Aylsham (St. Michael)

AYLSHAM (St. Michael), a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, in the hundred of South Erpingham, E. division of Norfolk, 12¼ miles (N. by W.) from Norwich, and 121 (N. E. by N.) from London; containing 2448 inhabitants. This place, which is situated on the high road from Norwich to Cromer, was during the reigns of Edward II. and III. the chief seat in the county for the manufacture of linens, then distinguished by the appellation of "Aylsham Webs." This branch of manufacture was subsequently superseded by that of woollen cloths; and in the time of James I. the inhabitants were principally employed in the knitting of worsted hose, and in the manufacture of stocking-pieces for breeches, and waistcoat-pieces, which was carried on here till the introduction of machinery. The town is pleasantly situated on a gentle acclivity rising from the south bank of the river Bure, and is well built, containing many handsome houses. The trade consists for the most part in corn, coal, and timber, for which its situation is extremely favourable; the river is navigable to Yarmouth for barges of 40 tons' burthen, and a spacious basin and commodious wharfs have been constructed here for the greater facility of trade. The market, formerly on Saturday, is now on Tuesday, and is amply supplied with corn and provisions of all kinds: fairs, which are well attended, are held on March 23rd, and the last Tuesdays in Sept. and Oct., the last one being a statute-fair. The town was formerly governed by a bailiff, and had several privileges, of which exemption from serving on juries at the assizes and sessions still remains. The powers of the county debt-court of Aylsham, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Aylsham.

The parish comprises 4311a. 2r. 4p., of which 350 acres are meadow, 100 woodland and plantations, and the remainder arable. The living is a vicarage, endowed with a portion of the rectorial tithes, and valued in the king's books at £17. 19. 7.; patrons and appropriators, the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury. The great tithes have been commuted for £716, and the vicarial for £684; the glebe comprises 4 acres, with a house. The church, founded by John of Gaunt, is a spacious and handsome cruciform structure in the decorated English style, with a square embattled tower surmounted by a spire: on the south side of the choir are three sedilia of stone, richly canopied, and a double piscina, opposite to which is a monument to Bishop Jeggon; the font is elaborately sculptured, and in the north transept is the chapel of St. Peter, which had a guild in 1490. In the cemetery is the tomb of Humphrey Repton, author of a work on landscape gardening, who was buried here. There are places of worship for Baptists, Primitive Methodists, and Wesleyans. The free grammar school, founded in 1517 by Robert Jannys, mayor of Norwich, who endowed it with £10 per annum, and for which, in conjunction with that of Wymondham, Archbishop Parker founded two scholarships in Corpus Christi College, Oxford, has been incorporated with the District National Society. The poor law union of Aylsham comprises 46 parishes and places under the care of 47 guardians, and contains a population of 20,056. About half a mile from the town is a chalybeate spring, now little noticed, which, from its former efficacy in asthmatic and other chronic diseases, was much resorted to by invalids. On Stowe heath, about two miles to the east of the town, are several large tumuli, in some of which, in 1808, were found urns containing human bones and ashes.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.