Tuesday, March 1, 2011
This is the badge and arms of Saffron Walden, a small and beautiful market town in North Essex.
In the 16th century and 17th century the saffron crocus (crocus sativus) became widely grown in the area. The flower was precious, as extract from the stigmas, the saffron, was used in medicines, as a condiment, as a perfume, as an aphrodisiac, and as an expensive yellow dye. This industry gave its name to the town and what was originally Chipping Walden became Saffron Walden.
These arms show the Saffron Crocus within the walls of the castle. They are intended as an heraldic pun (known as canting arms) or rebus - "Saffron walled-in".
Artist and illustrator Edward Bawden (a big hero of mine) lived in the town during the 70s and 80s and the town's Fry Art Gallery houses a good collection of his work and that of his circle.