The influential Bothe family mentioned above are commemorated in striking monuments in the church, and have also given their name to Bothe Hall, which in its present form is a Georgian mansion standing in its own grounds near the centre of the village. It ceased to be a private residence in the 1970s and is now the offices of a computer company.
Strip farming, whereby the tenants farmed strips of land in large fields, was the agricultural pattern in Sawley throughout the Middle Ages, and there are a number of fields showing the ridge-and-furrow which is the legacy of this pattern of cultivation. Enclosure began, with consolidation of some holdings, in the 17th century, but the major enclosure took place as a result of the Sawley Enclosure Act of 1787.
Improvements continued to be made to navigation on the River Trent throughout the 18th century, and the opening of the Trent & Mersey canal in 1777, which joins the river at Sawley, gave a big boost to waterborne commercial traffic. This was further enhanced with the opening of the Soar Navigation (joining the Trent opposite Trent Lock), the Erewash Canal (joining the Trent at Trent Lock) in 1779, and the Derby Canal in 1795 (which joins the Erewash Canal at Sandiacre). Another important step was the creation of the Trent Navigation Company in 1783 to take responsibility for improvements to the whole navigable stretch of the river. This led to dredging and consolidation of the main channel, improvements to the banks and towpaths, and erection of weirs. The two weirs at Sawley had to be bypassed by two short canals, or 'cuts', the Sawley Cut of 1793 and the Cranfleet Cut of 1795.
With the growth of industrialisation in the West Midlands the road from Nottingham to Birmingham, through Sawley, became busier and busier, and in 1759 the stretch between Lenton and Sawley became a turnpike, a road with an improved surface maintained by a private company compensated by the levying of tolls. The Harrington Arms became an important coaching inn, and there was increased passing trade in the other public houses, the White Lion and the Nag's Head. The Sawley Ferry was seen to be inadequate and inconvenient for the growing traffic, and in 1790 the Harrington bridge was built in stone. It was replaced by the present cast-iron structure in 1905.
The east to west Nottingham to Derby railway line was opened in 1839. A station was opened on Sawley Lane, Breaston, and given the name Breaston, but because this name caused confusion with Beeston, the station's name was changed to Sawley. When further railway lines, this time on a north-south axis, came into the area - the Derby to Leicester and Rugby line through Red Hill tunnel in 1840, and the Erewash Valley line in 1847 - the junction became congested, until in 1862 extra curves were put in and a new interchange station, Trent, created. Because Sawley station was a mile away from Sawley, demand grew for another station more conveniently located, and in 1888 this additional station was opened where the railway crossed the Nottingham to Birmingham road. This new station was given the name Sawley Junction. The older Sawley station remained open for regular services until 1930, and for excursions until 1936, but was then closed and demolished. Trent Station was closed and demolished in January 1968. Sawley Junction continues as an operational station, the only one of four stations in the Long Eaton and Sawley area (Sawley, Long Eaton, Trent and Sawley Junction) to survive. However, in 1968 it was renamed 'Long Eaton' following closure of the old Erewash Valley line station in the centre of Long Eaton.
The coming of the railway also brought to Sawley the Trent Sheet and Sack Works, which made and repaired tarpaulin covers for railway wagons and sacks for grain transport. The works, located by the side of the Erewash Canal, at one time had 200 employees. They continued in operation until 1963. The premises were sold by British Railways in 1966, and now form the basis of an industrial estate and a marina.
The first school in the village, run by the Church of England, was established in 1771. It was built on the main road where the church car park now stands. In 1859 it moved to a purpose-built school building on Wilne Road, known as the Sawley National School, and this school continued in use until well after the second world war. The buildings have been converted into a car showroom. But the Nonconformist tradition was very strong in Sawley, particularly the Baptists, and it was the Baptists who in 1843 established their own school; in 1891 the average attendance at the National School, which had room for 220 pupils, was 174 and the average attendance at the Baptist School, which had room for 150 children, was 131.