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Aylsham - A Cittaslow Town

Cittaslow Aylsham is part of the UK network of Cittaslow towns which have been awarded accreditation to the international Cittaslow movement. Cittaslow (literally ‘Slow town/city’) seeks to foster economic, social and environmental sustainability.

Aylsham - where living is good 


Market towns like Aylsham have a rich heritage of rustic culture built up over the centuries and sustained by a community determined to preserve a place "where living is good".


Founded around 500 AD by an Anglo-Saxon then called Aegel, Aylsham’s medieval origins can still be seen in its street layout. In 1372, John of Gaunt, father of king Henry IV, inherited the Manor and paid for the building of St Michael and All Angels church which stands next to the  picturesque market place, itself now surrounded by 18th century houses, reflecting the town’s prosperity from the cloth trade from that era.

Today, the market place still holds markets on Mondays and Fridays as well as monthly farmers’ markets, community events throughout the year and there are plenty of shops, pubs and tea-rooms.

Yes, but what’s this got to do with Cittàslow ? And what is Cittàslow  anyway?

The clue is in the name – Cittàslow  (pronounced “cheetah slow”) is Italian for “Slow Town or City” and is part of a cultural trend known as the slow movement, set up in the 1990s by some laid-back Italians to help combat the stress of modern life.

Its simple message is to enhance the quality of life in the town.

That message was thrust into sharp focus in 2020 – the year of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Lockdown meant forced isolation. We all became increasingly aware of the benefits of staying local - neighbourliness, enjoying our open spaces and caring for the environment, buying more from local traders (especially after panic buying left supermarket shelves empty) and more aware of the quality of our streets as traffic was dramatically reduced.

Ironically, it took a killer virus to alter our mindset as communities across the country came to value the slower way of life. But Aylsham was ahead of the game.

Slow towns aim to slow down the pace of life, design the space for humans (as against traffic), care for the environment, promote a healthy lifestyle, and preserve the special nature of local cultures.

The foundation of the movement is Slow Food, which promotes local food, traditions and suppliers – and Aylsham can also boast an active branch of this food-centred international grouping.

In 1986, the concept of “slow food” was introduced in Italy as a reaction to the growing “fast foods” industry that was becoming widespread. It encourages regions to identify and use local food and produce and allow time to enjoy eating with family and friends.

Aylsham has been a Cittàslow  Town since November 2004. For many years, it was sustained by the surrounding local agricultural activity, but by 2004 the loss of the town’s livestock market, the opening of an out-of-centre supermarket and the planned residential growth were all causes of concern for the town’s residents and businesses.

The community embraced the need for change and with the support of the Town Council and other local organisations, Aylsham became a Cittàslow town.


Its focus is on supporting local businesses and maintaining high street shops, as well as protecting the environment, conserving local traditions and creating a people-friendly urban fabric.


Today, Aylsham is the oldest established Cittàslow town in the UK – the second in England to receive such status after Ludlow in Shropshire, which is no longer a member.

It is this heritage that has sustained Aylsham as a Cittàslow town. But Cittàslow does not mean a staid, unchanging town but one that will move forward and modernise while still retaining the essential identity which qualified it for Cittàslow status in the first place.

The character of smaller towns these days is under threat from many directions: out-of-town shopping centres, online shopping, ubiquitous coffee bars and restaurant chains, the list goes on, often to produce soulless “identikit” towns.


And yet other towns manage to maintain their individuality and retain a sense of togetherness, a community.


Aylsham is such a town – a place “where living is good”.


In the UK the following are Cittàslow towns:

  • Aylsham

  • Mold

  • Llangollen


Cittàslow  philosophy and principles

  • Encourage and celebrate diversity rather than standardisation.

  • Support and promote local culture and local traditions.

  • Work for a more sustainable environment.

  • Raise awareness and appreciation of local produce and local businesses.

  • Promote healthy eating and healthy living.

  • Promote justice and social inclusion.

  • Work with the local community to build on these principles.

Apart from these goals, there is no set rule book – which emphasises that every community is unique.

Cittàslow – What does it do?

  • An umbrella organisation to bring other clubs and societies together.

  • Sustainable activities like litter picking, maintaining and clearing public paths and open spaces, plastic reduction.

  • Carnival/Christmas lights/ Street parties.

  • Arts/music events.

  • Specialist markets.

  • Information sharing with other authorities/agencies.

  • Burns Night celebration.


Aylsham Cittaslow affiliated groups


Cittaslow UK


Aylsham Cittaslow Champions

Champions in this context are local businesses, entrepreneurs and organisations that distinguish themselves from others in their field by supporting Cittàslow values.

Cittaslow Aylsham Logo

Aylsham Cittaslow Video


Cittaslow Internarial hold regular competitions for Cittaslow towns throughout the world.

In 2023 a video competition was held - please see the Aylsham video below.

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