by Janis on 27th April 2021 / 0 comments

At Aylesford Priory, the Carmelite Friars welcome you to their historical home

The Carmelite Friars first arrived in Aylesford, Kent, in 1242, and the picturesque manor house located alongside the River Medway was to become their home and peaceful sanctuary.

The Friars in Aylesford were the first General Chapter of the Order outside the Holy Land. The Order continued to grow, and over the following fifty years, a further thirty priories were founded across England and Wales.

My immediate reaction when we strolled into Aylesford Priory was one of true surprise.

I was astounded at how tranquil and serene this little oasis was, considering how close we were to the hustle and bustle of modern-day life. You felt like you were a world away from the instantaneous society we live in today.

The gardens, woodlands and historic buildings lay across 40-acres of land.

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The Carmelite Friars hermit lifestyle began to slowly change within Aylesford Priory, and the medieval priory soon played a significant role for the Aylesford Friars for another 300 years.

Unfortunately, due to the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the friars were forced to leave in 1538. They did not return to the priory until 1949, some 400 years later.

A view from a corner of the Great Courtyard of Aylesford Priory, towards the willow tree in the duck pond.
The Great Courtyard towards the pond

Admittance to The Friars is free

Entrance to The Friars and its surrounding beautiful gardens are free of charge. The welcoming Carmelite Friars just ask for a small donation to use their car park. Of course, why not donate a little more.

The Aylesford Friars' duck pond

In the shadow of a Weeping Willow
There’s no better place to start your journey than by the duck pond. Instantly the gentle ripple of the water and the chanting of the quacking ducks send a soothing wave through your soul.
A weeping willow tree on a small island in the centre of the duck pond in Aylesford Priory, Kent
The Friars' pond
Beneath the rustling arms of the Weeping Willow are graceful black and white swans, Canadian Geese protecting their young and the happy-go-lucky local ducks.
A Canadian goose foraging next to its nest on the edge of the duck pond in Aylesford Priory
Nesting Canadian Geese at Aylesford Priory

If you or your children enjoy feeding the ducks, it's welcomed here. Purchase a bag of duck feed from the gift shop, and you'll be the best friend of every duck.

This is a lovely part of the priory to sit and relish, so grab a pew and soak up the tranquillity.

If you're intrigued by Kent's weird and wonderful history, or all unusual stories around the county, then take a peek at "Kent's Strangest Tales".

You won't be able to put it down, you can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.

Kent's Strangest Tales Cover

The Friar's Great Courtyard

Discover its Elizabethan influences
Strolling beyond the duck pond, you effortlessly wander into the Great Courtyard, the oldest part of The Friars and beautifully maintained.
The medieval buildings that line the Great Courtyard in Aylesford Priory
Great Courtyard, Aylesford Priory

Prior to the Carmelite Friars purchasing the Priory in 1949, many of the historic buildings suffered from a devastating fire in 1930. Once the friars had returned, work began in earnest to restore the medieval buildings to their former glory.

Once more, Aylesford Priory offered a much-needed shelter for pilgrims, who were passing through Kent on their journey to Canterbury.

The medieval Watergate that used to provide an entrance to Aylesford Priory from the River Medway
Watergate
A small statue to Saint Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury, above a medieval arched wooden doorway in a stone wall in Aylesford Priory
St Thomas of Canterbury doorway

The Great Courtyard is a delightful place to amble around; keep an eye out for the charming little features amongst the ancient walls and doorways.

It's within the historic courtyard that the oldest section of the Friars can be found. The vaulted-beamed Pilgrims’ Hall, which lies alongside the River Medway, dates from 1280.

The Pilgrims’ Hall and Watergate overlooking the River Medway at the Friars in Aylesford, Kent
Pilgrims’ Hall and Watergate
Even though the hall has been used over many centuries in different guises, the Pilgrims’ Hall has now returned to welcoming visitors and providing hot food and warmth from their open fire.

Medway Valley Road Trip

We’ve created A Scenic Medway Valley, Kent Road Trip, which incorporates Aylesford Priory, some of Kent’s nautical history and charming rural villages. So why not take a peek?
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The Friar's Main Shrine

There's room for all in the open-air piazza
The open-air shrine and the large sunken piazza were the inspiration of the architect Adrian Gilbert Scott and Friar Malachy Lynch. Work began in 1958, and the shrine has been continually used for prayer by individuals and large gatherings ever since.
The stone exterior of the main Shrine at Aylesford Priory, Kent
The Main Shrine
A statue to the Virgin Mary in the centre of the shrine in Aylesford Priory.
Statue to the Virgin Mary

The expanse of the communal arena is extremely popular through the summer months when thousands of overseas pilgrims congregate in prayer and song. On pilgrimage days, the processions weave their way all through the charming gardens.

The dominating focal point of the shrine is the sculpture of the Virgin Mary, which Michael Clark carved in 1960. The Shrine contains earth from the Well of the Prophet Elijah on Mount Carmel.

Surrounding the shrine and amongst the cloisters are peaceful individual chapels for prayer and meditation.

Escape for a few days

Are you looking for that ‘perfick’ holiday hideaway to relax in while you discover the Garden of England?

