Aylsham is a historic market town and civil parish on the River Bure
in north Norfolk, England, nearly 9 mi (14 km) north of
Norwich. The river rises near Melton Constable, 11 miles (18 km)
Aylsham and continues to
Great Yarmouth and the North
Sea, although it was only made navigable after 1779, allowing grain,
coal and timber to be brought up river.
The town is close to large estates and grand country houses at
Blickling, Felbrigg, Mannington and Wolterton, which are important
The civil parish has an area of 4,329 acres (17.52 square km) and in
the 2001 census had a population of 5,504 in 2448 households, reducing
to a population of 3,999 in 1,591 households at the 2011 Census. For
the purposes of local government, the parish falls within the district
2 Local government
3 Parish church
4 Transport and tourism
6 Notable residents
9 See also
11 External links
Aylsham town sign, typical of many
Norfolk village signs, stands at
the entrance to the town. It depicts John of Gaunt, Lord of the manor
Archaeological evidence shows that the site of the town has been
occupied since prehistoric times.
Aylsham is just over two miles
(3 km) from a substantial Roman settlement at Brampton, linked to
Venta Icenorum at Caistor St Edmund, south of Norwich, by a Roman road
which can still be traced in places - that site was a bustling
industrial centre with maritime links to the rest of the empire.
Excavations in the 1970s provided evidence of several kilns, showing
that this was an industrial centre, pottery and metal items being the
main items manufactured.
Aylsham is thought to have been founded around 500 AD by an Anglo
Saxon thegn called Aegel, Aegel's Ham, meaning "Aegel's settlement".
The town is mentioned in the
Domesday Book of 1086 as Elesham and
Ailesham, with a population of about 1,000. Until the 15th century,
the linen and worsted industry was important here, as well as in North
Aylsham webb or 'cloth of Aylsham' was
supplied to the royal palaces of Edward II and III.
John of Gaunt
John of Gaunt was lord of the manor from 1372 and
Aylsham became the
principal town of the Duchy of Lancaster. Although John of Gaunt
probably never came to Aylsham, the townspeople enjoyed many
privileges, including exemption from jury service outside the manor
and from payment of certain taxes. The village sign depicts John of
In 1519 Henry VIII granted a market on Saturdays and an annual fair to
be held on 12 March, which was the eve of the feast of
St Gregory the
Aylsham markets have always been an important feature of the
town, and businesses developed to meet the needs of the town and the
farming lands around it. Besides weekly markets there were cattle
fairs twice a year and, in October, a hiring fair.
The historic Black Boys Inn in the Market Place is one of Aylsham's
oldest surviving buildings, and has been on the site since the 1650s,
although the present frontage dates to between 1710 and 1720. There is
a frieze of small black boys on the cornice and a good staircase and
assembly room. The Black Boys was a stop for the post coach from
Norwich to Cromer, had stabling for 40 horses, and employed three
ostlers and four postboys.
A thatched waterpump was built in 1911 at Carr's Corner in memory of
John Soame by his uncle, a wealthy financier. An artesian well 170
feet (52 m) deep, its canopy is thatched in
As with many of the other market towns in the county, the weaving of
local cloth brought prosperity to the town in medieval times. Until
the 15th century it was the manufacture of linen which was the more
Aylsham linens and
Aylsham canvases were nationally
known. From the 16th century linen manufacture declined and wool
became more important, a situation that continued until the coming of
the Industrial Revolution. Thereafter the principal trade of the town
for the 19th century was grain and timber, together with the range of
trades to be found in a town which supported local agriculture.
Records show that
Aylsham had markets and fairs, certainly from the
13th century. Such weekly and annual events were important for the
trade that they brought. Annual horse fairs would bring many other
traders to the town, and the weekly market would be the occasion for
more local trade. The rights of the stallholders in the market place
today date back to the rights established in medieval times.
In medieval times the parish of
Aylsham was established as four
manors, the main manor of Lancaster, Vicarage manor, Sexton's manor
and Bolwick manor. The ownership of the Lancaster manor changed hands
many times, before James I assigned it to his son, the future Charles
In the course of the events which lead up to the English Civil War
Charles I had to raise as much money as possible, and mortgaged
Lancaster manor to the Corporation of the City of London. The
Corporation eventually sold it to Sir John Hobart, and through him it
passed to the ownership of the
Blickling Estate. The current lords of
the manor are the National Trust.
