Aylesbury Walk – 21.04.2014

“The vale of Aylesbury was drowsing beneath a slowly deepening shroud of mist. Above it the hills, their crests rounded and shaded by silver and rose coppices, seemed to have set in them great smoky eyes of flame where the last rays burned in them.” Blinds Man Bluff, H.R Wakefield

Mist did not surround us, instead the sun was the hung high in the sky over heads when we reached Aylesbury. We made our way from the station to start exploring the town centre to see what it might offer us on our walk for the day. As we did so, we started walking along “Friarage Passage”, which immediately conjured up images of friars in rough brown robes chanting in latin! I was not far wrong with my imaginings, as a Friary once stood here from the C14th to C16th! The passage let us into Rickford Hill, where we could see the front of the former Friary, which is the oldest building in Aylesbury, even though the front has been reconstructed. This reminds me of St Ethelburgas, which has original frontage but inside has been modernised!. From here we turned into the Biscuit or is that a quick drink street, no sorry I mean bourbon street LOL. In fact its name has nothing to do with anything edible at all!

The road was originally named Waterhouse Street and was renamed in honour of the French King Louis XVIII, a member of the Bourbon dynasty. King Louis had fled France after the revolution to a life of exile in Italy. He had to move on once again after Napoleons invasion when he fled to England, he eventually returned to France when the Monarchy had been restored. We turned away from the Bourbons and headed down temple street. Sadly most of the historic buildings have now gone and a supermarket now stands where Tudor buildings once stood. However, without the demolition of those houses, a 9 foot ditch that once was part of the original Town Defences prior to the Tudor era would have never been found! In the distance we could see a large spire of the local Church, which looked worthwhile investigating, but we saved that for later in our walk. We therefore decided to meander down “George Street”. This road, like Bourbon Street, has also had been renamed, it seems Aylesbury are not ones to settle with original names for long!

George Street was originally “Hog Lane”, where it was discovered after archaeological excavation, that the old Church cemetery reached as far as this particular lane. Perhaps the renaming of the road to honour George III from Hog Lane was a good thing after all 🙂 We had finally reached Aylesbury’s town centre, which had some fascinating features. Particularly a large Water Clock, personally I could not quite work out how it worked! Walking on from the clock we were suddenly confronted with two large bronze statues, the first being John Hampden. John Hampden seems to have been a key player in the English Civil War, dare I say it, one of the men who had a pivotal roles in actually being responsible for it?? He refused to pay a certain shipping tax to Charles 1 and went onto defend Aylesbury in the Battle of Holmans Bridge in 1642. Definitely a key figure in the defeat of the Royalists…. On the other side looking to John Hampden is the statue of Earl of Beaconsfield and Viscount Hughenden, Benjamin Disraeli. I cannot seem to find much history as to why Disraeli is associated with Aylesbury, but if anyone can help, please comment!

From 2014 – 21.04.2014 – Aylesbury Walk

We felt that we would leave the town square to investigate the Church, we spotted a notice that Aylesbury had been dug up on yet another excavation! This time it did not reveal town defences, but there had been a Roman settlement in the area! In fact the Roman Road Akeman Street had run close by, nice to know that I had found another one after finding Watling Street on a previous jaunt. I am fascinated by the road names in Aylesbury as we found ourselves now walking down “Pebble Lane” which did sound rather quaint, I am still unsure where the name derives from but it does sound lovely whatever! When we finally reached the Church, it was rather a lovely feeling that this C13th building did not feel out of place in its surroundings at all. As we looked around the church we could see that the some of the beautiful stained glass windows had suffered damaged and had various bits and pieces replaced over time but it certainly did not detract from the look and feel of the Church. Amazingly the bells are still intact in the belltower and the oldest one dates from the C17th, such a pity we were not treated to their lovely chimes 😦

