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Aylsham

Aylsham, which is an attractive market town, lies approximately half way between Norwich and Cromer. It retains considerable character including a number of eighteenth-century brick buildings. Originally the River Bure was navigable as far as Aylsham - with a dock on Banningham Road.

Aylsham town sign features John of Gaunt, the 1st Duke of Lancaster (1340-1399), who was an absentee Lord of the Manor in the town and may have founded St. Michael's Church.

Aylsham Sign

Aylsham Town Sign

John of Gaunt appears in Shakespeare's play Richard II and his death-bed soliloquy is one of the most famous in English theatre. Here is a passage:
 

This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden - demi-paradise -
This fortress built by nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in a silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house

Both Daniel Defoe and Parson Woodforde (see Weston Longville) dined at the Black Boys Inn in Aylsham - in 1732 and 1781 respectively. A plaque on the front wall of the pub also proudly proclaims that Lord Nelson attended a dance here on 15th December, 1792.

Black Boys Inn
 
Black Boys Inn

In 1902 the Edwardian diarist A.C. Benson visited the town and had this to say:
 

'Alysham is a very pleasant little town of warm red-brick houses, with rather a foreign look. It looks clean, wholesome and comfortable. There are many houses which I wish to inhabit, of course. We walked about a little. The Rectory lies at the further end of the town, in a nice glebe and garden under the church. A good house and well kept. Nice shrubs and trees and flowers. There is a fine dining-room with white pillars and it is altogether a good substantial house. The Church is long and low, a large grey flint building, low-pitched roof - transepts and aisles, with a very fine tower.'

Humphry Repton, the landscape gardener, who designed Old Catton, Blickling, Gunton and Sheringham park is buried in Aylsham churchyard. He composed his own (rather grandiose) epitaph:
 
'Not like Egyptian tyrants consecrate,
Unmixed with others shall my dust remain;
But mold'ring, blending, melting into earth
Mine shall give form and colour to the Rose,
And while its vivid blossoms cheer Mankind,
Its perfumed odours shall ascend to Heaven.'


Grave of Humphry Repton

Grave of Humphry Repton

Aylsham is also home to the poet and editor Michael Mackmin. In 1984 he established The Rialto with John Wakeman and the magazine has become one of the most highly respected poetry journals ever since - attracting submissions from around the world.

Michael's most recent collection of poems is entitled Twenty-Three Poems and was published in 2006 by Happenstance Press. A number of poems feature Norfolk locations including: Lammas, Coltishall River and Tom Grix is Dead. Michael works as a Gestalt therapist and is a keen ornithologist.
 

 

 

 

 

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