The Larkfield Society

Where memories are recalled

St. Peter and St Paul’s Church Aylesford


A church has stood on the hill above Aegels ford since Norman times, but all that now remains of the Norman building is the lower portion of the tower. The church was in the gift of the old Hospital of Newark, Strood, until the Reformation, when the patronage passed to the Dean and Chapter of Rochester, in whose hands all appointments now rest.

A list of vicars appears at the end of this page, and a ground plan of the church is also given below.

Jordan is the first recorded incumbent and the list contains several father and son teams, and several omissions, especially in the Middle Ages. There are also occasions when one priest was rapidly followed by another, particularly in the 1420s, although the reason for this  is not known.



Before you enter the Church, notice the magnificent site on which it is built, commanding a view of the Medway, and the ancient bridge built in about 1390 replacing an earlier, wooden structure.

Stand beneath the massive tower and note its solid Norman base, and prominent round-headed windows. Note also the Roman tiles built into the local stone, which were plundered from the mined villa at Eccles when the church was being built.

Near the entrance to the South Porch is a memorial made of Coade stone over the vault of the Spong family. It is believed that a member of that family was the original Mr. Wardle in Dickens’ Pickwick Papers. Charles Dickens’ family had reserved a burial plot for him in Aylesford churchyard, but in the event he was buried in Westminster Abbey. As you stand under the yew tree, note the plaque in the wall which tells us that it was planted in 1708.

To the east of the plaque, the ROOD LOFT TURRET, which once had an outside entrance, gracefully adds character to the south wall of the Church.

The PRIEST’S DOORWAY into the south chancel was rebuilt inIt is a copy of the old one which was removed and now stands in Mount Pleasant at the rear of the Hospital of the Holy Trinity.

On the opposite side of the path is a small cross over the family grave of the Thorndike family. Arthur Thorndike was Vicar here between 1902 and 1909, and his daughter SYBIL THORNDIKE was to become one of the most famous actresses of the twentieth century. She loved this church where she was married in 1908, and returned here frequently until her death in 1976.

The oldest memorials in Aylesford are to be found lying flat on the ground against the east Wall. These are three COFFIN COVERS, carved slabs of stone, dating from the 13th century. Originally they were inside the church, but were removed in 1878 when the church was restored. As they bear no inscription we do not know whose graves they once covered, although they would only have come from important graves. In the western part of the churchyard are two copies dating from the 19m century which cover priests graves. Other examples of coffin covers can be found in many Kent churches.

Near the East gate to the churchyard stands a headstone which has been much eroded by the weather. However, the inscription which it once carried runs as follows:

My sledge and Hammer lyes declined

My bellows too have lost their wind

My fires extinct my Forge decayed

and in the dust my Vice is laid

My coal is spent my Irons gone

My nails are drove, my work is done.

Richard Austin died the 7th August 1745 Aged 50 years

This epitaph to a blacksmith is now famous throughout the country.

     Tradition said that it was written by the eighteenth century poet Haley, although a survey carried out by the present writer in 1973 proved this to be incorrect. Furthermore, of the 87 other occasions when this poem has been used on a tomb, none are earlier than at Aylesford, so this was probably the first place that it was used, and was probably written by a local man.


This assumes the visitor is initially standing inside the south door looking towards the East Window, and then proceeds in an anticlockwise direction.

      Aylesford church consists of two naves, supported by pillars of singular grace and beauty. These are early 15th century. The arches dividing the North and South Chancels are cut low, and the octagonal pillars are 14th century, being more massive than those in the Nave. The twin gabled roof is of medium high pitch, with collar beam and struts, a style used in the 14th and 15th centuries.

The South Chancel arch and roof are not in alignment, which gives it a ‘twisted’ appearance. This is entirely due to medieval constructional error. Errors in calculating a right angle were common throughout the Middle Ages, as can be seen in other churches.