After a day exploring the Kent coast and its many historic castles enjoy one of the handpicked properties and unique retreats at Holiday Cottages.

The Aylesford Priory Peace Garden

The name says it all!
Adjacent to the Shrine is a medieval Gatehouse; take a stroll through the historical gate to the sanctuary of the Peace Garden beyond.
The medieval gatehouse at the Aylesford Priory in Kent
The Gatehouse leading to the Peace Garden

Your eyes are naturally guided through the beautiful garden and the thoughtfully planted borders. With a gentle breeze, the delicate grasses and colourful shrubs sway effortlessly in your path.

Take a seat by the gatehouse and discover the symbolic tiles that lie at your feet. The individual tiles have the word "Peace" translated into 300 different languages.

The Peace Garden in Aylesford Priory, consisting of flower beds either side of a grass pathway.
The Peace Garden

Kent coastal road trip

Discover 11 of Kent’s charming and historic coastal towns on a road trip. Uncover the delights of Broadstairs, Deal, Margate, Hythe, Folkestone and more.
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The Rosary Way

Displaying the Fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary
On leaving the Peace Garden, turn left along Rosary Way, passing by the Holy Water (which is not for drinking). The magnificent 300-year-old pink magnolia tree then greets you; in early spring, this looks incredible
Two brass taps set in a stone wall that dispense holy water into a boat-shaped receptacle below.
Holy Water
The Rosary Way wends itself around the back of the Shrine to a delightful, peaceful garden beyond. Surrounding the garden are the Fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary, where some visitors come to pray and reflect.
A view of Aylesford Priory from the tranquil gardens encapsulated by the Rosary Way
Tranquil garden
However, if you just wish to appreciate the picturesque surroundings and the sereness that The Friars sanctuary offers, you are more than welcome to relax and listen to birdsong.

Visit some of Kent’s Historic Towns, Villages & Cities

Kent is not short of picturesque historic towns & villages,  Why not check out our posts on those we've visited with tips & inspiration to get the most out of your visit?

The Friars' tearoom

Serving delicious homemade cakes
On entering Aylesford Priory, you first pass by two thatched historic barns. The 16th-century west barn is now used to house the Carmelite Friars tearoom and gift shop.
The Aylesford Priory tearoom and gift shop in a thatched, timber-framed barn.
The Friars Tearoom and Gift Shop

The vaulted-beamed tearoom is lovingly restored and open 7-days a week. Light lunches are served along with fresh homemade cakes and sandwiches, all made on the premises with locally sourced produce.

Alongside the tearoom garden is the 17th-century restored north barn. This picturesque barn can be hired for wedding receptions, parties or special events.

The Pottery building in Aylesford Priory
Aylesford Pottery
Although if you fancy picking up a new skill, stroll down to the Aylesford Pottery within the Friars and throw a clay pot of your own. Or you can cheat and purchase one of the beautifully glazed pots on display.

- Where’s Aylesford Priory?

- How to get to Aylesford

  • - By Train
    You can catch a train from London St Pancras to Aylesford Station, which takes around 1 hour. Aylesford Friars is located 1 mile from the station.

    - By Car
    Aylesford Friars can be easily accessed from the M20 (jct. 5) or from the M2 (jct. 3). Onsite parking available.

Why not?

Extend your trip and head to the historic town of Rochester in Kent, where you can visit its striking Norman castle and the beautiful Rochester Cathedral.
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by Janis on  13 Sep 17

Our video of The Friars, Aylesford

on a beautiful spring day

We have created a little YouTube video of our visit - why not check it out?

You can also subscribe to our YouTube channel and get the latest clips as we post them.

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The ancient village of Aylesford

Dickens wouldn’t feel out of place
The picturesque village of Aylesford is just a short stroll from The Friars and is a charming example of a medieval parish. Hugging the banks of the River Medway, the riverside settlement has a beautiful view across the rooftops of the timber-framed homes and inns from the bridge below.
A picturesque view of the old stone bridge over the River Medway in Aylesford
Aylesford Village
Reaching high above the medieval 14th-century bridge is the Norman Church of St Peter and St Paul, standing proud in the background.
A row of stone cottage Alms-houses in the village of Aylesford, Kent
Aylesford Alms-houses
The historic High Street in Aylesford is a pleasure to wander through; you feel like you could be on a Dickensian film set.

- Where to stay in Aylesford

- Village Hotel Maidstone – This comfortable hotel is 100 yards from the River Medway and 2 miles from Aylesford village. It has plenty of onsite parking.
- The Friars, Aylesford – For something a little different, stay at the historic Friars. Offering comfortable and peaceful surroundings.

- Where to eat and drink in Aylesford

  • The Friars – The tearoom at The Friars is a delightful place to enjoy a lunchtime snack or even a spot of afternoon tea.
  • The Chequers – This charming timber-framed inn is located along Aylesford High Street; it serves traditional food and ales at the pleasant riverside location.
  • The Hengist Restaurant – Is Located in a 16th-century building in the heart of historic Aylesford. It serves locally sourced dishes with a modern twist.

* This post may contain links to affiliated sites where we earn a small commission at no additional charge to you.

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