History and Guides 

ChurchJB-300-1The parish church of Saint Mary the Virgin is the largest in Essex, with an overall length of 183 feet, whilst the height of the tower and spire is 193 feet.

The East Saxons who gave their name to Essex were pagan, but after St. Cedd led their conversion to Christianity in the 7th century there was in all probability a Saxon wooden church here, The massive Norman stone church that was known to exist in 1130 was rebuilt and enlarged in the early form of the 'Decorated' period between 1250 and 1258.

A general rebuilding in the 'Perpendicular' style was begun in about 1450 and the present church takes a high place, from an architectural point of view, among the parish churches of England. The spire, however, is more modern, for it was built, and the upper part of the tower was renewed, in 1832, to the design of Messrs. Rickman and Hutchinson.

Illustrated guidebooks (see also below) and postcards of the church are available at the West end of the church.

Do have a look at our Historical Guide to St Mary's - taken from the 'Illustrated Guide to St Mary's Church Saffron Walden' by Lawrence Gooderham with illustrations by the late Don Burns.

A History and Guide to St Mary's Saffron Walden

By the late Dr Kenneth Dixon and complied and edited by Hamish Walker in 2000. Download a copy of this definitive history and guide to our Church.

The 2017 and completely revised edition with new material by John Read is available on the Friends' stand at the west end of St Mary’s church at a price of £5. All proceeds will go to the Friends of St Mary’s Parish Church to help fund future projects.

360° Tour of St Mary's Church

Click here to see Harry Jubb's 360° Tour of St Mary's Church - August 2015 - On Google Maps

A Walk-Around Guide to St Mary's Church

Download a copy of this useful 2 page guide.  This has also been translated into Czech, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish.

Guide to the Stained Glass Windows of St Mary's Church

These revised  notes (2006)  are based on those of  Muriel Simpson, who compiled the original leaflet with advice from Martin Harrison, author of ‘Victorian Stained Glass’.

The Making of Mary

An account by Tessa Hawkes of the making of the statuette Mary - in the North Chapel.

History of our Tower with 12 Bells

With a tower of 12 bells, St Mary’s has a 'Society of Bellringers', who ring for Sunday services and weddings. Find out more about St Mary's Bells here.

Illustrated Guide to St Mary's Church Saffron Walden

By Lawrence Gooderham with illustrations by the late Don Burns.
Download a copy (0.7 MB). Copies are also on sale at the back of the Church for £1. If you are interested in the illustrations you can download a higher resolution version (4.5MB).

Article on the History of St Mary's Church Saffron Walden - 1920

By Revd Montagu Benton, which appeared in 2 parts in the magazine of Friends' School - The Avenue - Vol X March 1920 No 31 and Dec 1920 No 33.
Download a scan of these articles here or see a transcript here.

From the Essex Record Office

Details of repairs to St Mary's Church Saffron Walden from the parish records from c 1790. Many thanks to Beryl Meehan who transcribed this from the Saffron Walden parish registers on-line at www.essexcc.gov.uk/ero  Download this document here.

Other documents from the Essex Record Archives can be found at www.essex.gov.uk/ero  In the search box in the middle of the page type in "Saffron Walden Parish" and then press search.

To trace your Family History check out our Family History Guide.

Burials within the Church

An introduction to burials within St Mary's Church by John Read.

See John Read's article in the Saffron Walden Historical Journal No 4 Autumn 2002 on "St Mary's Saffron Walden Burial Registers 1558 - 1892". Over 780 people have been buried inside the church - read John Read's interesting article to find out more.

You can download John Read's full list of burial locations within the church in pdf or Excel format, and see some examples here of interesting burial locations with the church.

Find out who is buried in the Howard Vault at the east end of the Church.

Find out more about the Byrde and Woodhall memorials, on the west end of the north wall.

Find out more about burials in the churchyard and Saffron Walden cemetery. (Over 18,000 people were buried in St Mary's Churchyard over a 300 period from 1553 to 1860!)

Other Historical Documents relating to St Mary's

'Historical Notes on the North Chapel' by John Read. Taken from the April 2012 edition of Saint Mary's Parish News

'JOHN THOMAS FRYE organist 1820 – 1884' by John Read. From the April 2015 edition of Saint Mary's Parish News.

Information about the Ledger Stones at the West End of the Church by John Read. Taken from the July 2015 edition of Saint Mary's Parish News

The Walsingham Family by John Reed - from St Mary’s Parish Magazine - October 2017