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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 Downs.
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 (24 ha) 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 medieval 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 Catholic 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 rage of the Puritans 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 by greedy village elders 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, which would today appear to be highly controversial and antisemitic, 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!
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 in the 2013 Local Plan from South Cambridgeshire District Council currently under review by the Planning Inspectorate. Work on a new Community Hub, which will be a flexible meeting place and re-home the Library (in temporary buildings following the 2012 fire at the Walnut Gallery, SVC), is due to commence during 2016. It will be located adjacent to the Marven Centre on New Road.
The underground structure of Sawston is the same as that of the region – permeable chalk and impermeable clay. The low-lying nature of the village is indicative of a former flood plain which still tends towards the moist, although comparatively recent dredging of the local ditches and rivers has alleviated the general flooding problem. The chalky nature of the local geology provides for a clean, if hard, water supply as it is drawn from artesian wells in the area. The chalk and clay in the area contains a large quantity of flint that often finds its way into older local construction.
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 border of the village, crossing over into neighbouring 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.
Sawston Parish Council has a nominal 19 seats, so at the May 2016 elections 15 Councillors were elected unapposed, for a period of two years. The Council moved to a new office building on Link Road in 2011. This incorporates an office for the village History Society. Sawston Parish Council is active in many aspects of village life, including village facilities (recreation grounds, community buildings etc.) and organising events (such as annual bonfire nights and Christmas lights displays).
Sawston is a three-seat Ward within the South Cambridgeshire District Council local government area. This is responsible for Planning, waste collection and the provision of local services such as street lighting (though this has recently become the Parish Council's responsibility after funding was withdrawn by SCDC).
Nationally, Sawston is in the South Cambridgeshire constituency for representation in the Westminster Parliament – a seat currently held by Conservative Party Member of Parliament Heidi Allen (incumbent since 2015).
Sawston Medical Practice http://www.sawstonmedicalpractice.co.uk/ occupies a site on the London Road, which was completed in 2008. This practice merged with the Linton Practice (known collectively as the Granta Medical Practices) effective from April 2016.
Sawston Village College was the first ever village college to be built, by Henry Morris in 1930. As of 2005 it has 1,085 pupils in 5-year groups and approximately 50 teaching staff. The former principal was Mrs June Cannie. In addition to this the village also has the Icknield Primary School, the Bellbird Primary School (previously the John Falkner Infant and the John Paxton Junior Schools) and a number of nursery and preschool groups.
Social events in the village take place in the village's three churches, community hall or four pubs, or on the Sawston Village College site, which incorporates a youth centre (including theatre/cinema), an Assembly Hall which is also fitted out as a show venue and a new Arts Centre. The Village College site also has a new, large sports centre which was built in 2004 with two large halls, a swimming pool, and a gym.
On 6 September 2012, the school was devastated by a blaze that totally burned down the Walnut Gallery (a community meeting room) and the Public Library. There were no tragedies and it is believed to be an accident.
The village has four churches, Sawston Free Church, the parish church for the village of Sawston, Saint Mary's Church (There are some pictures and a description at the Cambridgeshire Churches website), Christ Church South Cambs also Church of England, and Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, now under joint Parish leadership with Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Cambridge.
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:
- Sawston Cricket Club, who play at Spicers Sports Ground
- Boys' Brigade Company
- Girls' Brigade Company
- Air Training Corps Squadron (2461 (Sawston) Squadron)
- Army Cadet Force
- 1st Sawston Scout Group (including Beaver, Cub and Scout divisions) of The Scout Association
- Girl Guides and Brownies
- Sawston Youth Drama
- Sawston United Youth Football Club
- Sawston Girls Football Club
- Sawston Youth Group (a large independent youth group)
- Sawston Cinema
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.
The village has a thriving history society, a book group, and a twinning association (Sawston is twinned with Selsingen, Germany). Since 2005, the village has had an annual music festival, based 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.
The community magazine Sawston Scene was started by a group of volunteers in 1970, with the first issue printed in April of that year. It has been published every two months ever since, celebrating its fortieth anniversary in April–May 2010. The magazine includes reports from county, district and parish councils as well as local groups and societies, a diary of local events, and a directory of local information.
The Sawston Facebook page has gone from strength to strength to rekindle community spirit with its 2.1k (07/11/16) strong membership. Many village issues are aired and resolved including the Grass Verge fiasco of 2016, the Cows escaping in 2015 and the impending growth of the village with the arrival of the Cambridge City F.C Super-dome. All in all like the Sawston Scene set a trend in 1970, so has the Sawston Facebook page, even hitting the news when it helped foil the card cloning scam originating in the USA hitting Cambridge Building Societies nationwide (22/03/16).
A cycle path linking Sawston with Babraham, and Babraham with Abington was completed in October 2010, at a cost of £350,000. The route will eventually cross the A11 using the existing footbridge and join the National Cycle Network route 11.
The village has been twinned with the German town of Selsingen since Klaus Bruno Pape's visit to Sawston in 1984, as a result of a link being established between the two in Walther Piroth of Frankfurt University's PhD thesis.
- "Sawston - UK Census Data 2011". UK Census Data. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
- 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 3 July 2008.
- Sawston Parish Council – About Us
- "Council action lights up the Village". Sawston Parish Council. April 2007. Archived from the original on 12 August 2007. Retrieved 15 July 2007.
- Sawston Free Church
- St Mary's Church
- This church's page at the Cambridgeshire Churches website
- Christ Church South Cambs
- A Church Near You: CCSC
- Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church
- Sawston Cricket Club Website
- 1st Sawston Scout Group Website
- Sawston Youth Drama Website
- Sawston United Youth FC Website
- Sawston Girls Football
- Sawston Youth Group Website
- Sawston Cinema Website
- OWL website
- Sawston Free Church website
- Papworth Trust website
- Sawston Village History Society website
- Sawston Music Festival website
- Sawston Scene website
- "Sawston to Abington cycleway". Cambridgeshire County Council. Retrieved 25 October 2011.
- Sawston History FAQs
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