Formerly part of the South
Aylsham was, for
administrative purposes, absorbed into St. Faith's and
District Council in 1894 and became part of
Broadland District Council
in 1974. Local issues come under the jurisdiction of
Lychgate at St Michael's Church
Hungate Street, with its many medieval half-timbered houses, was
formerly the main road into the town from Norwich
The Market Place and surrounding area is dominated by the tower of the
parish church of St Michael and All Angels, a fine example of Gothic
architecture of the Decorated style. The small spire on top of the
98 ft (30 metre) tower is also a landmark that can be seen for
miles around. The nave, aisles and chancel were built in the 13th
century. The tower and ground floor of the south porch were added in
the 14th century. The north transept was built under the patronage of
John of Gaunt,
Duke of Lancaster
Duke of Lancaster around 1380. An upper floor to the
porch was added in 1488. The lower part of the rood screen survived
the destruction visited by
Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans, although
some of the painted panels were disfigured.
Transport and tourism
The ancient but natural transport route for
Aylsham would have been
the River Bure, but it was not open to substantial navigation. There
was a scheme in the 18th century to widen the navigation from
Aylsham and, after many difficulties, trading wherries
Great Yarmouth were able to reach a staithe at Aylsham. The final
end for this scheme was the devastating flood of 1912.
Road transport for
Aylsham was very important. It was the principal
coaching point on the Norwich-
Cromer road, and the meeting point for
other roads. Each day the coaches from
Cromer and Holt would draw up
at the Black Boys, the main inn in
Aylsham market place. Coaching
ended with the coming of the railways in the 1880s. There were many
different plans for railways, but eventually two lines served Aylsham,
with the town having both North and South stations until the 1950s.
Aylsham once had two railway stations, both now closed,
railway station (on the Great Eastern line between County School
railway station, near
North Elmham and Wroxham) and the
railway station (on the M&GNJR line from
Melton Constable to
Aylsham is also the terminus for the Bure Valley Railway (on the
Aylsham South railway station) The
Bure Valley Railway
Bure Valley Railway is a
15 in (381 mm) minimum gauge heritage railway which runs
Aylsham (9 miles or 14.5 kilometres) and is Norfolk's
longest railway of less than standard gauge.
Tourist Information Centre
Tourist Information Centre office is located adjacent to the Bure
Valley Railway station. Local entertainment in the town includes
concerts by the
Aylsham Band, which plays at venues in and around
Aylsham Players who host one or two productions a year;
Aylsham High School, which presents an annual school musical.
Aylsham is the terminus of the long distance footpaths, the Bure
Valley Path (to Wroxham) and
Marriott's Way (to Norwich).
lies on the Weaver's Way, which passes
Blickling Hall, the great
country house in the care of the National Trust, which is about a mile
and a half (2 km) from Aylsham. With its dramatic symmetrical
front, flanked by two great yew hedges,
Blickling Hall is a fine
example of a Jacobean brick-built manor house, and was the home of the
young Anne Boleyn.
Aylsham was once noted for its spa, situated about half a mile south
of the town, comprising a chalybeate spring, formerly used by those
suffering from asthma and other chronic conditions.
Aylsham Show features agricultural exhibits and takes place
on August bank holiday Monday at nearby
The town is located on the A140 road, a route which runs between
Ipswich and Cromer, via Norwich. It is served by a half-hourly bus
service to Norwich,
Sheringham and Holt.
Aylsham remains well known for its twice-weekly market and its
Monday auctions. It is a popular town for people working in Norwich,
but remains an active local business centre in its own right,
particularly in the support of agriculture. Today the town has a
population of about 5,500, several local industries and still serves
the needs of a wide area with twice weekly markets and a farmers'
market on the morning of the first and third Saturday of each month.
Aylsham Partnership was formed in 2001 to implement the Market
Towns Initiative in Aylsham. The partnership included elected members
of County, District and Parish/Town Councils in the
Council Division and representatives of other statutory bodies and
Aylsham came fourth in the world in an international competition
celebrating liveable communities, winning a Silver Award in category A
(towns with a population up to 20,000) of the International Awards for
Liveable Communities, held in La Coruña,
Spain in November 2005.
The Market Towns Initiative finished in 2004 but the partnership
successfully bid for funding to take part in the
project and to sustain work on traffic management and heritage. As a
Aylsham became one of the founding towns, and the first in
Norfolk, of the
Cittaslow movement, an international organisation
promoting the concept of 'Slow Towns' ("a Network of towns where
Quality of Life is important"). It is claimed that
Aylsham did not
have to change to become a member, as it was already a clear example
of the type of community advocated by the
Aylsham became Norfolk's first plastic-bag-free town on 3 May 2008,
although it proved difficult to continue implementation of the
initiative owing to lack of support.
