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The Maze, Saffron Walden

Introduction

This is a turf maze of medieval origin, refurbished in modern times.

Terrain

Generally level.
The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

A turf maze, thought to be of medieval origin, set on Saffron Walden common.

DESCRIPTION

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING

The maze lies in the centre of the eastern boundary of the generally level Saffron Walden common which itself sits in the centre of the town.

OTHER LAND

The maze (scheduled ancient monument) consists of a series of concentric circles cut into turf, surrounded by a low bank. It measures c 43m from corner to corner, the main areas of circular paths being c 29m in diameter. It is laid in a unicursal pattern formed of seventeen linked circles, and has four linked outer horseshoe-shaped bastions or 'bellows' which are, like the centre of the maze, raised slightly above the main circular paths. The narrow shallow grooves which form the paths are marked by bricks and begin on the north or south sides of the maze.

REFERENCES

Roy Comm Hist Monuments Engl Inventories: Essex I, (1916), p 260

W Matthews, Mazes and labyrinths (1922), pp 82-84

A Fisher, R Coate and G Burgess, A celebration of mazes (1984), pp 7, 34

Maps

OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1877

2nd edition published 1897

OS 25" to 1 mile: 2nd edition published 1897

Description written: October 2000

Edited: September 2001

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts
History

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT

The Saffron Walden maze is thought to be of medieval origin, although the earliest documentary record comes from 1699, when an entry in the Corporation account books refers to a payment for it to be re-cut (Matthews 1922). It is illustrated, somewhat schematically, in the 1789 edition of Camden's Britannia (Matthews 1922). Matthews records the local tradition that the maze is only a copy of a much larger maze which formerly existed further to the east. He also recounts the story that a large ash tree once grew in the centre, which was destroyed by fire in the Guy Fawkes celebrations of 5 November 1823. On several occasions after this the maze became neglected but was the subject of further re-cutting in the years 1828, 1841, 1859, and 1887. In 1911 it was again re-cut, this time underlaid with bricks to help preserve it as a feature. In 1978 and 1979 the maze was again restored, damaged bricks were replaced and all were cemented on their sides to create a path about 12 centimeters wide. It remains (2000) in the ownership of Saffron Walden Town Council.

Period

Medieval (1066-1540)

Features & Designations

Designations

  • The National Heritage List for England: Register of Parks and Gardens

  • Reference: GD1733
  • Grade: II
Key Information

Type

Turf Maze

Purpose

Sacred/ritual/ funerary

Period

Medieval (1066-1540)

Survival

Reconstructed

Open to the public

Yes

References

References