Two CORBEL STONES can be seen high on the Nave side of the South-Chancel arch. On these corbels rested the Rood Beam which carried the Rood and other statues. In 1456 Harry Birch willed money for lights for the beam, and in 1524 and 1531 the Rood was repainted. Entrance to the Rood Loft was by the doorway and staircase on the right, behind the pulpit.

The brass eagle LECTERN is a memorial to the Hon. Georgina Finch of The Friars, who died in 1874 aged 21.

The wrought iron south chancel screen is worthy of mention, whilst the chancel stalls are mostly Victorian, though there is one POPPY HEAD stall-end of oak, which dates from the Middle Ages, from which the others were copied. The Victorian idea of having a choir in the Chancel has been departed from, and the Choir now sing from the Nave, giving a more pleasing effect both visually and musically.

A small brass called a PALIMPSEST used to lie close to the Chancel step. On one side it bears the following inscription:

“Here lyeth John Savell gentilman Sutyme Servant to Syr Thomas Wiat Knyght which deceased the xxixth day of March Ao dni mvxlv.

On whose soule ihu have mercy.”


Translated this is:

Here lieth John Savell, gentleman, sometime servant to Sir Thomas

Wyatt, Knight, who deceased the 29th day of March 1545. On Whose soul Jesus have mercy.


Sir Thomas Wyatt the poet lived at Allington Castle just upstream of Aylesford ‘on the River Medway until his death in 1542.

When the floor was raised in 1851 it was necessary to move the brass, and it was found to be inscribed on the reverse side, where we see a female figure in three-quarter view, the right side of which has been cut away to suit the plate to the size required for the inscription to Savell.

Guarding her left shoulder is a small shield charged with a Cross of Passion. Her left hand clutches the throat of a small dragon; what the right hand was presented as doing we can only guess. At the feet of the figure is a scroll bearing the letters ‘orce’, the remains of the word Force or Fortitude, showing that the figure represents that Christian virtue. However, whether she is represented as throttling the dragon or, as in some other instances, dragging it out of the castle, We can only conjecture.

From the character of the canopy it has been inferred that this last-mentioned brass is of foreign workmanship, and of a date not much earlier than 1545; while from the delicacy of the lines of the shading we may be sure that, like other foreign brasses, it was intended for fixing to the wall, instead of to the floor, as is usual with English brasses. Probably soon after it had been placed in some other church it was torn down during the troubled times of the Reformation, and sold for the value of the metal. The metal for brasses, called latten, was not made in England, and so at least this piece found its way across the Channel to rest in Aylesford Church.  It has been removed for safe keeping.

The Victorian East Window above the High Altar represents the Te Deum, and there is considerable elaboration of detail. In the top tracery are the four Cherubiums and Semphims, each with six wings. The upper central light depicts Our Lord seated in Glory. Angels at his feet hold a scroll inscribed ‘We praise Thee, O God’. On the canopy of the throne is written ‘Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ’. All the quotations from the Te Deum are in Latin. The other five lights are treated with corresponding fullness, and are detailed in the illustration. It was designed by the firm of Bnrlison and Gaylls.

The side windows of the nave are nearly all devoted to the Twelve Apostles- All the glass in the church is Victorian. The two pieces of Mediaeval glass which survived until the 1878 restoration are preserved in the Hospital of the Holy Trinity.

High on the Walls of the South Chancel hang specimens of FUNERAL ARMOUR. Among them are helmets carried at the funerals of members of the Banks and Finch families. It was customary in the seventeenth century to leave this armour in the Church as a token of respect to the deceased. Several Kent churches display similar examples.

The NORTH CHANCEL is the most interesting part of the church, since it contains monuments ranging over several centuries.

For nearly a century the Organ was situated in this chancel, and the old 14th century windows blocked up. However, in 1966 the organ was moved to the North aisle, and the medieval windows unblocked. They were restored with clear glass through the generosity of the Brassey Trust and this effort has brought much light into an otherwise dark corner of the building.

