In around 500 AD a Saxon named Aegel established a homestead at a place destined to become Aylsham. In 1086 the Domesday Book records a settlement called Elesham. By the middle ages the Manor of Aylsham had passed to John of Gaunt, son of Edward III, who subsequently became Duke of Lancaster. The red rose of Lancaster and the arms of John of Gaunt feature in the north transept window of the Grade 1 listed parish church, built during the 13th and 14th century.
Eventually the manor of Aylsham became the property of the Earls of Buckinghamshire, who also owned the nearby Blickling Estate. In more recent times the Blickling Estate was bequeathed to the National Trust, and the Trust still owns Aylsham’s Market Place and Butts Land today. The centre of the town has many properties which are listed by Historic England as being of special architectural and historic interest and several of these were formerly associated with the wider Blickling Estate.
At the end of the 18th Century, the River Bure was made navigable and Aylsham was linked to the Broads and the coast at Yarmouth. The town prospered and although huge floods destroyed the river’s locks in 1912 the town was by then well connected by railways, both to the coast and the city of Norwich. Although no longer railways, these routes, now known as the Marriott’s Way and the Weavers’ Way, place Aylsham at the heart of the Norfolk Trails network.
But not all the trains have gone. The narrow-gauge Bure Valley Railway still connects Aylsham with the Broads at Wroxham and the trackside Bure Valley Path provides yet another interesting walking route.
Aylsham is a Walkers are Welcome town.
For more information about Aylsham visit the Norfolk Heritage Explorer.