Bid to save fascist graffiti

Efforts are underway to preserve fast-fading 1930s fascist graffiti daubed on a wall near Aylsham town centre.

The black-painted slogan, now barely visible, reads 'STAND BY THE KING', with the crooked-flash logo of the British Union of Fascists encircled below.

It is thought to date from the 1936 abdication crisis when Edward VIII had to choose between keeping his throne or marrying American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

And a history expert believes it may also have links with famous author and fascist sympathiser Henry Williamson, who once lived in north Norfolk, plus connections with rural East Anglian discontent at the time.

Aylsham resident Alan Quinn has launched a one-man campaign to try and protect the graffiti before it disappears completely from the wall of a listed building close to the Market Place entrance to the parish church.

He has contacted Broadland District Council and asked Aylsham Town Council to discuss the graffiti's preservation.

Mr Quinn fears public embarrassment may have made Aylsham unwilling to support his cause.

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'I think people are worried about linking themselves in any way with the British nationalist movement,' he said.

'But this is as much a piece of history of the town - and the county - as any old building or plaque on a wall, and I would not like to see it lost.

'It's no different to what Cromwell left behind when he smashed up the churches.'

Earlier this year Mr Quinn and Dr Stephen Cullen were interviewed about the graffiti for BBC Radio Four's Making History programme.

Dr Cullen, an expert in fascist history from the University of Warwick, told the programme that a similar piece of graffiti was still visible on a wall at the former Stiffkey home of Williamson, author of Tarka the Otter.

He also said that hundreds of East Anglian farmers involved in a long-running battle had attracted the support of fascist leader Oswald Mosley's black shirts in 1934.

Barbara Hornbrook, Broadland's conservation manager, said the graffiti was on a listed building and could not be removed, but it was at risk from the elements.

She visited the Aylsham graffiti site this week and said she would be in touch with the building's owner to hear their views.

Ms Hornbrook added; 'We would definitely want to record the graffiti. The question is whether or not any action should be taken to preserve it.'