Posted by: madkentdragon | March 23, 2011

Aylesford Part 5, The Friars Returned.

I’ve got you and the Friars up to the beginning of the 20th Century and in 1920 a Mrs Woolsley acquired the property and she, with her son-in-law Copley Delisle Hewitt restored many of the neglected buildings.

The Friars became a renowned area for scouting activities
and Lord Baden-Powell paid at least one visit; but in 1930 there was a horrendous
fire which destroyed many of the buildings and when the restoration work
started, it revealed many of the surviving original features.

Mr Hewitt died at the Friars in 1941, during his life he had
been a barrister at law to the Commissioner of Taxes and was also High Sheriff
of Kent. His widow Alice died in 1947 and the family put the Friars up for sale
in 1949.

The Carmelite Order, seeing that their original English mother house was now on the market applied to the head of their order to buy it and it was then re-established as a Priory for the Carmelite Order.

Originally it was never intended as a place of pilgrimage, but as soon as the opening procession through the village was over (as shown in the adjoining photo), people flocked there as pilgrims or with offers of help to finish the building work, and it has become a centre of pilgrimage and devotion in the South East of England.

Rebuilding continued for several years and there is now a guest house and a pottery and other crafts there. The medieval chapel was not rebuilt but is instead an open air church for the hundreds of pilgrims that arrive every weekend.

Events like a Christmas Fair and a Summer Fair are held and the local community are invited to attend these and the ecumenical carol services which are shared with St Peter and St Paul’s Church in the village.

Take a seat in the sun and see the original water gate and some of the original stone work that all dates back to the 13th Century, when this historic site was first built.
As an extra piece of information, the Aylesford Station building  was built of the same ragstone and Caen stone dressing that the Friars was built of, at the insistence of the then owner! It is now an Indian Takeaway and a fried chicken outlet! The building is
a Grade II listed building and the windows are styled on the windows in the Friars.

Next time I’ll tell you about the Royal British Legion Village and Preston Hall


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