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Visiting the Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Aylsham, Norfolk, England: Medieval Decorated Gothic

Updated on January 24, 2015
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
South transept window of St Michael's Church, Aylsham
South transept window of St Michael's Church, Aylsham | Source
 St Michael's Church, Aylsham.
St Michael's Church, Aylsham. | Source
Map location of Norfolk
Map location of Norfolk | Source

Living history in a Norfolk town

This fine, Medieval church building dates mainly from the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries. Known as the Parish Church St. Michael and All Angels, Alysham, in England's county of Norfolk, the building has a conspicuous, 30 metre tower, which dates from the 14th century. The building is in fact the town's oldest, surviving structure.

Other noted features include an ornate, south transept window in Perpendicular style.This window's proportions are virtually reminiscent of a cathedral rather than a parish church. In the Middle Ages, not a few towns in East Anglia — the area in which Norfolk is located — were variously made prosperous by the linen, woollen and weaving industries, and it became a custom for local townspeople to express a sense of their wealth confidence by building or expanding their parish churches to scales often unknown outside cathedral cities.

There are several, fine examples of stained glass windows, a few of them dating from the 19th century but one of them originating from the 16th century but later restored. Many of the stained glass scenes depict religious events, while some contain references to past royal and and landowning personalities.

Overall, the style of the church is described as Decorated Gothic; thus we see prominent instances of pointed window arching and substantial flying buttresses.

Another feature of the church is a sizeable lychgate on the north side of the churchyard. Noted historical personalities associated with St Michael's church include John of Gaunt (1340-1399), influential son of King Edward III and a local landowner, and Humphrey Repton (1752-1818), distinguished landscape gardener, who is buried in the churchyard.

As was common in the period, some of the interior furnishings were damaged by Cromwell's men during the English Civil War in the 17th century, although destruction was not as severe as occurred in some other church buildings. The interior of the building has some valuable Jacobean oak panelling.

The Parish Church of St Michael and All Angels has a strong musical tradition with regular choral events, and is the venue for concerts organized by the Aylsham Music Society; works recently performed include those by Verdi, Chopin and Liszt.

One gets a sense that this church building has hardly altered in centuries, and provides insights into life in a somewhat prosperous English town which underwent changes very slowly.

The building is situated a short distance from the Market Place, in the Downtown area of Aylsham.

February 23, 2013

Also worth seeing

In Aylsham itself, the Town Hall in the Market Place is a former Corn Hall;

Blicking Hall, Blickling (distance: 2.6 kilometres) is the reputed birthplace of Anne Boleyn; and is a stately property in the care of the National Trust.


How to get there: United Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Aylsham is 241 kilometers from Heathrow Airport. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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