Aylsham in 1835
AYLSHAM, or AYLESHAM (written in Domesday book Elesham), a market-town in the hundred of South Erpingham in the county of Norfolk, about 11 miles N. by W. of Norwich, and 120 N.N.E. from London through Norwich, or 118 through East Dereham. It is on the right or S.W. bank of the river Bure, one of the streams which unite just above the town of Great Yarmouth. Aylsham was, in the time of Edward II and III, the chief place in Norfolk for the linen manufacture ; and in old records the Ailesham webs and Ailesham linens, and the fine cloth of Ailesham are frequently mentioned. In the reign of Henry VIII the linen manufacture had in a great degree given way to the woollen, and about the time of James I it was chiefly inhabited by knitters ; but this branch of industry has since decayed, and no particular manufacture now prevails in the town, unless it be that a few looms are employed for the Norwich manufacturers. The market, formerly on Saturday, is at present on Tuesday ; the business is chiefly in corn : there are two fairs in the year. The river Bure was made navigable for boats of thirteen tons burden, and drawing two feet four or five inches water, in the years 1773-1779. It had previously been navigable only to Coltishall, six or seven miles below Aylsham. The parish is large, containing 4,250 acres. The population in 1831 was 2,334.
The church, dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, was built by John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, fourth son of Edward III, in the fourteenth century, and is in the decorated English style. It has a nave and chancel, with two aisles to each, also two transepts ; the north is called St. Peters Chapel, and the south the Chapel of the Virgin Mary. There is a square tower, with a small spire on the top. The church contains several monumental brasses, a richly-carved font, and in the south window a neat painting of the salutation, put up in 1516. The living is a vicarage, according to Blomefield, though other authorities erroneously call it a rectory. It is in the diocese and archdeaconry of Norwich, and the presentation is in the hands of the dean and chapter of Canterbury, to whom the impropriate rectory was granted. There are two dissenting places of worship.
There is a national school at Aylsham. It was originally a free-school, endowed by Robert Jannys, who was mayor of Norwich in 15I7 ; but the endowment is small (a school-room and a masters house, with above an acre of land, and £10 paid by the corporation of Norwich), and it is chiefly supported by voluntary contributions. The county bridewell is in this town.
The country round Aylsham is the most agreeable in Norfolk, and when Blomfield wrote his history (towards the middle of the last century) it was much frequented in the summer season on account of a spa or mineral spring, about half a mile from the town.