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Market town of Aylsham
aylsham (towns and villages)

It is thought that Aylsham's history dates from around 500AD when a Saxon called Aegel (a common name) set up his homestead here. As 'Ham' means homestead, a new village would have been known as Aegel's Ham. About 300 years later when the Danes arrived, the village would have been sufficiently well established to keep its Saxon name.

the history of aylsham

Aylsham's known history dates back to pre-Norman times. It was recorded as Elesham in the Domesday Book and had around 2,370 cultivated acres, 25 of meadow and 640 of woodland. The remaining 1,000 acres was wild making a total of 4,035 acres. It is remarkable to think almost 1,000 years on there have been few changes to the area of the parish that today covers some 4,329 acres.

At the time of the Norman Conquest the manor was held by Guert, a noble of Danish origin and a large Norfolk landowner. It is thought that Guert was killed at Hastings and his estates became the property of William I who held them as a Royal possession. The manor of Aylsham was then bestowed to a Norman, Ralph Guader, Earl of Norfolk. When he too turned against King William the manor was taken back by the Crown. From this time until the reign of Charles I it was held by the monarchy who granted it to a series of tenants.

Eventually, in 1372, the town of Aylsham and other manors and estates in Norfolk where bestowed to John of Gaunt (featured on the town's sign) by his father King Edward III. John of Gaunt was already Duke of Lancaster through his marriage to Blanche. This title was granted to him in exchange for the Earldom of Richmond. When John of Gaunt set up his Court of the Duchy of Lancaster here, it brought the area much greater importance. He became one of the most powerful noblemen in the country and was feared by the young King Richard II and the Commons. One of the many privileges he granted to local people was exemption from jury service outside the manor.

When John of Gaunt died in 1399 the manor was held by his widow and second wife, Catherine. On her death, his son Henry, by his first marriage to Blanche, held the manor. Henry had been King Henry IV since his father's death and it was at this point that the Duchy of Lancaster merged with the Crown. When Charles I became King he held the manor but mortgaged it to the Corporation of the City of London. The King could never redeem this mortgage so it was sold in 1634 to Sir John Hobart of Blickling. The manor passed through the Earls of Buckinghamshire, along with the Blickling Estate, to the Marquesses of Lothian and then to the National Trust - who are its guardians today.

the parish church of st michael and all angels

This is a large, flint-built cruciform building erected on the site of an earlier church during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The local belief is that John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, was responsible for having part of it built. As Lord of the Manor he and his successors supported the villagers in the building of the church. The tomb of Humphrey Repton, the noted landscape gardener who was famous for his 'red books' can be found by the chancel door. He made his home in Aylsham, designed his own tomb, and composed the verse on the tombstone.

The early 15th century rood screen which was originally brightly painted and richly gilded has been heavily defaced and several of the figures are unrecognisable. The 15th century font has been heavily restored.

Most of the stained glass is Victorian. The serpent window, over the chancel door is an outstanding example of its type. The south aisle window depicts the coats of arms of past clergy of St Michael's. The east window depicts four apostles and the north transept window has the red rose of Lancaster and the arms of John of Gaunt.

market day

Aylsham Market is every Monday and Friday in the Market Place and Aylsham Farmers Market is 1st Saturday of every month also in the Market Place. Early closing on Wednesdays.

related pages

acle (towns and villages)

reepham (towns and villages)

broadland's towns and villages

where is broadland?

external links

aylsham town council

visit aylsham

contact us

Aylsham Tourist Information Centre
Bure Valley Railway Station
Norwich Road
Aylsham NR11 6BW
tel: 01263 733903
fax: 01263 733922
email: aylsham.tic@broadland.gov.uk