Aylsham is a historic market town in north Norfolk – and one of only three Cittaslow towns in the UK.
Aylsham is situated on the River Bure, around nine miles from Norwich. By road, its main access route is the A140, which extends north to Cromer and south to Needham Market in Suffolk.
There is no mainline railway station, although the Bure Valley operates a 15-inch gauge service between Aylsham and Wroxham, and the town is well-served by regular buses.
Aylsham is thought to have been founded in around 500 AD. By the time of The Domesday Book, in 1086, it is believed to have had around 1,000 residents.
In the 1300s, the town was famous for its production of linen and cloth, which it supplied to the Royal palaces. By the 19th century, its principal industries were grain and timber.
The Black Boys Inn, situated in the market place, dates back to the late 1400s and is one of Aylsham’s oldest surviving buildings. It was developed into an inn in the 1650s, although it has also had a number of other uses, including as a Magistrates Court in the 1800s.
Blickling Estate – which comprises a huge Jacobean mansion surrounded by parkland – sits on the edge of the town and is currently in the care of the National Trust. It was the birthplace of Anne Boleyn and also where RAF crew were billeted during the Second World War.
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In 1519, Henry VIII granted Aylsham a weekly Saturday market. This tradition continues to be upheld today, although they are now held on Mondays and Fridays.
SHOPPING AND AMENITIES
Aylsham is one of only three towns in the UK to be named a Cittaslow town, a movement which ensures a high quality of living and brings the community together.
In 2019, the Sunday Times voted the town one of the UK’s best places to live, based on everything from its employment, schools and broadband speed to culture, community and its local shops.
The town offers a good mix of independent businesses, as well as larger names, in its high street and market place and is also home to Norfolk’s slow food movement.
For primary-aged children, there is Bure Valley, Marsham Primary, Colby Primary and Erpingham Voluntary Controlled CoE Primary, all of which are rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted, according to the government’s ‘find and compare schools’ tool.
Aylsham High, on Sir Williams Lane, is also rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted, although it doesn’t offer provision for 16 to 18-year-olds.
John of Gaunt was lord of the manor from 1372 and is still depicted on the town sign.
Horatio Nelson, Daniel Defoe and Princess Victoria are all said to have been guests at The Black Boys Inn.
According to Rightmove, property prices in Aylsham over the past year have been stable, with an average price of £283,526.
The majority of sales have been detached properties, selling at an average of £316,826, followed by semi-detached (£271,312) and terraces (£242,265).
We asked Christopher Smith, board of management partner at William H Brown in Aylsham, why he thought it was such a great place to live.
Why do you think people are attracted to living in Aylsham?
Aylsham is very unique in the fact that it is still a very traditional market town with twice weekly markets and farmers’ markets twice a month, which bring everyone into the centre of the town and help to keep alive a superb social contact between people.
It’s a bustling town with a variety of events, clubs and social meetings open to all. Aylsham is brilliantly located, with easy access to the coast, Broads and city centre. The fantastic local schools are also a big pull for many people, as is nearby Blickling Estate.
What is the atmosphere like?
Fantastic! If you go out to the farmers’ market, for example, there will often be a band playing, a hustle and bustle of people talking and enjoying the event. One comment I hear from people who are new to the area all the time is how friendly people are and that people they have never met will say good morning to them.
Where are some of the most sought-after areas?
The older end of town – the ‘Millgate’ area – is extremely sought after due to the character properties there and because of the river and old mill at the end of the road.
Are there any areas that are up and coming?
We have recently sold out a new-build site known as Aegel Gardens. All of its 22 homes sold very quickly as there is high demand for being based in such an excellent area of town.
What does the typical Aylsham homebuyer look like?
There is a real mix now. We are noticing the early retirees in their 50s coming up from the south, usually ones that have enjoyed holidaying around this area in the past. Families are also coming here to get their children into the excellent local schools, as well as first-time buyers who have grown up here – they love to try and stay here and start their own families in the area.
Tell me three things you love about Aylsham…
The people! Over my 19 years I’ve sold so many houses for people who still work in town and it is always a pleasure when I get a chance to have a chat with them.
The range of events in Aylsham. Over the years I’ve seen the Olympic torch relay through town, TV programmes being filmed in the market place, superb Christmas markets and jubilee parties to name but a few!
The way the town has adapted and progressed over the years. Aylsham has really accepted people from different areas of the country and embraced their new ideas to help keep the town fresh.
This area guide is produced in partnership with William H Brown.
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