Originally a small riverside settlement, the old village comprises around 60 houses, many of which were formerly shops. One pub, a village shop and four other small independent shops remain, although some more modern shops, including a hairdressers and a coffee shop have opened in more recent years. Aylesford has expanded rapidly over the past thirty years to gain a population of around 5,000.
The Parish of Aylesford covers more than seven square miles, stretching north to Rochester Airport estate and south to Barming, and has a total population of over 10,000, with the main settlements at Aylesford, Eccles, Blue Bell Hill Village and (part of) Walderslade.
There has been activity in the area since Neolithic times. There is a series of chamber tombs north of the village, of which Kit's Coty House, 1.5 miles to the north is the most famous; all have been damaged by farming. 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. 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 the Germanic Hengest fought the Welsh Vortigern; Horsa (Hengist's brother) is said to have fallen in this battle; Alfred the Great defeated the Danes in 893; as did Edmund II Ironside in 1016.
The manor of Aylesford was first owned by William the Conqueror: the church of St Peter and St Paul is of Norman origin. Here there is a memorial to the Culpeper family, who owned the nearby Preston Hall Estate.
In 1240, Ralph Frisburn, on his return from the Holy Land, founded a Carmelite monastery under the patronage of Richard, Lord Grey of Codnor: 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 retained 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, ownership of the site was transferred to Sir Thomas Wyatt of nearby Allington Castle. Following the rebellion against Queen Mary by Sir Thomas's son, Thomas Wyatt the younger, the property was forfeited back to the crown. It was later granted into the possession of Sir John Sedley by Mary's half-sister Queen Elizabeth. Although the Sedley family made some changes to the priory, it was the next owner Sir John Banks that was responsible for the rebuilding of the Friary during the 1670s.
The main part of the house was destroyed by fire in the 1930s. The Carmelites took it over in 1949 and have successfully restored it to its former glory: it is now a place of retreat and a conference centre. The friary has some notable artwork such as the ceramics created by Adam Kossowski. The remains of the manor house present at the foundation of the Priory are believed to lie under the Great Courtyard. This could date from as early as 1085.