Friaries: The Carmelite friars of Aylesford

Pages 201-203

A History of the County of Kent: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1926.

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Richard de Grey, lord of Cud nor, brought some Carmelites to England on his return from the Holy Land with Richard earl of Cornwall in January, 1241-2, and founded a house for them on his manor of Aylesford, with the consent of the bishop of Rochester. (fn. 1) As the founder's means were insufficient to complete the building of the church, the bishop, Richard of Wendover, on 25 January, 1246-7, granted a relaxation of thirty days of injoined penance to all who should contribute to the work. (fn. 2) When dedicating the church on 31 August, 1248, in honour of the Assumption of the Virgin, the bishop granted an indulgence of forty days to all who visited the church on the day of the dedication and the following week, and who contributed to the support of the house. (fn. 3)

St. Simon or Simeon Stock, a native of Kent, is said to have been received into this friary by the first prior, Ivo of Brittany. (fn. 4)

A general chapter was held here in 1245 according to the tradition of the order, at which Alan of Brittany resigned and Simon Stock was elected prior general. (fn. 5) A chapter, perhaps the general chapter, above mentioned or a provincial chapter, was held here soon after 21 January, 11247-8, to which the king gave two marks as a pittance. (fn. 6) Edward I granted the friars of this house 6s. 8d. in 1289. (fn. 7) Edward II, when at Maidstone, 26 May, 1326, gave 4d. to each of the twenty Carmelites of Maidstone, by the hand of Friar John of Malmesbury. This probably is a mistake for the Carmelites of Aylesford. (fn. 8)

Richard de Grey, great-grandson of the original founder, gave them three acres of meadow, held in chief, adjacent to their dwelling-place in 1318. (fn. 9) On 13 September, 1348, the year of the Black Death, .their cemetery and ' the place where the new church was to be built' were dedicated by John Pascall, a Carmelite friar and bishop of Llandaff. (fn. 10). John de Grey, Baron Gudnor, the son of Richard, and ' companion of the duke of Lancaster,' petitioned the pope in 1355 for relaxation of one year and forty days of injoined penance to those who should on certain festivals visit the Carmelites' church, at Aylesford, where he had chosen his tomb. The indulgence was granted both to penitents visiting the church and to those who assisted in the building of the same, and was to hold good for ten years. (fn. 11)

In 1369 the executors of the will of John de Rynger of Aylesford carried out the testator's intention of founding a chantry where one of the brethren of this house should celebrate daily for the souls of the grantor, Alice his wife, his children, and friends. The executors having made sufficient provision for the support of the chaplain, the Provincial of the Friars, the prior and convent of Aylesford, in order to ensure the proper fulfilment of the obligation, submitted their house in this respect to the jurisdiction and supervision of the archbishop of Canterbury. (fn. 12)

On 16 February, 1393-4, Robert Twyner of Aylesford granted the friars a piece of land 12 ft. square in the parish of Burham, within a garden called ' Haukysgardyn,' containing a number of springs; they also had licence to make a subterranean aqueduct from this spot to their house. (fn. 13)

The new church was dedicated by Richard Young, bishop of Rochester, 4 May, 1417, and an indulgence of forty days granted to all true penitents who came to the church on the day of the dedication and the following week, and who contributed to the support of the house. The bishop also consecrated various altars in the church—one in honour of St. John the Baptist, another in honour of St. Thomas the Martyr, a third, next the choir, in honour of the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul. (fn. 14) A provincial chapter was held here in 1489 (fn. 15) Friar Richard of Maidstone, D.D. of Oxford, confessor of John of Gaunt, and a writer of some distinction, was a brother of this house, where he died in 1396, and was buried under a marble stone in the cloister. (fn. 16)

Bequests, sometimes in the form of malt or corn, were left these friars by Sir Richard atte Lease, kt., 1393; (fn. 17) John Hodsoll, 1424; (fn. 18) William . Wrenne of Southflete, 1443; (fn. 19) Richard Brown or Cordon, archdeacon of Rochester, 1452; (fn. 20) Johanna Harrendon, 1516; (fn. 21) William Hunt, of Cobham, 1527 (fn. 22)

Small sums were left ' for the new work of the cloister' by Sir William Redesdale, clerk, in 1451, and ' for the reparation of the cloister' by Robert Pirry, of Gillingham, yeoman, in 1513. (fn. 23) Richard Grey of Codnore (1416) and his widow Elizabeth (1444) were buried here: (fn. 24) the latter left 10 marks to Friar Thomas Grey. (fn. 25) Thomas Palmer was buried in the church in 1452. (fn. 26) Henry Lord Grey was buried ' in the chancel of our Lady in the Friars of Aylesford' in 1492 (fn. 27) Giles Ranchawe, gent, who appears to have been living in the house at the time of his last illness, desired to be buried in the choir, 'beside the old prior Arenolde,' in 1534. (fn. 28)

In 1535 the royal commissioners reported that the friars held 18 acres of land with their house situated at St. Mary's Gate, of the annual value of 42s. 8d. (probably a low estimate); they paid a yearly contribution of 26s; 8 d. to the provincial prior, and 2s. rent to Master de Strode. (fn. 29)