The EAST WINDOW is dedicated to the Earls of Aylesford and their wives. It is of three lights with varied figures, initials and dates, the latter marking the years of each Earls succession. It was designed by the renowned firm of Victorian artists, Powell and Sons.

The PISCINA in the North Chancel is low down, to the right of the east window. It dates from the fourteenth century, and its position shows how much the floor was raised in 1851. The other piscina, in the South Chancel, is a Victorian restoration.

On the floor of the North Chancel, between the Communion table and the Colepepper monument is the oldest brass in Aylesford Church, THE COSSINGTON BRASS, to John Cossington and his wife. It consists of two figures, each about thirty inches long. On the left is the figure of a man in armour with a lion at his feet. The right hand figure is of a woman wearing a horned head-dress, and a long, simple gown, with large full sleeves gathered in at the wrists, and wearing gauntlets. Beneath the figures is the Latin inscription:

     “Hic jacint Johns Cosyngton Armiger Qui obit sedo die mensis aprilis anno dm millino CCCCXXVI et Sara uxor ejus quorum…..Deus.


     The translation of the inscription on the Cossington Brass is:

“Here lies John Cossington Esquire, who died the second day of April A.D. 1426, and Sarah his wife, on whose souls may God have mercy.


     The last few words have been almost entirely obliterated, probably by 17th century Puritans, to whom they gave offence.

The crests and shields at the top and bottom of the brass are probably Victorian additions. The arms of the Cossingtons were ‘Azure, three roses, or’ and are thought to be derived from the arms of the de Ros family, who came over with William the Conqueror.

A William do Cosyington was granted a pardon in the time of King John during the early part of the 13th century. Other members of this family are mentioned in old records; Sir Stephen de Cossington was with King Edward the First at the siege of Carlaverock, and for his services was, in 1300, advanced to the rank of Banneret, whilst his son William was knighted. Doubtless, Sir Stephen was an old campaigner with the King, and he may have been on the expedition that resulted in the “Stone of Scone”, the Scottish Stone of Destiny, being brought to London and Westminster. Part of Aylesford is still called by the name of Cossington. Sir Stephen added a chantry chapel to his manor there, so that prayers could be said for the souls of himself and his family, although no trace of it now exists.

In the year 1518 a Thomas Cossington beqested money for an extra bell at “Alisforde”. By the middle of the 17th century, Cossington Manor was held by a member of the Dulce family, who had married a Cossington. During the Commonwealth period, George Duke was Justice of the Peace, and as such, he conducted marriages at Aylesford, as can be verified from the registers. His allegiance was divided, as he supported Cromwell, and yet was married to a Cossington. Possibly he or a member of his family prevented the complete destruction of the brass, as only a portion of it was damaged. However, two large cracks run across the figures. These occurred when the stone they were set in was raised with the floor level. The stone was repaired, but the brass could not be saved.

Several other well known families are commemorated in the North Chancel, the Banks, the Milners, the Colepepers and the Finchs’ – Apart from the Manors of Aylesford and Cossington, the two great houses were The Friars (which we have already discussed), and Preston Hall.

For many centuries, Preston Hall was the seat of the Colepeper family, who were well known in Kent, holding lands in many villages. A John Milner married one of the Colepepers, and he passed on the Preston Hall estate to his brother Charles. Charles died unmarried in 1771, and gave the whole of his possessions to his nephew, the Revd. Joseph Butler, who took the name of Milner. His tomb was spared by the Victorians, and can be seen on the North wall.

By this time the custom of carrying funeral armour had passed, and instead, coats of arms were made. These were called funeral hatchments, and originally Aylesford had over a dozen. However, the Victorians threw all but two out. The one to Joseph Milner can be seen high on the wall opposite his tomb. The other hatchment is to” Charlotte Countess of Aylesford who died in 1805. The hatchment were restored in 1977 by Mr. Alec Goulden, through the generosity of Lord Aylesford, to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.

