Originally a small riverside settlement, the old village comprises around 60 houses, many of which were formerly shops. Two pubs, a village shop and other amenities including a hairdressers, estate agents, two restaurants, a chiropodist and a coffee shop are located on the high street. Aylesford has expanded rapidly over the past thirty years and its current population is 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 are several 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. Just south of this, situated lower down the same hillside, is a similar structure, Little Kits Coty House (also known as the Countless Stones).
Bronze Age swords have been discovered near here and an Iron Age settlement and Roman villa stood at Eccles. A cemetery of the British Iron Age discovered in 1886 was excavated under the leadership of Sir Arthur Evans (of Knossos fame), and published in 1890. With the later excavation at Swarling not far away (discovery to publication was 1921-1925) this is the type site for Aylesford-Swarling pottery or the Aylesford-Swarling culture. Evan's conclusion that the site belonged to a culture closely related to the continental Belgae, remains the modern view, though the dating has been refined to the period after about 75 BC. 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 in 455, when 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.
Following the Norman conquest of 1066, the manor of Aylesford was owned by William the Conqueror. Some of the land was given to the Bishop of Rochester as compensation for land seized for the building of Rochester Castle. The Doomsday Book records: Also the Bishop of Rochester holds as much of this land as is worth 17s6d in exchange for the land on which the castle stands. It should be noted that 17s6d is the rental value (as used for taxation), not the capital value.
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. Possession was later granted to 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, who 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.
Kent Research Tips
This list has been taken from GENUKI where more places and websites for researching are listed.
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Family History Societies
Most of the county is divided between the Kent FHS and the North West Kent FHS.
Kent Probate Records Numerous links provided by Maureen Rawson