We turned into Church Street and passed by “The Chantry”, a beautiful looking house which now belongs to a Charity to home those in need in Aylesbury. On the opposite side of the road was the Buckinghamshire Museum, which we thought might investigate. The museum itself was founded in the C19th by the Buckinghamshire Archeological Society and was eventually homed in the old Aylesbury Grammar School where it is still situated today. It underwent a large refurbishment in 1995 and when we went into visit it is still looking good in 2014 🙂 The Museum is well worth if you are in the area, we definitely did not have time to explore all of it! We noted that there was a Roald Dahl exhibition area, which intrigued me, apparently he lived nearby to Aylesbury, so I will need to find out more on another walk. Just past the Buckinghamshire museum we came across yet another piece of Aylesbury history, when we spotted a beautifully crafted stained glass window. It belonged to the “Aylesbury Literary Institution and Club” as I could see a rather swanky wine bar next door, I was rather unsure if the club was still established. On the contrary the Wine Bar uses the clubs premises and even provides refreshments for them, fulfilling the original object of the club for “the promotion of social intercourse and the provision of refreshments” 🙂

We found ourselves walking back into the town centre once more, where we found yet another clocktower in the centre. This time it was not powered by water, but was old fashioned and the clock was housed in Gothic stone architecture. Beyond the clock there were a set of large ornate and grand buildings, whose style looked slightly out of place in this little market square. The structure was originally built by the Aylesbury Market Company and it was set up as a grand Corn Exchange. Unfortunately the profits of this venture were never realised once the agricultural depression of the 1870’s took its hold. In order for the corn exchange to be built, a coaching inn once stood in its place during the C17th, which would not have looked out of place at all! We found ourselves walking through the town once again and eventually reaching “Aylesbury Vale Park”, where we decided to sit for a while, enjoy the green space, the sun and eat some lunch. The park was quite busy, but that was probably because the leisure centre sits at one end of the park, but nevertheless it is nice to have some green in amongst the town 🙂

From 2014 – 21.04.2014 – Aylesbury Walk

Once we left the park behind we found a very large pringle crisp shaped building :-D, the Waterside Theatre. This theatre has not long been open and its in opening season hosted some beautiful entertainment including the ballet Swan Lake. However, this theatre also hosts more than just theatrical numbers, it is also known home to the famous Aylesbury Friars Music Club. What is that I hear you cry??? Well in these words –

“Friars Aylesbury was the gig of gigs………crack Aylesbury and the Greyhound in Croydon and you’ve cracked England”

Steve Harley, Cockney Rebel

The Friars Club in Aylesbury was the place to be, a musical sensation, a club that played a role the careers of many individuals and bands in their early careers. With people such as David Bowie, Genesis, Blondie, The Buzzocks and many more playing Aylesbury, the atmosphere must have been just rocking! The club evolved and has lived in 4 sites, with the Waterside Theatre as it’s current home, bands still playing there today. I will need to look out to see who is playing there next 🙂 ! As we looked away from this rock and roll theatre, we spotted a bronze statue of Ronnie Barker which was sitting gazing at the Waterside building. Ronnie Barker is honoured in Aylesbury as he started his acting career in Aylesbury when he joined the Aylesbury Repertory Company and made his debut at the original Aylesbury theatre in 1948!

We decided to walk around the theatre and discovered exactly why it was called the “Waterside Theatre”, that is because it is next to a canal! I was not expecting to find a canal tucked away behind this grand building. We had discovered the Wendover arm of the Grand Union Canal, which was rather nice as we had walked quite a number of miles on the lots of other parts of the Grand Union! This particular branch flows from the village of Wendover and meets the main Grand Union Canal at Tring, I am unsure if this is longer than the paddington branch of the Grand Union that I encountered? Like all the other canals, this was built for commercial reasons in approximately the late C18th and was to bring water and goods to the villages along the Wendover arm of the canal. It also fell into disuse and is now being restored to its former glory and is being used mainly for pleasure boats.

We followed the canal for some time, it was very pleasant and quite a change from the Hustle and bustle of Aylesbury. It was beautiful and green and lush each side of the canal. The locks were much narrower than some of the ones we had seen previously and only had a single lock gate, so only the small narrow boats would be able to navigate this part of the Grand Union. We felt that we would turn away from the canal as we would walk the canal properly at another time as it was late in the afternoon, it really does deserve some proper time to enjoy it 🙂 Particularly as the further we walked away from the town centre the landscape alters and becomes more countryside and relaxed! We therefore took an opportune path off the towpath which was to take us back to the urban streets of Aylesbury. It was from here we walked on the outskirts of town and back around to the station where we finished our amble around Aylesbury for the day 🙂

Please feel free to click on the photo below for the photos –

2014 – 21.04.2014 – Aylesbury Walk

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