Aylesford Tourist Guide

Introduction

Aylesford is a large village on the River Medway in Kent lying just north of junction 5 on the M20, 4 miles north-west of Maidstone. Originally a small settlement by the river, Aylesford has expanded rapidly over the past thirty years to gain a population of around 11,000.

There is evidence of people living in the area since Neolithic times. There are a series of chamber tombs north of the village, of which Aylesford Tourist Guide, Kent, 1.5 miles to the north is the most famous. Kit's Coty is the remains of the burial chamber at one end of a long barrow. A similar structure, just south of this, Little Kits Coty House - also known as the Countless Stones - is lower down the same hillside.

 

Bronze Age swords have been discovered near here and an Iron Age settlement and Roman villa stood at Eccles to the north. The village has been suggested as the site of the Battle of the Medway during the Roman invasion of Britain although there is no direct evidence of this. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the Battle of Aylesford taking place nearby 455, where Hengest fought Vortigern, although his brother Horsa is said to have fallen in this battle.

 

The manor of Aylesford was first owned by William the Conqueror and the church of St Peter and St Paul is of Norman origin. The village has long had links with the river. Aylesford takes its name from an Old English personal name, and literally denotes ‘Ægel’s ford’. Its first recorded use is from the tenth century, as Æglesforda.

It was also the place where one of the earliest bridges was built, believed to be in the 14th century (although the wide central span is later). Upstream from Rochester Bridge it became the next bridging point. The river was navigable as far as Maidstone until 1740, when barges of forty tons could reach Tonbridge. As a result wharfs were built, one being at Aylesford. Corn, fodder, fruit, stone and timber were the main cargoes. The old bridge has now been replaced by a modern structure, although the old one remains for pedestrians.

 

The village

The oldest parts of the village lie north and immediately south of the river. Many of the buildings are of considerable age. The Chequers Inn, the George House (formerly a coaching inn) and the almshouses are among them.

A great deal of building took place during the Victorian era, when houses were constructed to serve the nearby quarry. The brick and tile industries have been replaced by a large area of commercial buildings. What was once the huge Aylesford paper mills site is now shared between television studios and a leading newsprint recycling plant.

 

More recently the village has expanded on the southern side of the river, where a substantial suburban housing estate has grown up. This is partly because Aylesford is served by the railway, with connections for Maidstone and London. Many of these homes were originally owned by employees of the paper mills.

 

St Peter and St Paul’s Church

Aylesford's Parish Church has stood on its hill overlooking a ford of the River Medway some 10 miles south of Rochester in Kent for nearly a millennium. It is at this ford that Hengist and Horsa are said to have been victorious at the Battle of Aylesford, so paving the way for the Anglo-Saxon era.

It is quite likely, although there is no extant evidence for it, that a Saxon chapel existed before the Normans started building, but the earliest remaining part of the present building is the lower part of the Norman tower. High above the ford, the tower may well have served the dual purpose of watchtower and refuge, since there are signs of an original doorway above the present west entrance. In mediaeval times a bridge replaced the ford, being then the lowest bridging point and the only bridge between Maidstone and Rochester. This bridge, the church on the hill above it, and the old houses and inns with their high-pitched roofs in between, together form a romantic picture up even today.

 

The present church consists of two similarly proportioned naves with their chancels, a form not unknown elsewhere in Kent The chancels are separated by 14th century pillars, the naves having more slender 15th century ones. Restorations were carried out in 1851 and later in 1878. In the churchyard can be seen next to the war memorial a memorial to the Thorndike family. Arthur Thorndike, the father of Dame Sybil, was vicar here 1902-1909.

Aylesford Priory ('The Friars')

In 1240, Ralph Frisburn, on returning from the Holy Land, founded a Carmelite monastery under the patronage of Richard, Lord Grey of Codnor. This was the first of the order to be founded in Europe. He was followed later by Simon Stock who, in 1254, was elected Superior-general of the now mendicant Carmelites. The relics (remains of his head) of St Simon Stock are kept at the friary, having been preserved in Bordeaux for centuries before being returned to Aylesford in July 1951. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII in 1536, the Friary was rebuilt in 1675, but the main part of the house was destroyed in the 1930s. The Carmelites took it over in 1949 and have successfully restored it to its past glory. It is now a place of retreat and a conference centre. The friary possesses some noteworthy artwork such as the ceramics created by Adam Kossowski.

 

Museum of Kent Life

This outstanding attraction lies to the east of Aylesford and is an unusual museum, consisting in a great part of Kent buildings which have been moved and rebuilt for the museum. These consist of cottages, farmhouses, barns, granaries and huts dating back to the sixteenth century.

 

Exercising the body and the mind!

Nearby is Cobtree Manor Park Golf Club as well as Oastpark Golf Course in Snodland and King’s Hill Golf Club in East Malling. Larkfield Leisure Centre has swimming facilities and much more besides. The nearest large theatre is probably the Hazlitt Theatre and Exchange in Maidstone. Tel: 01622 758611 or visit www.hazlitt.org.uk.

 

Medical services

The Aylesford Medical Centre is situated in Admiral Moore Drive (Tel: 0844 477 8676) and next door is The Oaks Pharmacy (Tel: 01622 885886) which is open Monday to Friday 8.30am-1pm, 2pm-6pm and on Saturday 9am-12.30.

 

 

Disclaimer: The information in this Tourist Guide has been researched from a variety of sources including books, articles and online information. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information the reader should check any specific facts for themselves before making any decisions based upon the said information.

Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015