Several prehistoric artefacts have been found in people’s back gardens, such as a Neolithic flint axe at 13 Thrasher Road. Excavations have revealed prehistoric settlement elsewhere. Late Neolithic flint blades, flakes, scrapers and axe fragments and pottery were found in excavation at Walton Court. Middle to Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age settlement remains including a round-house, pits and pottery, flint flakes and loomweights have been found at the Orchard Site off Walton Road.
Excavations at Walton Lodge uncovered Late Neolithic to Middle Bronze Age post-holes and beam slots as well as a Middle Bronze Age round-house with lots of Early to Middle Bronze Age pottery and many flint flakes. It is likely that all this Bronze Age activity in Walton forms a long-lived shifting settlement.
Prebendal in advance of redevelopment. Early Iron Age human bone, skulls and four burials were also recovered. Informal recording at 31-33 Kingsbury also revealed hillfort ditches.
Middle to Late Iron Age ditches and pits associated with pottery, animal bones and a loomweight have been found at Coldharbour Farm. A Late Iron Age to Roman farmstead identified by pits, post-holes and field boundaries was seen in a watching biref and evaluation trenches at Aylesbury High School, also in Walton.
The line of the Roman road Akeman Street passes through Aylesbury. The modern A41 follows this route. Roman settlement is sometimes found in the same places as Late Iron Age settlement, a hearth associated with Roman pottery were identified at Coldharbour Farm; some Roman pottery and a coin were found at the work on George Street; Roman metalwork, quern fragments, pottery and coins were found in a metal-detecting survey and the watching brief in advance of the construction of the Walton Court Estate. An Early Roman settlement and cemetery was identified in excavation at Walton Road Stores.
Excavation in advance of the construction of Sainsburys at 13-19 Buckingham Street, on the other side of Aylesbury, revealed an Early Roman drain and pits associated with pottery, animal bone, roof-tile and a bird-bone whistle. Ground-works in advance of the construction of the Quarrendon estate revealed a Roman hearth and midden. There is more evidence of Roman settlement to the north of Aylesbury, more of which has been identified in excavation in Fleet Marston parish.
Saxon cremation cemetery in the nineteenth century. A Saxon inhumation cemetery was found in the early twentieth century in Walton and was dated from the sixth to the eighth centuries. Saxon settlement remains have been identified at the Walton Road Stores; at Walton Lodge which had a sixth to seventh century hall along with other features, pottery and a comb; the Walton Court excavations uncovered early Saxon settlement such as five Grubenhauser, three halls, gullies, pottery and metalwork dated to the fifth century AD as well as later Saxon activity in the form of burials, gullies, a midden, pits, post-holes, drains and boundary ditches dated to the tenth and eleventh century AD.
Excavations on Croft Road revealed early Saxon settlement in the form of a Grubenhaus, ditches and pottery and later Saxon pits and boundary ditches. Later Saxon gullies and pottery were found during redevelopment of the ex-Police houses on Walton Street. A few late Saxon ditches with associated pottery were found in the excavations at the Teacher’s Centre in Walton as well and middle Saxon settlement was identified in excavation at the Orchard Site.
St Mary’s church has a medieval crypt and is now mainly a thirteenth century construction, though the font is twelfth century and a twelfth century cloister and a conduit pipe were identified in excavation. There was also a chantry chapel in the churchyard in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The churchyard of St Mary’s appears to have been much bigger in the Late Saxon and medieval periods. Skeletons have been found at 12 Church Street in a water main trench and in the cellars of 14 Temple Square and 2 St Mary’s Square. Documentary evidence suggests that St Mary’s was the site of a late Saxon minster. Other documentary evidence suggests there was an eleventh century mint based here under Edward the Confessor.
Some late Saxon and medieval activity other than burials have been identified in this area, such as tenth to twelfth century ditches, pits and wells, pottery and animal remains at the corner of Temple and Bourbon Streets after house demolition. A Saxon ditch and twelfth to fourteenth century pits and wells were found in the excavations at the Prebendal, the site of a medieval manor. Place-name evidence suggests that Aylesbury may have been the site of a Saxon burh but there is little physical evidence for this apart from the ditch at the Prebendal.
Although Aylesbury itself has only got bigger since the medieval period, some of the outlying areas have shrunk. Excavations at Bedgrove Farm have uncovered a thirteenth to fourteenth century house platform associated with an oven and lots of artefacts, roof tiles, metalwork, a spindle-whorl and pottery. A medieval moat and enclosure is known from field survey and aerial photographs at Weedon Hill. Evaluation trenches at Ellen Road identified medieval to post-medieval ridge-and-furrow, buildings, pond and lots of pottery, tile and clay pipe.
