair held on Fair Green on the Sunday of the first May Bank Holiday, and carol singing on the green on Christmas Eve.

Local groups

Sawbridgeworth is home to 309 Squadron of the Air Training Corps.


Sawbridgeworth railway station is situated on the London to Cambridge/Stansted Airport line. There are bus services to Harlow, Bishops Stortford, and Stansted Airport.

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