The county town of Buckinghamshire, Aylesbury is a bustling market town located just north of the Chiltern Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Perhaps best known for producing the ‘tastiest’ duck in the 19th century, the town offers both the history and heritage of its old quarter as well as the modern shopping centres and nightlife of a contemporary town. Aylesbury has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, after the delivery of a range of regeneration projects to build on its reputation as a hub for retail, dining and leisure activities. As the county town of Buckinghamshire, it is the destination of choice for those not wishing to travel far from the surrounding picturesque villages and hamlets. The Exchange, officially opened in March 2019, is Aylesbury town centre’s first purpose-built mixed restaurant, commercial and residential development. It boasts an eclectic offering of cuisine, including burgers, Asian fusion, a laid back café/bar and a hugely popular local independent steakhouse – to name just a few! If gastronomical fare tingles your taste buds, then Market Square’s Foodie Friday market is sure to excite with freshly cooked street food! And if you are staying for the weekend, why not book tickets to see a show or performance at the contemporary and comfortable Aylesbury Waterside Theatre located in the town centre.
The town of Aylesbury has very early origins (the first significant population dates back to the Bronze Age!), however, it was not until the arrival of the Anglo Saxons in 571 AD that Aylesbury was given its name. The Market Square has several important buildings including the Corn Exchange, which was opened in 1865, and the 18th Century County Hall and Courthouse. A balcony, now removed, was used to publicly execute criminals. Luckier modern defendants have included Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, but the most famous trial in Aylesbury's history took place in the Council Chamber at Walton Street, where the Great Train Robbers were convicted in 1963/4. With the opening of Aylesbury’s canal basin in 1815 and the first railway station site in 1863, Aylesbury quickly grew in size and population, but retains much of its character in the ‘Old Town’. Most of the older buildings in Aylesbury are to be found in the streets surrounding St Mary’s Church. Largely Georgian in character, with some Tudor and Jacobean buildings, the Old Town is home to the King's Head Coaching Inn, the County Museum with the Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery and the 18th century Prebendal House. The historic cobbled Market Square is home to the striking County Court which was built in 1740 and the beautiful Clock Tower dating back to 1876. In 2017, Aylesbury was awarded Garden Town status, which at its heart aims to create an Aylesbury designed for everyone. As the birthplace of the Paralympic Movement, a legacy of inclusion and accessibility is an essential part of the future of the town and underpins the themes that will influence the projects and initiatives undertaken.
Aylesbury is in a prime location, in close proximity to such various cities as Oxford, High Wycombe and Milton Keynes. It’s 45 miles north west of London, served by the M1, M25 and M40, with London Heathrow airport less than an hour away and trains from the town centre’s railway station arriving at London Marylebone within 59 minutes.
Markets, Festivals & Events
Aylesbury has a fantastic offering of daily markets, from the popular General Market every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, to Tuesday’s Vintage and Craft Bazaar and Friday’s speciality food market, Foodie Friday. And that’s not all! The historic Market Square is also home to some spectacular special market events such as the Christmas Craft & Gift Fair. From Summer into the Christmas season, residents and visitors flock to immerse themselves in the fun of WhizzFizzFest, Play in the Park and the renowned Bucks County Show; before settling in for the dark evenings at the ever-popular Christmas Lights Switch On and Santa’s Sunday. The hugely successful Aylesbury Parklife Weekend is the town’s very own Glastonbury, a free community event of live music rounded off by Proms in the Park, complete with celebratory fireworks! The latest addition to the scene is Aylesbury’s Waterside Festival. Launched only in 2018, it is already attracting up to 10,000 visitors and has been ushering in a new era of events in the town, transforming the historic canalside space by unifying it with the rest of the town centre.
Claim to Fame
Ever since Henry VIII declared Aylesbury as the new County town in 1529, Aylesbury has seen many famous faces pass through its cobbles, most notably John Hampden, who as MP for Wendover was one of the leading parliamentarians to defy King Charles I’s rule and spark the Civil War. He was first cousin of Oliver Cromwell and legend has it that Cromwell stayed in Aylesbury himself. Hartwell House, a National Trust property and spa on the outskirts of Aylesbury, was the residence of exiled Louis XVIII and his court (1809–1814).
The birthplace of the Paralympic Movement, Dr. Guttmann of Stoke Mandeville hospital founded the first ‘Stoke Mandeville Games’ in 1948. By 1960 it had evolved into an international affair and became the official Paralympic Games in time for the Olympics in Rome that same year. Stoke Mandeville now hosts the Paralympic Heritage Flame Lighting Ceremony, continuing the Guttmann legacy for generations to come.
The infamous Friar’s Club in Aylesbury played host to the likes of Genesis, Iggy Pop, The Police and The Clash. The Jimi Hendrix Experience played there in 1967 and, most incredibly, David Bowie debuted his Ziggy Stardust persona there in the early 70s. In 2018, a bronze sculpture was unveiled in his honour in Market Square. There is also a statue of Ronnie Barker, the late comedy legend, relaxing on a bench besides Aylesbury’s Waterside Theatre where he made his professional debut in 1948.
The success of the Lionesses in 2019’s Women’s Football World Cup has been particularly inspiring for Aylesbury, where teammate Ellen White grew up.
In Market Square, the exterior façade of the courthouse was regularly used in Judge John Deed (2001-2007), whilst across the cobbles, a scene was filmed for Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971) in the original Friars Square shopping centre, although it was eventually cut – Aylesbury’s most famous deleted scene! The beautiful countryside surrounding Aylesbury with its abundance of quintessentially English villages and historic houses has featured in many films and tv show, including Midsommer Murders, Downtown Abbey and Never Say Never Again.
Did You Know?
The famous saying goes that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, but did you know that the Roman built Akeman Street runs through Aylesbury Vale as the A41? It was part of their great road network in Britain and ran for 78 miles from Verulamium (St Albans) to Corinium (Cirencester).
For more information, you might like this visitor guide, Visit Aylesbury.