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St Mary the Great, Sawbridgeworth, Herts - - 358893.jpg
St Mary the Great, Sawbridgeworth
Grid reference: TL481151
Location: 51°48’50"N, 0°9’0"E
Population: 8,400  (2005 est.)
Post town: Sawbridgeworth
Postcode: CM21
Dialling code: 01279
Local Government
Council: East Hertfordshire
Hertford and Stortford

Sawbridgeworth is a little town in Hertfordshire, in the east of the county hard by the Essex border, which is here marked by the River Stort. The town is small, mainly residential, and in green countryside, separated from the bulging towns of the Lea Valley to the southwest. The concrete urban form of Harlow in Essex south of Sawbridgeworth but separated comfortably from it.

Sawbridgeworth is four miles south of Bishop's Stortford, twelve miles east of Hertford and nine miles north of Epping. It is on the A1184 and has a railway station on the line to Liverpool Street station in London. The River Stort flows along the east edge of the town, past the Maltings (now a small business and residential area). Lower Sheering in Essex is across the river, almost an extension of Sawbridgeworth. The town's railway station is here.

To the southeast is the village of High Wych. Spellbrook is to the north, before Bishop's Stortford.


The town seems to be named after its bridge, presumably that over the Stort, but the origin of the name is not altogether clear. It is recorded in the Domesday Book as "Sabrixteworde", which may suggest an Old English original with brycg of bric ("bridge") but other possibilities are there. (The -worde suffix is at least the Old English weorð, meaning "place" in this context.)

The town's name is now almost universally pronounced in the obvious way, but this was not always the case. In the Middle Ages it is believed to have been pronounced "Sapserth", and since then the pronunciation has varied to include "Sapsa", "Sapster" and "Sapsworth", and even until the Second World War was pronounced "Sapsed". Current residents often use the casual abbreviated name "Sawbo".


The parish church is Great St Mary's, a church built in the 13th century, although on a site occupied by a church in Anglo-Saxon times. It includes a Tudor tower containing a clock bell (1664) and eight ringing bells, the oldest of which dates from 1749.[1]

Though the church is dedicated to St Mary, it is unclear which St Mary nor 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.


According to the Domesday Book of 1086, before the Norman Conquest most of the area was owned by Angmar the Staller. After the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror granted the estate to Geoffrey de Mandeville. It is recorded in the Domesday Book as the manor of "Sabrixteworde".

Local notables have included John Leventhorpe, an executor of King Henry V's will, and Anne Boleyn, who was given the Pishiobury or Pishobury estate, located to the south of the town.

A street entrance to Great Hyde Hall

Much of the town centre is a conservation area; many of the buildings date from the Tudor, Stuart, and Georgian periods.

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.

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

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 country. It is, then, hardly surprising that many important mediæval families had estates here. Many manors of later ages were created out of the original 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. Several of the great landowners have their tombs and ornate memorials in the parish church, so that today St Mary's has one of the finest collections of church monuments in the country.

During Second World War RAF Sawbridgeworth operated Supermarine Spitfires, Westland Lysander, P-51 Mustang, and de Havilland Mosquitos.[2]


  • Cricket: Sawbridgeworth Cricket Club: one of the leading cricket clubs in the southern counties.
  • Football: Sawbridgeworth Town FC
  • Also:
    • Bowls
    • Tennis

Big Society

Sawbridgeworth is home to 309 Squadron of the Air Training Corps.[3]

Outside links