Excavations at George Street revealed a great deal of medieval activity, in the form of drains, wells, pits, and coins, animal bones, bone prickers, metalwork and pottery dating from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries as well as later buildings, cobbling, pits, drains, animal bones, metalwork and pottery from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. The excavations at the Teacher’s Centre in Walton uncovered medieval pits, a well and medieval pottery as well as the earlier evidence mentioned above. The twelfth to thirteenth century manor of Walton was based at Walton Court and ditches, gullies, quarries and roof tiles have been found from this date.
There are historical records from 1180 that the county gaol for Bernwood Forest was kept at Aylesbury and there was a separate town gaol that has a great many sixteenth century records. The county gaol was next to the County Hall in Market Square, in what is now the Crown Court building. A medieval leper hospital is thought to have been at Brook House but was not found in evaluation trenching. A medieval hospital is also suggested to have existed at Parson’s Fee. Leland’s Itinerary, which was undertaken in the 1530s, mentioned a holy well at Dunsham Farm and a monastery at the Prebendal in the thirteenth century that had not survived until his time. An inn mentioned in a twelfth century document on Kingsbury may have been a royal manor house, as suggested by the name. There are historical records that the Friarage was the site of a fourteenth to sixteenth century friary and earlier medieval artefacts and pits were found in groundwork in the early twentieth century.
The King’s Head is a fifteenth to nineteenth century coaching inn. It originally faced onto Market Square but more recent buildings have screened it from the square and it is now approached by the King’s Head Passage. Excavations and other works at the King’s Head have identified that the cellar dates to the thirteenth to fourteenth century. The stable block has been dated to the fifteenth to sixteenth century. Excavations in the courtyard revealed a medieval cess-pit, well, stake- and post-holes pottery and tile.
There are historical records of various buildings in Market Square in the medieval and post-medieval period. There was a market hall (now replaced by the clock tower that was constructed in the nineteenth century), a cock-pit and a stocks and pillory.
When Ceely House (7 Church Street) was being converted to an extension to the museum recording works revealed fifteenth century wall paintings in the upstairs rooms and the wooden frame was dated by dendrochronological analysis to 1473. It was the Guildhall from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century and the ‘Brother House’ of the Fraternity of the Virgin Mary until 1547 when such fraternities were outlawed. The building was altered in the seventeenth century and refronted in the eighteenth century. Other buildings in the museum were built as a school in the eighteenth century.
Civil War earthworks have been tentatively identified at Friarage Road and at The Prebendal and a Civil War cannonball was found on Whitehall Street in road-works.
There was an eighteenth century Baptist chapel at 40 Cambridge Street that was demolished in the 1930s. Skeletons of an attached cemetery were revealed during the demolition. The Walton Street Chapel was a nineteenth century Baptist Chapel and cemetery that was demolished in 1966. Another eighteenth century non-conformist chapel is known at 19 Castle Street and eighteenth to nineteenth century gravestones have been found in the patio of the back garden. The site of a non-conformist chapel on the High Street now is commemorated in a plaque on the tower outside the Hale Ley’s shopping centre. Rickford’s Hill Friends Meeting House dates to the eighteenth century and has an associated cemetery.
There are a great many listed buildings in Aylesbury, many of them dating to the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries. Some listed buildings have been demolished over the years, such as 2-4 Temple and 2-4 Bourbon Streets which dated from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries and were destroyed to make way for modern buildings in 1973. Other houses have quite old elements, such as 21 Buckingham Street, which has a modern house and shop to the front but a possible medieval wing to the back. There is a sixteenth century timber-framed tithe barn at 32 Castle Street. 10 Church Street has an eighteenth century frontage with a fifteenth to sixteenth century back. 8 Church Street has a fifteenth century back and a nineteenth century front. This phenomenon is not localised to this street. 31 Kingsbury is a late medieval timber-framed building that was remodelled in the sixteenth and seventeenth century and has a nineteenth century extension and refronting.
Seventeenth century clay pipes were found in a building survey of 13 Castle Street and probably came from a nearby clay pipe kiln.
The railway station was originally built in 1863 and sited on the High Street but it was closed in the early twentieth century. There are pictorial and written records of a nineteenth century silk mill on Oxford Road, originally part of the parish workhouse.
Some of the twentieth century features of note are Aylesbury Vale Park, a municipal park. Possible World War II practice trenches were seen on aerial photographs to the rear of the old Territorial Army centre, but these may be the medieval ditches discovered in evaluation. The former electricity depot on Exchange Street has left a generating house as well as a canal landing stage and wharf-side buildings.
Want to find out more? Read the detailed historic town report for Aylesbury (below).