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Visiting the John Soame Memorial Pump, Aylsham, Norfolk, England: example of a traditional, thatched structure

Updated on May 29, 2013
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
John Soame Memorial Pump, Aylsham
John Soame Memorial Pump, Aylsham | Source
Joh Soame Memorial Pump, Aylsham, from Cawston Road
Joh Soame Memorial Pump, Aylsham, from Cawston Road | Source
Map location of Norfolk
Map location of Norfolk | Source

Distinguished by octagonal roofing

This 100 year old structure is situated in the Norfolk, England town of Aylsham. Known as the John Soame Memorial Pump (1).

The Pump is situated at the junction of Cawston Road and Penfold Street. (This intersection is known locally as Carr's Corner.)

The main photo, above, shows the Pump from Penfold Street looking towards Cawston Road. I have also supplied a photo depicting the pump from Cawston Road looking past the structure in the direction of the town centre.

The Pump's roofing is particularly noted for its octagonal shape. The structure superficially resembles the octagonal Market Cross at North Walsham (distance: 11 kilometres); but the latter lacks the thatched roof of the John Soane Memorial Pump, and is also much older.

Thatching is one of England's great, rural, traditional industries, and this fine example of thatching on a public structure is a fine throwback to this craft. Norfolk reed, particularly widespread along the Norfolk Broads, was used for the roof of this structure (2). The pillars supporting the conspicuous thatched roof of the structure are sometimes bedecked with seasonal foliage, making the Pump a particularly colourful, local landmark.

Interestingly, the Pump's primary function of supplying water from a 52-metre well was made redundant 25 years after its gifting by the coming of public water supply to the town. The history of this structure is also a reminder of just how relatively recently intoduced were the modern amenities so taken for granted (3).

Thus, as a 'parish pump', the John Soane Memorial Pump was a somewhat grand affair when used for its primary purpose; though doubtless also what has come to be known as 'parish pump gossip' would still have been as biased and parochial as at any other pump!

May 29, 2013


(1) The early death of John Soame in 1911 was marked two years later by an affluent relative's gift to the town of a well for the use of the public. A local road is named Soame Close.

(2) Thatched roofs occur in England more than in any other European country. it is reckoned that in England still there are over 250 properties with exant thatched roofs which at least in part are more than 500 years old!

(3) It is interesting to reflect also that American serivce personnel who served at the many air bases built in East Anglia during World War Two discovered a rural part of England which in many ways had hardly changed since the 19th century.

Sourcing includes:

Also worth seeing

In Aylsham itself, St, Michael and All Angels' Parish Church is large Medieval building; the Town Hall, formerly a Corn Hall, is situated in the Market Place.

Blicking Hall, Blickling (distance: approx. 2.5 kilometres) is a stately home where Anne Boleyn (c.1501-1536) was reputedly born.


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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