Sawston is a large village in southern Cambridgeshire, on the River Cam seven miles south of Cambridge. It had a recorded population of 7,150 at the 2001 census, making it one of the county's largest villages, and it has many of the trappings of a small town, with a High Street with shops and banks.
Although the current village of Sawston has only existed as anything more than a hamlet for 400 to 600 years, there is evidence for a settlement in the vicinity dating back to the early Bronze Age almost 5000 years ago. The northern high-ground in Sawston would have been the only vantage point from which to view the ancient Hill figures discovered in the Wandlebury section of the Gog Magog Hills.
Sawston Hall is a Grade I listed Tudor manor house dating from the 16th century. The hall boasts many fine features, such as the magnificent Great Hall complete with Elizabethan panelling and a large Tudor fireplace with fireback dated 1571. The hall also has its own private chapel which is also panelled and has an 18th-century decorated plaster ceiling and wonderful stained glass windows. On the first floor the Long gallery and the bedroom where Queen Mary I was rumoured to have slept are also key features with original wide oak floorboards and exposed chalk clunch walls.
The hall is surrounded by almost 60 acres of grounds which includes a Site of Special Scientific Interest protected by Natural England due to the presence of Cambridge Milk Parsley, a rare English native plant. The ground also include a number of naturally fed springs, woodland walks, a half moat and a number of smaller landscaped gardens.
The Sawston estate was held by the Huddleston family from 1517 until the 1980s. The Hall was thrust into the history books in 1553 when Mary Tudor (soon to be Mary I of England), fleeing imprisonment by the Duke of Northumberland, spent the night at Sawston Hall. Northumberland's soldiers followed Mary to Sawston forcing her to flee the next morning disguised as a dairymaid. As she fled, the soldiers put flame to the mediæval manor destroying a large portion of the hall.
The Hall was re-built by Sir John and Edmund Huddleston between 1557-1584 with the help of a licence granted by Queen Mary to use stone from Cambridge Castle. During the re-building Mary died and was succeeded by Elizabeth I. This resulted in the inclusion of a number of priest holes in the building, allowing the Huddleston family to continue their practice of the Roman faith. The priest's hole at the top of the spiral staircase at Sawston Hall is noted as one of the finest examples in the country.
During the Second World War Sawston Hall, still under the ownership of the Huddlestons, was the headquarters of the 66th Fighter Wing, part of the USAAF Eighth Air Force. An air raid shelter still remains in the grounds, and on the top floor war-time graffiti still adorns the walls. In 1982 the Huddleston family sold the hall which became a language school until the present owner purchased the property in 2010.
Sawston Hall sits adjacent to the, earlier, Norman styled St Mary's church.
Sawston Hall was the location used for the 1971 Michael Winner film "The Nightcomers". It was featured extensively including many scenes providing interior shots of the house throughout.
Until 1815 the village of Sawston had an ancient cross, possibly erected by the Knights Templar. The cross had many purposes, even as a location where public officers administered justice during the 13th century. It survived the iconoclysm of the Puritans culminating in the Civil Wars, but was torn down between the summer of 1815 and autumn of 1816, along with the surrounding amphitheatre-like enclosure, the stocks and ancient sycamore tree, and sold to make way for redevelopment.
William Hone's Table-book includes a contributor's description when he stumbled across the villagers discussing whether or not to tear down the cross.
A poem comparing Sawstonites to the Jews at the crucifixion (which would today appear to be worryingly close to anti-Semitism) was subsequently penned, and published in the 1827 journal:
The Jews of old, as we've been told—
And Scriptures pure disclose—
With harden'd hearts drew lots for parts
Of our Salvator's clothes.
The modern Jews —the Sawstonites—
As harden'd as the Israelites—
In ignorance still more gross—
Thinking they could no longer thrive
By Christian means, did means contrive—
Draw lots, and sold the cross!
It is an odd appeal to Scripture, given that it was the Roman soldiers, not the local men, who drew lots for the Saviour's clothes.
Sawston has seen substantial development since the end of the Second World War and, more recently, a number of large housing estates have been constructed, most notably to the north-west and south of the village. This development has led to the area of Sawston spreading into the small nearby village of Pampisford.
Sawston has been earmarked for development to meet Cambridgeshire's ever-growing housing needs, including a recent development led by the local council.
For the last couple of hundred years, the two principal industries in Sawston's environs have been Paper & Printing and Leather. The original paper mill in Sawston is on the current Spicers site, named after the family who owned the mill in the last century. This complex is located at the north-west corner of the parish.
There are two sites in Sawston which support or have formerly supported tanning facilities. The site south of the village centre and backing onto the grounds of the Sawston manor house, Sawston Hall, is the Hutchins and Harding site. The other site is on the southern bounds of the village, between here and Pampisford, the Eastern Counties Leather site which has now been mostly converted into a general industrial estate. These industries were introduced into Sawston to take advantage of the clean water supply. Examination reveals that both sites are located on bore holes or streams.
A further large industrial estate exists in the north of the village adjacent to Babraham Road.
The village has four churches:
- Church of England:
- Independent ./ Evangelical: Sawston Free Church
- Roman Catholic: Our Lady of Lourdes
- Cricket: Sawston Cricket Club, who play at Spicers Sports Ground
- Rugby: Sawston RUFC, based on the village college site
Youth and charity
Due to its size the village hosts a large number of youth groups and clubs, as well as some organised by the village college. Notable organisations in the village include:
- Air Training Corps Squadron (2461 (Sawston) Squadron)
- Army Cadet Force
- Boys' and Girls' Brigades:
- Boys' Brigade Company
- Girls' Brigade Company
- Scouts and Guides:
- 1st Sawston Scout Group (including Beaver, Cub Scout|Cub and Scout divisions)
- Girl Guides and Brownies
- Sawston Youth Drama
- Sawston Youth Group
Sawston is the base for the charity Opportunities Without Limits (OWL), which in 2010 merged with the Papworth Trust. OWL have their headquarters on the Village College site, where they maintain the school gardens and hedges. They incorporate a number of other training projects for adults with learning difficulties including a bike refurbishment and resell shop, and a café attached to Sawston Free Church in the high street.
- Sawston Village History Society
- A book group
An annual music festival takes place around a weekend near Midsummer's Day. There are also regular musical events in St Mary's Church, often of Renaissance music sung by a consort of singers, The Company of Musicians.
- Sawston Scene, a community magazine started by volunteers in 1970.
| ("Wikimedia Commons" has material|
- Sawston Parish Council
- Sawston Scene
- Sawston Community
- Sawston History Society
- 1st Sawston Scout Group (Beavers, Cubs and Scouts)
- Sawston Cross, in: The Every-day Book and Table Book; or, Everlasting Calendar of Popular Amusements, Sports, Pastimes, Ceremonies, Manners, Customs, and Events, Each of the Three Hundred and Sixty-Five Days, in Past and Present Times; Forming a Complete History of the Year, Months, and Seasons, and a Perpetual Key to the Almanac, Including Accounts of the Weather, Rules for Health and Conduct, Remarkable and Important Anecdotes, Facts, and Notices, in Chronology, Antiquities, Topography, Biography, Natural History, Art, Science, and General Literature; Derived from the Most Authentic Sources, and Valuable Original Communication, with Poetical Elucidations, for Daily Use and Diversion., ed. William Hone, (London: 1827) p 81-82. Retrieved on 2008-07-03.
- St Mary's, Sawston on Cambridgeshire Churches
- OWL website
- Sawston Free Church website
- Papworth Trust website
- Sawston Music Festival website
- Sawston Scene