Welcome to Sawtry

Saltrede (11th century); Saltreia (12th century); Sautre (13th century) and Sawtry (16th century to modern times).

The High Street in the village of Sawtry in Huntingdonshire
The High Street in Sawtry, Huntingdonshire.

Sawtry was given by Canute to Turkill the Dane, and on his being exiled, in the reign of Edward the Confessor, the King gave the estate to Earl Waltheof. Here, about the year 1146, Waltheof’s grandson, Simon de St Liz founded an Abbey of Cistercian Monks, which flourished until the dissolution, and the site of which is still pointed out, although not a vestige of the buildings remains.

The demesne lands of Sawtry Abbey were, until recent years (early 1900’s), extra parochial and known as Sawtry Judith, widow of Earl Waltheof. Of Sawtry Abbey, founded in 1147, only excavated foundations now remain together with traces of the fishponds and the sites of the quays where the building stone was unloaded. The whole area is enclosed by dykes which were to protect it from the flood water of the Fens. The 17th century Manor Farm, the moated Grange Farm, and Abbey Farm which incorporates some of the monastic stonework, are all of interest.

In addition to this abbey property there were two other manors, the one belonging to Ramsey Abbey, and held under them by the family of Le Moygne until the middle of the 15th century, and then by the Clarivaux family. This property afterwards belonged to the Dukes of Devonshire and now to Lord Chesham, who also owns Sawtry Judith.

The other manor had been given by one Tosti to Ramsey Abbey, but Eustace the Sheriff seized it, and it was held under him by Walter de Beaumes, whose family retained it for some 300 years, when it passed by heir-ship to the family of Louth, from whom, again by heir-ship, it passed to Cornwallis. Later on it belonged to the families of Cotton, Annesley, Newton, and now (1910) to John Moyer Heathcote, of Conington Castle.

For many centuries there were two parish churches at Sawtry; All Saints and St Andrew, in addition to the abbey. They were both pulled down in 1880, and a new church, designed by Bloomfield, was built on the site of the old All Saints Church. Some portions of the old churches are preserved in the new building; a two arched with column, a small two-light window, and a very fine brass of a knight and his lady (Sir William Le Moygne and Maria, his wife), 1404. The churchyard of St Andrew, on the east of the Old North Road, may still be seen (1910). The three former Anglican parishes of All Saints, St. Andrew and Sawtry Judith, were combined in 1934. William Sawtry, a priest here, was burned in chains at Smithfield in 1401, being the first Christian martyr in England after the Norman Conquest.

Sawtry today is an extensive parish with a large village centre close to the Great North Road overlooking the Fens. It still contains some 17th century cottages and the Old Chequers Inn. Near the church is a moated site. Monks Wood, in the south of the parish, was acquired by the Nature Conservancy in 1953. This 375 acre mixed woodland, mainly natural regeneration, is notable for its rare plants and insects. The black hairstreak butterfly was first found here.

Sawtry is one of the parishes of the District of Huntingdonshire, whose administrative centre is Huntingdon, the other principle towns being St Ives home of the Chapel on the Bridge, St Neots the largest town in the County of Cambridgeshire, the Roman town of Godmanchester and Ramsey site of the former Abbey.

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This site is listed in the British Towns and Villages Encyclopaedia of Great Britain and we can be found in the entry for Sawtry