Richard of Ingwbrth, bishop of Dover, visited the White Friars of Aylesford in July, 1538, and found that they had sold much of their necessaries. The friars told him that two men came to the prior, saying that the house was given away, and that they had commission to put them out at their pleasure; so they sold what they had and paid their debts. The house was in a ' meet state.' (fn. 30) Before 13 December, 1538, the house was surrendered to the bishop of Dover. (fn. 31)

The property, was put under the charge of Sir Thomas Wyatt, and was in 1542 granted to him by the king in exchange for other estates. Wyatt leased it to John Morse for forty years at an annual rent of 102s. in 1542. (fn. 32) The land consisted of nine acres of arable and eleven of pasture, besides the churchyard, gardens, orchard, ponds, &c. Some of the houses and gardens had been leased shortly before the Dissolution to William Tilgeman and his wife, and to John Clyffe. (fn. 33)

On the rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyatt, son of the above, the property was forfeited to the crown. It was rated for Thomas Morse in 1557 at twenty-six years' purchase, at £132 12s., (fn. 34) but does not seem to have been purchased by him. Elizabeth granted the priory and lands to John Sedley, son of John Sedley of Southfleet. The subsequent history of the site is given by Hasted. (fn. 35)

The seal of the house in the fifteenth century represents the Virgin, crowned, seated in a canopied niche with tabernacle work at the sides; the Child in the right hand, in the left a sceptre fleur-de-lizé. In base, a shield of arms of the founder; three bars, Richard Lord Grey of Codnor, A.D. 1240. . Legend:—



  • 1. Mon. Francisc. (Rolls Ser.), i, 71; cf. Cal. Papal Let. iii, 67; B.M. Stowe MS. 938, fol. 76; Harl. MS. 539, fol. 143; Aylesford and Hulne near Alnwick were the first Carmelite houses in England. Bale calls 'Lucia Greye' (wife of Richard) the first foundress. Harl. MS. 1819, fol. 198.
  • 2. Stowe MS. 938, fol. 76b (extracts from a chartulary of the house).
  • 3. Ibid. fol. 76.
  • 4. Harl. MS. 3838, fol. 14.
  • 5. Ibid. fol. 15b; Dict. Nat. Biog. lii, 255.
  • 6. Lib. R. 32 Hen. III, m. 12. The traditional date for the coming of the Carmelites to England is 1240; the general chapter at Aylesford may also be similarly antedated.
  • 7. Exch. Accts. (P.R.O.), bdle. 352, No. 18.
  • 8. Ibid. 381, No. 14 (P.R.O.).
  • 9. Pat. 11 Edw. II, pt. 2, m. 16; Inq. a.q.d. file 132, No. 6; the latter is partly illegible.
  • 10. Stowe MS. 938, fol. 76.
  • 11. Cal. Pap. Pet. i, 286; Cal. Pap. Let. iii, 573.
  • 12. Thorpe, Reg. Roff. 154-5.
  • 13. Pat. 17 Ric. II, pt. 2, m. 36.
  • 14. Stowe MS. 938, fol. 76a-b.
  • 15. Tanner, Bibl. 634.
  • 16. Harl. MS. 3838, fol. 84, 191; the poem on the reconciliation of Richard II with the city of London, 1393, ascribed to himj is printed in Polit. Poems and Songs (Rolls Ser.), i, 282.
  • 17. P.C.C. Rous, fol. 22.
  • 18. Arch. Cant. xiv, 223.
  • 19. a Test. Cant. i, 3.
  • 20. Lambeth Palace, Reg. Kemp, fol. 263-5.
  • 21. P.C.C. Holder, qu. 6.
  • 22. a Test. Cant. i, 4.
  • 23. b Ibid. i, 3, 4.
  • 24. Dugdale, Baronage, i, 711; Gibbons, Early Linc. Wills, 168.
  • 25. Bury, Wills and Invent. (Camden Soc.}, 90.
  • 26. a Test. Cant. i, 42.
  • 27. Nicolas, Test. Vet. 411.
  • 28. a Test. Cant. i, 4.
  • 29. Valor Eccl. {Rec. Com.), i, 113.
  • 30. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (1), 1456.
  • 31. Ibid. (2), 1058.
  • 32. Mins. Accts. 30 & 31 Hem VIII (Kent), No. 105, m. 73b; Partic. for Grants (P.R.O.), file 1264; L. and P. Hen VIII, xiv (1), 281; Cromwell ' has reserved for you the house of the friars at Aylesford'; xvii, 220 (98).
  • 33. Partic. for Grants (P.R.O.), file 1264; Mins. Accts. 30 & 31 Hen. VIII (Kent), No. 105, m. 73b. One of the arable fields was called the ' Sanctuary Field,' another the ' Novice Field.'
  • 34. Harl. MS. 606, fol. 36b.
  • 35. Hasted, Kent, ii, 169-70.
  • 36. B.M. Cat. of Seals, No. 2577.,