Sawston Village History Society

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What is the Sawston Village History Society?

This was founded in 1991 by the late David Dockerill who was the instigator of the hugely successful “Sawston Past and Present Exhibition” held in the spring of 1988. This had resulted in many local historically orientated Sawstonians getting together to help David with organising the various exhibits, so by the time the first meeting was convened in February 1991, there was a good support.

The SVHS seeks to encourage the people of Sawston and the neighbouring parishes to take an active interest in all aspects of local history. There are regular monthly meetings with invited speakers on an eclectic range of topics usually, but not always, with some local historical interest.

The History Society Archive has been moved to the Challis House, 68 High Street, Sawston. It will be open on most Tuesday mornings between 10am and noon. Anybody (young or old) with any queries relating to Sawston Local History may email to check that the archive will be manned on the day you wish to visit. However, for those wishing to carry out research into Sawston's local history, the archive can be made available at other times by arrangement. School children are especially welcome.

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Where is Sawston?

Sawston is a large village (or, controversially, a small town) near Cambridge, England. It is in the county of Cambridgeshire, a few miles north of the Essex border. Here is a map.

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What's so great about Sawston's History?

Where to start! There is now strong evidence that there have been settlements in and around Sawston for well over 2000 years. Evidence of this is provided by the Iron Age Hill Fort, sadly now only visible from aerial photos, at the Spicer's site to the northwest of Sawston.

A Roman road junction was only very recently discovered underneath the Sawston Police Station at the Hillside / Babraham Road junction. A local archaeologist believes that there might have been a Roman fort here constructed during the Boadicean rebellion in 70AD. Possibly one of the Roman legions stayed here to help enforce Roman rule on the rebellious Brits.

A burial of a Saxon warrior, complete with shield, sword and pots, was unearthed at the top of Huckeridge Hill some 200 years ago. The Saxons settled here in about 600AD and gave the name “Salsingetune”-the farm of the Salses. This name is recorded in the Domesday survey of 1080 AD, later corrupted to “Salsiton” then to Sawston by about 1400. There is strong evidence that the Saxon tribe originated from our twin village of Selsingen in north Germany. The two villages were linked in the PhD thesis of Walther Piroth of Frankfurt University, from which the twinning relationship was initiated, as a result of a visit to Sawston in 1984 by the late Klaus Bruno Pape but that is another story!

The Sawston Hall is one of the finest Tudor halls in the country and was substantially rebuilt between 1557 – 1583 after being torched in 1553. Here Princess Mary was given overnight sanctuary in July 1553 in her struggle to claim the throne after the death of the boy king, Edward VI. Had she not been she might well have been captured and executed so that the throne would been given to Jane Grey, great granddaughter of Henry V11, by the Duke of Northumberland, her scheming father- in- law. So then there may not have been a Queen Elizabeth 1, and then how would our history, and indeed the world’s history have developed! The Hall also has three excellently hidden priest holes, echoing its ownership by persecuted Catholics.

Henry Huddleston was implicated in the 1605 Gunpowder plot and very lucky just to lose some of his estates rather than hishead.

We have one of the oldest continuous charitable events, the “Town Peas”, which was started in 1556 by John Huntingdon as a tribute to his wife. People have been collecting the free peas most years since. Sadly, this is now under threat as a result of modern bureaucracy. Our Asst. Secretary, Liz. Dockerill, is striving to keep this annual event alive but she is struggling.

We have a 12th century church, and several fine Tudor buildings.

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What is a Village College?

Sawston Village College was the first village college in Cambridgeshire, the dream of the late Henry Morris, which was ceremoniously opened by the Prince of Wales, Prince Edward, in 1930 who planted a commemorative tree. The SVHS now has the spade he used.

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Does Sawston have an industrial past?

Sawston has a paper mill and two leather factories which have been important employers for 200 years. Sawston also had a printing works, an aerated water factory, a gas works, a papier mache fabrication factory and a unique photographic industry amongst others. The SVHS has a considerable collection of photographs and documents relating to most of these. While on the subject of Sawston industries, we also have only one of 2 purpose built leather drying sheds in the UK. Sadly, this is now rapidly falling into a near irreversible ruin while various conservation groups and local authorities are discussing what to do with it. It has a preservation order so cannot be pulled down, by man anyway!

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Where and when does the society meet?

We meet every 2nd Thursday of the month (except August) at 7.30pm at the Chapelfield Way Community Centre, Link Road, Sawston. At the mini roundabout in the High Street turn into Link Road, go past the turning for Chapelfield Way and take the next narrow left hand turn just after three blocks of flats and before the semi-detached houses, and the Community Centre will be facing you around the right hand bend. (Note: This map doesn’t show the short side road beyond the blocks of flats.)

How much does it cost to become a member?

A full year's membership is £10. For this you can attend all the SVHS meetings without any further payment.

Members will also be given preference to any SVHS visits which normally take place in July, for which there is an extra charge.

Can non-members attend the meetings?

Absolutely, but will be asked to pay £3 admittance.

Who can I Contact for more information about SVHS or about this website?

Anita Evans is the current webmaster.

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