Situated on the Roman Akeman Street, in the heart of the Vale to which it gives its name, Aylesbury's claim to be the county town of Buckinghamshire derives from its centrality and its early status as a royal manor, which made it the obvious location for the county gaol and the venue for the assizes and other county gatherings. It was the site of an Anglo-Saxon monastic settlement, or minster, and the early town's topography evolved around the church and its environs and around Kingsbury, a large open space whose name recalls the royal 'hospice' mentioned in a grant of land made by Henry II to his otter hunter, Roger Foll. In 1554 Queen Mary granted the townsmen a royal charter of incorporation and, although the charter soon lapsed, the right which it conferred of election two MPs somehow survived and was later claimed on behalf of the householders.
Aylesbury's experience as a Parliamentary garrison during the Civil War fostered the growth of religious dissent, and at the Restoration in 1660 it was branded a 'fanatic' place. Nowhere else were elections more fiercely contested, and the case of Ashby versus White, a lawsuit over a rejected vote in an Aylesbury election, became a cause celebre. Arrival of the canal and then railway, both funded by local capital, enabled the new industries of printing and milk processing to complement the existing lace-making and duck breeding after 1860, but the town retained its market town character until well into the 20th century.
In 1959, when the population was nearing 29,000, the borough council entered into an agreement with the London County Council to become an 'overspill' town. Major redevelopment followed in the 1960s which, controversially, included parts of the historic town centre. Today Aylesbury has expanded beyond the limits of its ancient parish and is home to a variety of service and light engineering industries. This readable and informed new account tells the story of Aylesbury from its origins to the present and will be greatly enjoyed by anyone with an interest in the town.