Aerial view of Aylesford Priory
The Origins of Aylesford
Statue of Our Lady and the infant Christ at the entrance to Aylesford Priory.
Five years later Aylesford hosted a General Chapter (meeting) of Carmelites from across Europe. The hermits took decisions at that Chapter which led them to adopt the lifestyle of mendicant friars at the service of Church and Society. So fundamental was this decision to the future development of the Carmelite Order that Aylesford was henceforth revered as a spiritual epicentre, sometimes nicknamed "the second Carmel". Several leading figures of the medieval Order were associated with the priory.
A friar at prayer in the medieval Prior's Hall.
Aylesford has many beautifully restored medieval buildings.
A painting by Adam Kossowski in the Prior's Hall
depicting the return of the Carmelites in 1949.
Aylesford Priory Today
Many of the medieval buildings have been restored and a new open-air church has been built on the site of the medieval chapel.
"The Friars" seen from the River Medway.
The shrine at Aylesford is dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption, and beautiful chapels dedicated to the saints of Carmel (notably St. Simon Stock) have been described as "prayers in stone". Aylesford has always inspired creative endeavours, and the work of artists such as Adam Kossowski and Philip Lindsey Clark add great beauty to the priory. A pottery continues to operate on site.
Friars honouring the Blessed Virgin Mary during their "Saturday Station" prayer.
Today "The Friars" is a place of welcome for people of all faiths and none, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Retreats and Pilgrimages
The two main public ministries at Aylesford are that of a pilgrimage and retreat centre. You can download the programmes for pilgrimages, retreats and faith-sharing groups (in PDF format) by clicking on the links below:
- "The Friars" Retreats Programme 2018
- "The Friars" Pilgrimages Programme 2018
- "The Friars" Pilgrimages Programme 2019
Pilgrims at prayer in front of the main shrine at Aylesford.
Throughout the summer months in particular, many thousands of people come to Aylesford either as a part of organised groups or simply because it is known as a holy place. Aylesford is a major place of pilgrimage for groups from Southwark Archdiocese and across Britain.
The Cloister Chapel.
A praying community at the service of God's people
As well as pilgrimage and retreat ministry, members of the Carmelite friar community is involved in other kinds of service; one brother is chaplain to the local prison and others are often involved in helping out the local parishes and giving spiritual input.
The Priory's medieval watergate.
For many years the Aylesford community has given priority to helping foster ecumenical dialogue between the Christian churches. It is also a site of encounter between people of different faiths, and of no faith at all. All are welcome.
The statue of Our Lady of the Assumption at the main shrine.
Different branches of the Carmelite Family at Aylesford
In addition to the friars, Aylesford Priory is the home to a variety of Carmelite vocations. A large Chapter of the Carmelite Third Order meets monthly at The Friars, and the Third Order Information Centre (TOIC) helps respond to enquiries about the Lay Carmelite vocation. Aylesford is also the spiritual home of The Leaven, a Secular Institute affiliated to the Carmelite Order.
Aylesford hosts popular Christmas and Summer Fayres.
Quite a number of people make Aylesford their normal place of worship. It is the noviciate house of the British Province where new brothers spend their first year of Carmelite formation. Large gatherings of the British Province often take place at Aylesford.
The Cloister Chapel.
Facilities and resources at Aylesford
The Priory houses the Carmelite Provincial Library which can be consulted by visiting scholars by previous arrangement, as well as the Pilgrims' Library which is open to all in the medieval Pilgrims' Hall.
The Priory seen from the River Medway.
Situated alongside the River Medway, Aylesford provides a haven of peace in a busy world. The Rosary Way is a popular walkway for prayer and reflection, and the Provincial Cemetery is located within the grounds.
A friar visiting the Province Cemetery at Aylesford.
Visitors are welcome in the various chapels and medieval Prior's Hall. Refreshments are available in the Tea Room, which adjoins the Gift/Bookshop in the ancient barn. A Peace Garden is currently being developed alongside the medieval Gatehouse. The recently restored North Barn, dedicated to Edith Stein, can be hired by community groups. Aylesford Pottery is a popular place to visit.
The bookshop and tea room in one of the ancient barns.
The Carmelite community at Aylesford keeps in touch with its many friends and supporters through the quarterly Pilgrims' Newsletter. To be added to the mailing list for Pilgrims' Newsletter, please email your contact details to the Newsletter Office by clicking here. You can read recent editions of Pilgrims' Newsletter (in PDF format) by clicking on the links below:
For a full programme of events click here
Community Website and Blog
You can visit the Aylesford Community blog by clicking here.
Click here to visit the Aylesford page in our Heritage & Archive section.