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A: Aylsham

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Village sign.
Aylsham village sign

This community is frequently described as a 'neat little town' or 'a pleasant little market town' situated in the 'Garden of Norfolk'.

Aylsham is the centre of a rural community of scattered farms and beautiful little villages set into a green, rolling countryside.

Standing on the banks of the River Bure, Aylsham is about 12 miles from Norwich along the Cromer Road and 10 miles from Cromer.

Aylsham's recorded history begins in the late 13th century. The parish church, the oldest building in the town, dates from 1380 and was built by John of Gaunt on the remains of an earlier smaller church.

In the railway age the town boasted two stations. Both are now gone, but the site of one is now occupied by the Bure Valley Railway which provides a narrow gauge connection to Wroxham station, nine miles away.

steam train.
Bure Valley steam railway

Access to the Norfolk waterways and rivers once existed through the Aylsham Navigation (opened 1779) which provided access by wherries to the staithe near the town watermill. The links were destroyed in 1912 when the floods destroyed all the locks on the river.

The earliest industry recorded is the weaving industry and Aylsham was well known for it's 'Aylsham Web' or 'Aylsham Linen' which was sold all over England.

Black sheep.
The black sheep which supply the raw product for Aylsham's Black Sheep shop.

This was followed by wool weaving until the industry moved from Norfolk to the mill towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Today a flock of black sheep still grazes nearby the local fields. The wool is used to make clothing which is sold in the well-known Black Sheep shop.

The modern town of Aylsham has grown to accommodate 6000 people. New housing has sprung up around the edges of the town which is bustling with several small industries, commerce and agricultural engineers. It's a busy market town and has a weekly auction market and also occasional specialist auctions of antiques furniture and books.

Although the town has grown, its centre has hardly changed over the last 200 years. Modern shopfronts may have replaced earlier versions but the appearance of the Market Place and principle streets is instantly recognisable in the earliest illustrations of the town.

Text courtesy of Tom Mollard
of the Aylsham Local History Society 01263 761638.


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See also
Sense of Place
Weird Norfolk
Norfolk Dialect
Norfolk traditions





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