Saffron Walden and Around Through Time

I am delighted to tell you that my third local history book, Saffron Walden and Around Through Time, has now been published by Amberley Books and is available in “all good bookshops”.

Saffron Walden and Around Through Time

Click the picture to be taken to Amazon’s page for my book.

Saffron Walden is a beautiful market town in the north west corner of Essex, and a town I knew very well from my own past, when I lived for many years in the nearby town of Great Dunmow. I have shopped many a time in the splendid shops and market within the town. But, more importantly to me, I had spent many a happy hour when my third child (now a strapping pre-teen) was just weeks old as I daily pounded the streets of Saffron Walden in the attempt to get him to sleep. It was whilst walking through the grounds of Saffron Walden’s church, St Mary the Virgin, that he first looked up at me from his push chair, laughing at his own joke that he’d managed to pull off his socks and toss them over the side of his buggy. I should have been warned then that he was to become a child full of laughter and practical jokes! Saffron Walden plays as special place in my heart for those early days of exhausted motherhood to my boy. It was also during those sleep-deprived days of endless walks that I fell in love with Saffron Walden’s ancient streets and buildings.

The beginnings of my book
In the late summer of 2014, I was sitting in Amberley Publishings offices in the beautiful Cotswold town of Stroud, having just delivered the manuscript for my first book, Bishop’s Stortford Through Time. I was musing with one of the company’s Commissioning Editors over other books I could write for Amberley. It popped into my head that Saffron Walden would make a good book, and a town which I would personally like to research and photograph. Fortunately Amberley agreed with me, and thus was born my third local history book Saffron Walden and Around Through Time, to become part of Amberley Publishing’s phenomenally successfully Through Time local history book series. Foolishly I agreed with Amberley that I could write it at the same time as my second local history book, Sudbury, Long Melford and Lavenham Through Time

So there I had it. Two books to be written and delivered at the same time…

What is the “Around” of my book?
As you will see from the title of my Saffron Walden book, it is an “and Around” book, so includes other villages nearby to Saffron Walden. My brief from Amberley was to write about Saffron Walden the town, but to also include chapters on other nearby villages. They didn’t want me to wander too far from the main town, but left it totally open to me which villages I could include as my “Around” (but also dropped heavy hints that they’d like to see the Chesterfords included!). So that was my brief…Saffron Walden and Around. All to be fitted within no more and no less than 96 pages.

I would like to say that I purposely decided which villages to include. But I have to say that writing my book was very organic. It seemed to take on a life of its own and it dictated to me what villages were to be included. In the end, my “Saffron Walden and Around” comprises

  • Saffron Walden
  • Audley End
  • Littlebury Parish
  • Wendens Ambo
  • The Chesterfords (Little and Great)

Tales of long ago
Because I use so many sources for each of my books, I write quite detailed captions to all my pages and try to tell a significant story for that street or view, or of the people who once lived in the houses and roads. So in my book on “Saffron Walden and Around”, you may read things about the town and villages which you may not have known about.  For example, that Audley End (then known as Brook Walden) became infamous in 1579 as a place where the witch, Mother Staunton of Wimbish, practiced her witchcraft.  That in 1601, William Newton a shepherd from Great Ambo was convicted of stealing nearly 100 sheep throughout Essex.  That the infamous high wayman Dick Turpin held up the Walden and Stortford stagecoaches in Epping Forest in 1737…

There are so many stories to tell about this beautiful part of north west Essex.

Bridge Street, Saffron Walden

Bridge Street, Saffron Walden. Near this spot, the chief constable of Saffron Walden, William Campling, was murdered in 1849.


Audley End House

Audley End House, with the spire of Saffron Walden’s parish church showing in the centre-left edge. In 1742, Daniel Defoe wrote that the House was in ruins and decaying.


Littlebury village

Littlebury village. The village was on the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries stage coach routes between London and Newmarket or Norwich.


Crown House, Great Chesterford

Crown House, Great Chesterford. In 1671, the diarist John Evelyn journeyed on a stage coach from London to meet King Charles II who was watching the races at Newmarket. The horses on Evelyn’s stagecoach were changed at this coaching inn.


The trials and tribulations of photographing a modern-day town
In common with all books in the Through Time series, each page of my book contains:-

  • Saffron Walden and Around Through Time

    First World War VAD Hospital, Saffron Walden

    A “then” picture. An historic photograph of a building or street dating from between the early 1900s and the 1920s, for example a vintage postcard or old photograph.

  • A short caption and narrative about the view, detailing the view/building and setting it in its historic context.
  • A “now” photograph. This had to be an (almost) exact replica of the vintage view. So I had to locate and stand in the same location as the early 20th Century photographers, and capture a replica modern-day view. This in itself caused quite a few challenges; the main one being that Edwardian photographers did not have to contend with lorries and cars hurtling through the streets, but I did! As a consequence, many of my photographs had to be shot early in the morning; more often than not, on a Sunday. But even photographing early Sunday morning didn’t stop cars taking a prominent role in some of my images. Saffron Walden’s market place and high street were particularly troublesome in getting car-less photographs. I don’t think I managed a single photograph of the market place without at least one car being ever-present. Even at 6am on Easter Sunday morning there were still cars in the area!

