Norfolk’s best kept secret

When someone takes an old building, filled with soul and steeped in history, and they lovingly renovate it so that it becomes the heart of a market town, that is something very magical. This is exactly what Tim and Lynnette did with what is now The Ironmongers boutique hotel in Aylsham. Samantha Mattocks spoke to Tim to find out more. 

“I still have to pinch myself every time I enter the building that we really did this,” says Tim as I talk to him about The Ironmongers, an incredible boutique hotel on Red Lion Street in the thriving market town of Aylsham. “We oversaw every square inch of this building being rebuilt, from when we bought it in 2018 to when we opened our doors in November 2021.”

A 17th century Grade II listed building, The Ironmongers has worn many hats over the years, from being a home to a wine merchants, a tailors, and even an insurance broker. Now, with eight unique bedrooms, each named after a different traditional business in Aylsham from the time the building was constructed, The Ironmongers is a vibrant hub in the heart of the town. 

“I love that The Ironmongers is a beautiful symphony of old and new,” explains Tim. “I loved the character of this building from the moment I first walked into it, and I wanted to keep that charm within the renovations.”

Tim and his wife, Lynnette, have done exactly that. The ground floor of the building is a food experience – more of that shortly – but the top two floors are a wonderful maze of corridors, staggered floors, original beams, and exposed brickwork. The names of each room are intriguing – The Haberdashery, The Florists, The Landscapes, The Tailors, The Ostlers, The Cobblers, The Confectioners, and The Biscuiteers – and each is themed, with hidden artefacts to subtly underline that theme, such as an old shoe, and gardening tools. 

“The stunning Tailors room celebrates the original tailors who were based in the building,” explains Tim. “17th century beams frame the room and the original safe, that stored the days’ earnings, is secured deep into the bathroom wall. The original 17th century wattle and daub wall is perfectly preserved and, an original drapers poster uncovered during renovations, is on display.”

Other rooms include The Ostlers – named after the stable hands who tended the horses and found above what is believed to be the original stables – has a stable-style door to the bathroom. Meanwhile, The Biscuiteers is curiously named after the ancient travellers who needed rations that lasted longer than bread. It sits at the top of the building with views across the market square and has original timber rafters zigzagging across the ceiling. 

All the rooms are king-sized doubles, with one family room, The Haberdashery, home to particularly opulent surroundings and a four-poster bed. It also has a hidden room only this time, if you go through the wardrobe door, you find a cosy bed bunk nook instead of Narnia. It appears The Ironmongers is a place where magic happens.

Among all this rich history, the surprise comes with the modernity offered. All rooms have hush flooring to reduce vibrations, noise and are all acoustically insulated with secondary glazing. There are also water saving taps, an adaptive learning heating system, and soap dispensers using refills, all part of Tim and Lynnette’s ethos to reduce their carbon footprint. The Ironmongers was given a Silver Carbon Charter Award for recognising these steps towards a clear reduction in carbon emissions. The building also has an air-sourced heat pump for both heating and hot water something that, with the addition of underfloor heating, means even on the coldest of days, guests will be cosy. 

Tim very much wanted The Ironmongers to be a place where people felt as though they were at home – while staying somewhere special. On the morning of their arrival, guests receive a smart code and digital guide, giving them access to the building and their room, and also meaning that they can come and go as they please.

In addition, while each room has a coffee station including biscuits, essential for all travellers’ rations, Tim instead wants people to embrace all that Aylsham offers in terms of hospitality, particularly through the local food experience on the ground floor of the building. The hub is home to M’s of Aylsham, a tapas and cocktail bar; Bread Source; and The Proper Pizza Co. 

“We tried to carefully bring local food businesses to the ground floor retail area,” explains Tim. “Bread Source do many delicious pastries and great coffee, M’s of Aylsham offers very drinkable cocktails, and the pizzas – well, they are just delicious! We all work together to support each other, as do so many of the businesses in Aylsham.

“Aylsham really is an amazing place and becoming increasingly popular. The town is earning a reputation as being a foodie destination, and it offers quick access to the fabulous Norfolk coast as well as being a stone’s throw from the iconic Blickling Hall. There is so much to do here and in the surrounding area.”

There is no doubt that The Ironmongers is somewhere very special indeed. The way Tim and his family have restored the building, breathing life back into it after it stood there, abandoned and unloved, for seven years, is nothing short of a labour of love. And the results are there for all to see – a once iconic building, offering sumptuous accommodation, in one of Norfolk’s best-kept secrets. 

Rooms start at £120 a night, with dogs welcome into The Haberdashery and The Tailors for £15 a stay.

• To book your room, visit

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