SAFFRON WALDEN, a market-town and municipal borough of Essex, England, is finely situated near the Cam in a valley surrounded by bills, on a branch of the Great Eastern Railway, 44 miles north-north-east of London and 14 south of Cambridge. It has a somewhat ancient appearance and possesses good streets and a spacious marketplace. Of the old castle, dating probably from before the Conquest, the keep and a few other portions still remain. The church of St Mary the Virgin, a beautiful specimen of the Perpendicular style, dating from the reign of Henry VII., but frequently repaired and restored, contains the tomb of Lord Audley, chancellor to Henry VIII. There is an Edward VI. grammar-school, for which new buildings have recently been erected. Amongst the modern public buildings are the corn exchange (1848) and the new town-hall (1879). The town possesses a museum, a literary institute, and a horticultural society. The benevolent institutions include the hospital and the Edward VI. almshouses. In the neighbourhood is the fine mansion of Audley End, built by Thomas, first earl of Suffolk, in 1603 on the ruins of the abbey, converted in 1190 from a Benedictine priory founded by Geoffrey de Mandeville in 1136. The town is an important centre of agricultural industry and has large corn, cattle, and sheep markets. Brewing and malting are carried on. The population of the municipal borough (area, 7416 acres) in 1871 was 5718, and in 1881 it was 6060.
The original name of the town was Wealdenberg, and when it received a grant of a market in the time of Geoffrey do Mandeville it was called Cheping Walden. The substitution of the prefix Saffron is accounted for by the former culture of SAFFRON (q.v.) in the neighbourhood. The town has existed for more than 500 years as a guild, and the government is now vested in a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve 'councillors.