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A Potted History of Sawtry

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Information in this section is used by permission and is taken from "A Glimpse Into Sawtry's Past", by H. Milford, published by CARESCO, 1998

It is only since the 16th Century - during the time of Queen Elizabeth I - that the village has been called Sawtry. Prior to the 10th century there were many variations of the name. During the reign of Henry I in the 12th Century, the village was called "SALTREIA" or "SALTREAIM" which meant a landing place or stream.

Salt had been transported through Sawtry since before the Roman invasion. The evaporated sea water left salt in the fens which was collected and carried away by pack horse/mule from a landing place near where the Royal Oak pub once stood [now directly opposite Fen Lane under the south bound motorway lane], near where a dyke from the fens called Black Horse drain stretches Eastward into the then flooded fen land and out to Ramsey Mere.

Sawtry lies on the edge of a 'bay' in the centre of a half moon-from Alconbury Hill on the South Side to Norman Cross and Yaxley on the other. In the 12th Century the village of Winwick levied a tax on the Salt Mule Train that passed through it en route to Northampton and the Midlands.

The Roman occupation AD 43-c.400 was mostly confined to the English Lowlands including East Anglia. It is thanks to the Roman road builders that Sawtry has convenient access to both North and South of the country by way of the Old North Road (A1), also known as Ermine Street. One reason their roads lasted so well was due to efficient drainage. A ditch was dug a few feet from each side of the road, and the excavated earth was used to form a bank called the 'agger', which was built on foundations made from broken stone, bricks, and pottery, cemented with lime. Large polygonal blocks of hard stone were then carefully fitted together to form the road's surface. The Roman word for this surface was pavimentum - hence our 'pavement'.

Long before, and during, the Roman occupation, the Fens were rich pasture and farm land with majestic oak forests. Fine wines were produced from grapes, whose vines flourished without greenhouses, so the average temperature and climatic conditions must have been a lot warmer in those days.

Boadicea, who died about AD61, was Queen of the Iceni tribe. When her husband, Prasutagas, died in AD6O, he left his property to be divided among his daughters and the Roman emperor, but the Romans seized his whole Kingdom, (our present-day Norfolk). This provoked Boadicea to raise a rebellion. During this uprising, a company of Romans from the 9th Legion were marched South, from Lincoln and Longthorpe Fort on the River Nene. Word may have been carried to Boudicca of the Romans approach, for the Queen staged an ambush near Colchester and won the day. The Roman infantry was slaughtered.

The Anglo-Saxons came after the Romans, and colonised most of the English Lowland around the 5th Century but they, like the Romans before them, failed to quell the Celtic North and West.

When the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, coming from areas in and around what is now Denmark, invaded Britain in the second half of the 5th Century, there was a great series of incursions by mostly Germanic peoples into the steadily weakening Roman Empire and, by AD 600, they were well established in Britain. By the end of the 7th Century these tall, blond, blue-eyed pagans had been converted to Christianity by Saint Augustine of Canterbury and other missionaries from the Continent.

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Copyright 2007 CCCS (Sawtry) Ltd. All rights reserved.
Revised: October 18, 2007.