Hundreds gathered in Aylsham this afternoon to learn about a major part of the town’s history, swept away overnight a century ago.

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A guided walk, films, an exhibition, and talk by UEA professor Tom Williamson were among events marking the launch of Sail and Storm - The Aylsham Navigation, the first published history of the waterway.

The heavily-illustrated book has been written by Aylsham Local History Society in collaboration with UEA’s Centre of East Anglian Studies.

It follows the nine-and-a-half mile course of the Coltishall-to-Aylsham navigation of the River Bure in time and geography.

In its early to mid-19th century heyday, wherries carried a variety of cargoes to and from Aylsham.

But the opening in 1883 of Aylsham’s second railway station at Dunkirk, beside the staithe, saw river trade decline, finishing completely when the great flood of August 1912 swept away bridges and all five locks along the navigation.

The book, printed by local firm Barnwells which is now based at Dunkirk, is dedicated to the late Desmond Best, from Ditchingham, whose unpublished 1977 degree thesis on the navigation was used as a key source.

Roger Polhill, chairman of the history society, said the project had enabled members to get involved with original research.

He was delighted at today’s turnout which included many people whose relatives had been involved with the navigation and the trade it generated.

●● Copies of the £15 book are available from local booksellers or via www.aylsham-history.co.uk

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