Ironically, my own car appears on the “now” photograph on the front cover of my book. I didn’t mean it to be in shot… It took me countless early Sunday morning trips to the top of the high street to get that famous vista of Saffron Walden. Some days, the rain was too heavy for photographs; other days there were too many cars and people for my photographs to be “good shots”; to add to my problems, the light was bad on more days then I can count.  For some reason known only to my early-morning-not-totally-awake self, one time (and one time only) I parked my car right in the line of my camera’s lens. And that shot (out of countless hundreds of others) was the best view of a relatively car-less (except mine) high street….

Some of the sources I used
If you have read my blog posts about writing my other books, you will know that writing such as book is a source of great personal satisfaction and delight for me. I wrote a month or so ago on my blog a post Suffolk Voices Past: Sudbury, Long Melford and Lavenham Through Time detailing my life-long hobby of postcard collecting and combining that with being social historian. I also wrote about the sources that I use for each of my books, such as history books, newspaper reports, county archaeology/conservation reports, Victorian census returns, The National Archives.

Below are some of the sources I used for Saffron Walden and Around Through Time

British Newspaper Archive

British Newspaper Archive – click the picture to explore this rich online archive from the British Library

Census return

1881 Census return from Audley End’s almhouses for pauper women. This particular census return took me on my journey of discovery of Rebecca Law, a remarkable woman who lived in all the towns and villages described within my book and died aged 103 in 1916. The story of Mrs Law’s long life is told in my book.
Click the image to be taken to FindMyPast, a 3rd party online ancestry resource helping you to research your own family history.

A detection of damnable driftes practized by three witches arraigned at Chelmifforde in Essex

1579 pamphlet “A detection of damnable driftes practized by three witches arraigned at Chelmifforde in Essex“. One of my favourite sources – it told the tale of the Mother Staunton of Wimbish who bewitched a baby’s cradle in Brook Walden (now Audley End)


Saffron Walden and Around Through Time
I hope you enjoy reading my book.  I would love to hear from you with your comments on any of my three local history books.

Market Hill in the early 1900s, Saffron Walden

Market Hill in the early 1900s, Saffron Walden

Audley End Village in the early 1900s

Audley End Village in the early 1900s

Littlebury in the early 1900s, looking towards Queen's Head Inn

Littlebury in the early 1900s, looking towards Queen’s Head Inn

A pretty spot in the 1920s - Wendens Ambo

A pretty spot in the 1920s – Wendens Ambo

The Vicarage in the 1920s, Great Chesterford

The Vicarage in the 1920s, Great Chesterford


About the author, Kate Cole
I have a Masters in local and regional history from Cambridge University, a BA in history from the Open University, and an Advanced Diploma in local history from Oxford University – all studied whilst a mature student. Amberley have commissioned me to write 5 books in their Through Time series, and a further book on the First World War. I also give talks about various aspects of East Anglian history (such as the English Reformation in Tudor Essex and the Essex Witches from the Tudor period) to local history societies and groups. I live in Maldon, Essex, and regularly write about the local history of Essex and East Anglia on this blog. Before starting my second career as a local historian, for over 30 years I was a business technologist and computer consultant working in the City of London.


This blog
If you want to read more from my blog, please do subscribe to it.  If you’ve enjoyed reading this post, then please do click Like button and/or leave a comment below. I read every single comment and value the thoughts of my readers.  Thank you for reading this post.

You may also be interested in the following
– Henry VIII and the looting of the monasteries
– Saffron Walden and Long Melford: Reading the Riot Act
– Witchcraft and Witches in Elizabethan Essex
– Witchcraft and witches in Essex: Part 1
– Witchcraft and witches in Essex: Part 2

You may also be interested in the following post, written about my Suffolk book
– Suffolk Voices Past: Sudbury, Long Melford and Lavenham Throught Time
Sudbury, Long Melford and Lavenham Through Time by Kate Cole

You may also be interested in the following posts, written during a book tour of my first local history book

Bishop's Stortford Through Time by Kate Cole

– Bishop’s Stortford Through Time: The postcards that got away
– Bishop’s Stortford and Local history
– Vintage postcards and local/family history
– Correlation between local and family history
– Teaching history to children
– Bishop’s Stortford Through Time: How to get your local history book published
– Bishop’s Stortford Through Time: The process of writing a local history book

© Essex Voices Past 2015.

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4 Responses to Saffron Walden and Around Through Time

  1. poorirish says:

    Congrats on book #3! I love the pictorial approach, – it makes history accessible and delightful to a wide audience. Best wishes from across the pond!

  2. Belinda Hunt says:

    I have just ordered your Saffron Walden book and can’t wait to read it. Rebecca Law was my great great great grandmother. I only know a little about her long life so thank you for researching and writing about her and all the places she lived!

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