The old Colepeper mansion was taken down by Mr. Edward Ladd Betts, who was succeeded at Preston Hall by Henry Arthur Brassey. The new Hall was built in 1851 to the designs of John Thomas, sculptor in the Houses of Parliament, and it now serves as offices.

The Brassey family were great philanthropists, and apart from restoring the church in 1878 and 1885, they supplied the village with spring water, extended the almshouses, built a new school, and endowed the daughter church of St Mark, Eccles, which was demolished in 1976.

Henry Brassey is buried in the Western part of the churchyard, within sight of Preston Hall, and he is commemorated in the church by a brass plaque near the pulpit, and the magnificent West window.



     The church chest stands in the North Chancel, and contained the church records until 1981 when they were placed in the County Records Office in Maidstone. The chest itself dates from the 16th century.

However, the two eye-catching memorials here are the BANKS memorial and the COLEPEPER tomb. The former is an ambitious and florid monument in marble, which records in Latin the Banks family at the time of John Banks’ death in 1699, and the deaths of his wife Elizabeth and their son Caleb. It was this John Banks that Pepys visited in 1669.

The Colepeper tomb, which is beautifully executed, is said by some to be the finest in Kent. On it lie the full length figures of Sir Thomas Colepeper and his lady. At the sides are the three sons and daughters that succeeded him. Sir Thomas died in 1604. It is thought that the present tomb is a successor of an earlier one, as in 1533 it is recorded that Edward Colepeper desired to ‘be buried in the high chawnsell in the parish church of Aylesford, in the place where Margaret my moder was leyde’.

The ORGAN stood in the North Chancel until 1966. It dates from 1865, and was the gift of a Mrs. Abbott, who paid a princely sum of £365 for it! (to read the full history of the organ click here)

The WOODEN SCREEN between the organ and the vestry door is 15th century, and was very probably part of the pre-Reformation Rood Screen, which divided the chancel from the nave. In 1851 it was moved to a position near the South door behind the pews, presumably to help keep out the draughts, later to the North chancel, and in 1969 to its present position. The three peep-holes with little sliding doors are a very interesting feature, and rare on such a screen. They would enable kneeling priests to view the High Altar.

Just beyond the screen is a five hundred year old OAK DOOR, the original north entrance” to the church. It now leads to the Vestry area, built at the beginning of the 20th Century. Above the door is a fine ROYAL COAT of ARMS, of William and Mary’s reign, of 1629.

Beyond this door, near the northwest corner of the Church is a PAINTING of the former Chapel at the Hospital of the Holy Trinity, which was founded early in the 17th century by Sir William Sedley and his brother John, whose will “ordered that a house should be built for six poor aged and impotent persons, in the street of Aylesford, and that there should be bought lands, and tenements for the poor persons, for their maintenance, £60 per annum. That his brother, William Sedley, and his heirs, should place the poor in it from time to time.”

Sir William Sedley, Bart. was the sole executor. He built a house of stone and other buildings for his hospital, and purchased property in Frittenden for its endowment. He also added “one poor person more” to the former six, and “made them a body politic” by the name of “The Hospital of the Holy Trinity, in the Parish of Aylesford-” In the early days morning and evening prayers were read by the Warden, who appears in the painting mentioned above.

Henry Brassey added an extension to “the college” or “almshouses” as they are familiarly known locally, and recently considerable modernisation was effected. There are now 15 flats which house aged persons. The almshouses can be found on the bank above the Aylesford stream in lower Rochester Road in the village.

At the North side of the West arch at the foot of the tower, there is a HAGIOSCOPE, or ‘squint’. It would have allowed the verger to ring the Sanctus bell to tell those unable to attend the service that the Host was being offered at an altar that formerly stood at the east end of the north aisle.

The TOWER ARCH to the Nave has undergone many restorations. In 1738 it was filled in, a doorway inserted, and a gallery built. In 1787 the arch was unblocked, although the gallery was not removed until the restoration of 1878, when the present arch of Bath stone was inserted.

