The large village of Aylesford lies in the Medway Valley, Kent. The village grew up on the north bank of the river Medway, where a steep-sided knoll provided a strategic site for a church. The river also narrowed sufficiently at the point to allow for the construction of a stone-built bridge in the 14th century. Housing developed on the north bank of the river, its nucleus between church and bridge. Aylesford was once a distinct, seperated community, having very different traditions and peculiarities from it's neighbouring villages, despite their shared farming heritage.
The prehistoric landscape, surrounding Aylesford, was often given mythical significance through the identification of the barrows as the resting place of Catigern adn Horsa, believed to have been killed in battle between the Britons and Saxons nearby.
There were two principal medieval estates in the parish. In 1240 a Carmelite priory had been established a quarter of a mile west of the church, close to the north bank of the Medway. The builings and lands of the Carmelites formed the post-Dissolution estate known as The Friars, owned from the later 16th century by the Sedley family,and in 1657 acquired by Caled Banks of Maidstone. Sir John Banks, Caleb's son, amassed great wealth as a merchant in London. Hus eldest daughter married Heneage Finch, son of the Earl of Nottingham. Finch inherited The Friars estate and was in 1714 created Earl of Aylesford. Successive earls continued to hold The Friars and lands in the northern half of the parish until 1882, but they never lived in Aylesford.
Aylesford grew wealthy in the late 17th century, due to it's importance as a bridging point over the river Medway. However, this growth was slow due to the control exercised over development by the two main landowning families.
Housing in the area was rather lacking, as the high number of lodgers suggests. In 1861, 12.1 per cent of the parish population was recorded as either boarding or lodging.
During the mid to late 17th century, Aylesford contributed very little to charity compared to the surrounding villages in the Medway Valley area. In 1865, the Parish Officers of Aylesford 'disposed of' £6 4s. to the poor, sick, widows and infirm, after collecting a fine of one shilling from members who arrived late to their montlty meetings.
In 1851, Aylesford's population reached 1,487. However, over the next 50 years this number almost doubled, mostly moving into the new settlements built in Pratling Street and Forstal, as well as the new housing built beside the existing industry at Millhall. In the late 19th century, many of the parishioners of Aylesford found employment at the paper-mill and at the brick and pottery works.
To view the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map of Aylesford click here