Tesco's new store built from wood, recyclable plastic and other
sustainable materials, and claimed to be the "greenest in the world"
opened in the town July 2008.
Aylsham Heritage Centre is located in a Victorian building within the
grounds of St Michael's Church. Archives stored at the centre can be
used to research the town's past.
Thomas Hudson, a glover of Aylsham, is recorded as one of the
Protestant martyrs condemned to death for his faith under the reign of
Queen Mary, towards the end of her reign. He was burnt at the stake at
the Lollard's Pit outside Bishopsgate,
Norwich on 19 May 1558.
Jerome Alexander (died 1670), a High Court judge in Ireland, noted
for his exceptional severity, attended the local school c. 1600.
A plaque on the wall of
Barclays Bank in the Market Place commemorates
Christopher Layer (born 1683), who was a militant Jacobite and
supporter of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the 'Young Pretender'. He
was tried for high treason and hanged at Tyburn in London in 1723.
Nearby, a plaque commemorates
Joseph Thomas Clover
Joseph Thomas Clover (1825–82), the
father of modern anaesthetics, who was born above a shop overlooking
the Market Place.
Daniel Defoe stayed in
Aylsham in 1732 and enjoyed a meal at the Black
Boys Inn. Parson Woodforde, the famous
Norfolk diarist, also dined
there in 1781, and Horatio Nelson, whose cousin lived in Aylsham, is
said to have danced in the Assembly Room attached to the inn.
Clive Payne (1950–), former professional footballer for
and Bournemouth was born in Aylsham.
Humphry Repton (1752–1818), the landscape gardener who lived at
nearby Sustead, is buried in St Michael's Churchyard, and his
watercolours provide a fascinating record of the Market Place in the
early 19th century.
Kathleen Starling (1890–ca 1970) became an opera singer under the
name of Kathleen Destournel. She sang at
Covent Garden and entertained
troops in North Africa during the Second World War, before moving to
Arizona, USA until her husband's death after which she returned to
Aylsham to live with her sisters.
Nick Youngs (1959–) and his two sons, Ben (1989–) and Tom Youngs
(1987–) were both brought up close to the town on their father's
farm. Youngs was a former rugby player for Leicester and England.
Both sons went on to represent the national rugby union team.
Black Boys Inn
Aylsham Town Hall
John Soame thatched water pump
River Bure downstream of the mill
Aylsham is twinned with
La Chaussée-Saint-Victor, Loir-et-Cher, France
and formerly had an informal connection with
Aylsham, Saskatchewan, Canada
List of closed railway stations in Britain
Aylsham High School
Cawston Road Mill, Aylsham
^ "Civil Parish population 2011". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for
National Statistics. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
^ Office for National Statistics &
Norfolk County Council, 2001.
Census population and household counts for unparished urban areas and
all parishes. Retrieved 2 December 2005.
Bure Valley Railway
Bure Valley Railway website
Aylsham show Archived 31 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
Retrieved 5 August 2009
^ County A to Z Atlas, Street & Road maps Norfolk, page 000
^ International awards for Liveable
Communities finalists, 2005
Archived 13 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
^ The first
Cittaslow in Norfolk. Archived 2 March 2008 at the Wayback
Cittaslow UK (Official Website). Retrieval Date: 10 February
^ Norfolk's First Plastic-bag Free Town. Retrieved: 30 March 2008
Tesco news report Retrieved 26 July 2008
Aylsham Heritage Centre Retrieved 4 November 2014
^ Foxe's Book of Martyrs: 376. William Seaman, Thomas Carman, and
Thomas Hudson. Exclassics.com. Retrieved on 30 May 2013
^ Black Boys Inn history Retrieved 4 November 2014
^ Kathleen Destournel Retrieved 13 April 2010
^ News item Retrieved 21 September 2012
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Aylsham.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Aylsham.
Information from Genuki
Norfolk on Aylsham
Aylsham in the Domesday Book
Ceremonial county of Norfolk
Boroughs or districts
King's Lynn and West Norfolk
Redenhall with Harleston
Thorpe St Andrew
See also: List of civil parishes in Norfolk
Population of major settlements
Grade I listed buildings
Grade II* listed buildings
Civil parishes of Broadland
Beeston St Andrew
Burgh and Tuttington
Buxton with Lammas
Great and Little Plumstead
Horsham St Faith and Newton St Faith
Horstead with Stanninghall
Lingwood and Burlingham
Morton on the Hill
Postwick with Witton
Thorpe St Andrew
Upton with Fishley
King's Lynn and West Norfolk