Formed in 1983 to record and promote interest in the history of the Derbyshire village of Sawley
In about 80 AD the Romans built a road from their settlement at Derventio (now Little
Chester in Derby) to the River Trent, passing through Sawley, and there are traces
of a marching camp probably built by Roman auxiliaries in a field close to the village.
Draycott Road in Sawley follows approximately the alignment of the old Roman road.
there are no indications of anyone permanently living in Sawley before Angles came
up the River Trent, possibly at the end of the sixth century or early seventh century.
They settled on the rising ground where the parish church now stands. Because the
ground was originally covered with sallow willows, salh in Anglo-Saxon, they called
it 'Salloe' or 'Sallé', meaning the hill with willows, and this eventually became
Sawley became part of the Anglian kingdom of Mercia, which was Christianised
from 654 AD. A church is thought to have existed in Sawley from 850 AD. The legend
is that a party of monks rowed downstream from Repton to found the first church,
which was made of rushes, and this was later replaced by a wooden building. An early
Mercian king, probably Wulfhere, gifted Sawley as a manor to the Bishop of Lichfield.
invaders, who used the River Trent to reach Repton from Nottingham in 854, may have
attacked Sawley on the way and burned the church.
At some point, and certainly by
the early 11th century, the church was rebuilt in stone.
According to the Domesday
Book entry for Sawley (pictured right) the Bishop of Chester (the new title taken
by the former Bishops of Lichfield) the Bishop's lands in Sawley, Draycott and Hopwell
are said to include 42 households (29 villeins and 13 bordars), a priest and two
churches (Sawley and Wilne), a mill, meadow, woodland pasture and a water meadow.
In 1130 Bishop Roger de Clinton re-organised the finances of Lichfield Cathedral,
and he created a prebendal manor of Sawley the profits from which supported the office
of cathedral treasurer. The prebendaries either had to live at Sawley (the cathedral
treasurership was only part-time) and take the services, or appoint a vicar in their
place. Sawley became so prosperous that the manor was known in the Middle Ages as
the 'golden prebend'.
The remains of a water mill, dated to about 1140, have been
found in gravel workings south of Sawley. Sawley was important at this time not only
because of its rich farmland, but also because it commanded a river crossing. The
River Trent remained fordable at Sawley, except in times of flood, until weirs were
constructed at the end of the 18th century. But fording the river was an inconvenience,
and in the 12th and 13th centuries efforts were made to bridge the river. A timber
bridge was constructed, and when this was washed away, a second timber bridge was
built. After this in turn had been washed away, a masonry bridge was built, and this
survived for some 80 years. The remains of the bridges have been found by archaeologists,
again in the gravel workings south of Sawley.
The masonry bridge may have been destroyed
in about 1320, because a Sawley Ferry was instituted in 1321, and this ferry continued
to operate until the Harrington Bridge was built in 1790.
In a charter granted by
King Henry III in 1259 to the Bishop, Sawley was granted the right to a weekly market
and an annual fair.
In the same year, 1259, Ralph de Chaddesden became the prebendary
of Sawley, and he set about enlarging the church, knocking down walls so as to add
side aisles. In the next century a later prebendary, John de Gauselinus, knocked
down the old Saxon church, except for its west wall, and rebuilt it as the chancel
to the larger church. The Bothe family put in a clerestory storey to bring more light
to the nave, and the present roof. The main entrance used to be from the south (the
side away from the road), which is why the porch is there, though today most people
enter through the 13th century north door. The tower and spire are probably 15th
century. The rear choir stalls are from the Tudor period, and the rood screen from
the Stuart period. The pulpit is from 1636. The clock on the spire was installed
in 1880, and the organ in 1906.