The Manor of "Sabrixteworde" (one of the many spellings previously associated with the town) was recorded in the Domesday Book. After the Battle of Hastings it was granted to Geoffrey de Mandeville by William the Conqueror. Local notables have included Sir John Leventhorpe, who was an executor of King Henry V's will, and Anne Boleyn, who was given the Pishiobury/Pishobury estate, located to the south of the town.
Much of the town centre is a conservation area; many of the buildings date from the Tudor, Stuart, and Georgian periods. Great St. Mary's church was originally built in the 13th century (although a church on the site existed in Saxon times) and includes a Tudor tower containing a clock bell (1664) and eight ringing bells, the oldest of which dates from 1749. Ralph Jocelyn of Hyde Hall, who was twice Lord Mayor of London in the 15th century, is buried here; images of many of his family and other locals have been engraved on brass, and hence the church is popular for enthusiasts of brass rubbing.
The town's prosperity came from the local maltings, owned by George Fawbert and John Barnard; in 1839 they set up the Fawbert and Barnard charity to fund local children and their education, funding a local infant school that still exists today.
By the time of the Norman conquest, or soon after, Sawbridgeworth's rich farming land was fully developed for cultivation as was possible with the means available at the time: it was the richest village community in the country. It is, then, hardly surprising that many important medieval families had estates here. The land was divided amongst them, into a number of manors or distinct estates; the Lord of each manor had rights not only over this land but also over the people who farmed it. The number of manors increased during the Middle Ages, by a process of subinfeudation, that is the granting out of a part of an existing manor to a new owner so that the new manor was created. Many manors sprang from the original Domesday Book holding of the de Mandeville family. The first came to be called Sayesbury manor, from the de Say family who inherited it from the de Mandeville's in 1189. The many important people who held these manors built themselves houses with hunting parks around them; when they died their tombs enriched the parish church, so that today St. Mary's has one of the finest collections of church monuments in the country.
The Lordship of Sawbridgeworth includes the following estates: Sayesbury, Pishobury, Gilston, Eastwick Hall, Overhall, Giffards, Shingle Hall and Tedmanbury.
The name of the town is now almost universally pronounced in the obvious way, but this was not always the case. In the Middle Ages it is believed to have been pronounced "Sapserth", and since then the pronunciation has varied to include "Sapsa", "Sapster" and "Sapsworth", and even until the Second World War was pronounced "Sapsed". Current residents often use the casual abbreviated name "Sawbo".
Sawbridgeworth is twinned with:
The village of Lower Sheering in Essex adjoins Sawbridgeworth, east of the railway station, along the Hertfordshire - Essex border. It shares the same postal code as Sawbridgeworth, although for local government purposes it comes under the Epping Forest district of Essex, with the Member of Parliament being Bill Rammell (Labour).