Aylesford Priory - A Catholic Retreat Centre in the Kent Countrysde

by KathleenDuffy

Aylesford Priory in the beautiful Kent countryside has plenty to interest all the family as well as the individual visitor, whether on a day trip or an overnight stay.

Set amongst the beautiful Kent countryside, Aylesford Priory, or The Friars as it is traditionally called, is a Carmelite retreat house which welcomes 250,000 visitors each year.

The Friars welcomes people of all religious faiths or none, and has many organised retreats throughout the year which are open to all. However, you may want to organise your own private retreat at Aylesford by booking your room and meals through the Reception Office.

The Friars is a handy place to stay if you plan to explore Kent.

The Friars, Aylesford, Kent
The Friars, Aylesford, Kent
K Duffy

Accommodation at The Friars, Aylesford is simple but comfortable, catering for single people, couples and families. Food can be included in your stay and is served in the old Pilgrims’ Hall. Upstairs from this Hall is a library of spiritual books which visitors can borrow entirely on trust to take back to their rooms to read. 

Cloisters, Aylesford Priory

There's plenty to do at The Friars if you are just coming for a day trip.

 

Some visitors come to The Friars with their parishes on pilgrimage, others in family groups or with friends to enjoy one of the many traditional activities - a country fair, an outdoor play, a vintage motorbike rally, a wood turning display – to name but a few.

 

A Single Room at Aylesford Priory
A Single Room at Aylesford Priory
K Duffy

Others come alone to enjoy not only these communal celebrations, but to find a rare tranquility in the peaceful atmosphere of the lake and gardens.

There is a Tea Room, Book and Gift Shops. Mass is celebrated daily.

In the grounds of Aylesford Priory there is a pottery where exclusive and original pieces are created and displayed in the showroom. The Pottery is proud that its first Manager was David Leach, son of the great potter, Bernard Leach.

As well as selling exclusive designs the pottery hosts corporate team-building days and pottery classes for the general public.

History of The Friars at Aylesford

 

The Friars dates back to the 13th century when a knight, Richard de Grey, a crusader, granted a small piece of his land at Aylesford to the first Carmelites from the Holy Land.

From this motherhouse there developed over the next fifty years more than thirty priories in England and Wales including London, Oxford and Cambridge.

Door to Visitor's Rooms - Aylesford Priory
Door to Visitor's Rooms - Aylesford Priory
K Duffy

 

One of Chaucer's Pilgrims

 

 In the Middle Ages Aylesford Priory (The Friars)  became a traditional stopping-off point for pilgrims on their way to the Shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury.

 

The oldest building at Aylesford is called The Pilgrims’ Hall because this is where hospitality and rest were offered to tired pilgrims.

Pilgrimage still plays an important part in the life of the Priory today.

History, politics and natural events took their toll on The Friars and the property not only passed from landed gentry to businessman, but was partly destroyed by fire in 1939.

When The Friars was put up for sale in 1949 the Carmelites bought it back and began the task of restoring it. Craftsmen and artists were commissioned to build the open-air shrine.

Ceramic on The Rosary Way, Aylesford Priory
Ceramic on The Rosary Way, Aylesford Priory
K Duffy

Beautiful ceramics were created by the Polish refugee, Adam Kossowski.   

Path leading to The Rosary Way, The Friars, Aylesbury
Path leading to The Rosary Way, The Friars, Aylesbury
K Duffy

Anyone, whether of a spiritual bent or not, will enjoy walking along the path which follows the The Rosary Way.  

This is  a beautiful, contemplative walk through a peaceful tree-lined avenue where you can devote time to the images depicted by the stunning ceramic sculptures of Adam Kossowski.

 

Further Information

 

Whether you come for a day out or a longer stay, The Friars, Aylesford Priory, Kent will not disappoint. Little wonder it has been called, "a prayer in stone."

 

You can find out more about visiting Aylesford Priory at their website.

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Updated: 07/13/2013, KathleenDuffy
 
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KathleenDuffy on 09/09/2013

I tend to believe that, Frank. I am not sure if it is true or whether these places touch some deep need within us that is brought out by the tranquility. Of course, they have their dark side too...

frankbeswick on 09/09/2013

I do like visiting spiritual places, whatever the religion they belong to. Temples, churches,shrines,monasteries, they all have something to interest me. Do you think it true that places absorb the something of the atmosphere of what happens in them? Do generations of prayer and reflective thought leave an imprint in the ancient stones? Some people think that they do.

KathleenDuffy on 09/09/2013

Jo - what a lovely story! I was reading it with bated breath, hoping they didn't throw you out!! Phew! :)

JoHarrington on 09/09/2013

Oh my gosh! It's this place!

Once my friend and I were driving through Kent at night. We saw signs for the priory and assumed that it was a ruin. We pulled up on the car-park and indeed stared across at some ruins.

Then my friend turned around and gasped. Right behind us was a priory that most definitely was not in ruin! We were entranced. We wandered across and had a look around. We had no idea if we were allowed to be there, but no-one had stopped us.

A bloke appeared and we immediately gushed out our apologies. He was having none of it. He invited us into a small reception room, where there were leaflets and the like, then made us a cup of tea! We stayed about an hour, before we really did have to go north.

I'd forgotten what it was called. Thank you for this. And yes, even for the non-Christians amongst us, it was a beautiful place.

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