The FONT is of Caen stone. It was made and given by Mr. John Thomas the architect of Preston Hall. Whilst he was working in the parish he offered to restore the church free of charge. The previous font, which dated from 1662, is now kept in the ringing chamber of the tower.

The screen behind the font was the Victorian reredos of the High Altar, removed a few years ago when the Chancel was being reordered.

The TOWER is the oldest part of the church. Looking up from the font you can see a tiny Norman window set high up in the Wall. During the 1878 restoration of the Church, all the memorials were taken from the church walls and placed here. An interesting board tells of benefactions to the Parish, including the Hospital of the Holy Trinity.

Above you are two floors. The first is now a fine ringing chamber, displaying 9 Norman windows, and the second supports the bell frame. The tower was badly damaged by fire in the 17th century, and to reinforce the structure, all the windows were filled with rubble. During the 1885 restoration these were opened up and glazed. In 1982 a comprehensive restoration was undertaken at a cost of £60,000 to ensure that the tower would remain as a notable landmark for centuries to come.


     By 1518 Aylesford had three bells, for in that year the twenty shillings which Thomas Cossington bequeathed to the church was for a treble bell to add to the ‘Three Bells’. The parish accounts for 1608 confirm that four ‘belles’ existed then, as ‘fower belropes’ were bought.

In the year 1621 or 1622 the ‘ould bell’ was damaged and recast.

During 1629 the third bell was recast, to last but a short while, as it was recast three years later. Yet another was remade in 1633. The great Tenor bell was recast in 1640 or 1 641 by William Hatch, probably at his foundry at Ulcombe. From the frequency of damage and recasting either the bells or the method of mounting them were not satisfactory, or the ringers were over zealous! About the year 1641 all the bells were rehung. None of the bells so far mentioned still exist, except as metal in recast bells.

Of the bells at present in the church, the two oldest were made by Michael Darbie in the year 1652, during the unrest of the Civil Wars. As the ring of bells about this time increased from 4 to 5, there may have been a replacement and a new bell, or one large bell may have been made into two smaller ones. Anthony Bartlett recast the bells in the years 1661 and 1666. The third bell of the ring was apparently cracked, for it was recast by P Phelps in 1708, only to be recast again in 1885!

Through the generosity of Henry Arthur Brassey, Esq., the bells were restored and three more added in 1885- In addition, his gift made it possible for tunes in the key of F to be played on the bells from the base of the tower by manipulating a series of ropes, which in turn operate hammers to strike the appropriate bell The new ring was dedicated at a special service on Saturday l9th December 1885.

In the ringing chamber are two boards recording the ringing of Grandsire Triples. The older is dated August 5th 1889, the other records that the first peal of Grandsire Triples by an “Aylesford Band” Was rung on Thursday February l9th 1891, and also that the tower had been restored and the ring of bells completed in 1885.

Bells one, two & three are each inscribed as follows:

Cast by Gillet and Co., Croydon, 1885

Henry Arthur Brassey gave me,

Cyril Grant, Vicar.

John Monson Shaw, John Cole, Churchwardens.


The fourth bell is inscribed:

Michael Darbie made me 1652. T. Madgin.”


The fifth bell is inscribed:

Michael Darbie made me 1652. J. Boghurst.


The sixth hell is inscribed:

Thomas Goodman; John Taylor; Junior, Churehwardens. 1708

R Phelps Fecit. Recast by Gillet and Co., Croydon, 1885.


The seventh bell is inscribed:

Robert Kemsley, Phillip Graye, Churchwardens.

God Save King Charles ye 2nd. 1661.


The eighth (Tenor) bell is inscribed:

Anthony Bartlett made me 1666. Capt Ward Livfcenant Long

Two of his Matis Hoymenn. Recast by Gillet & Co Croydon 1885


In December 2005 bells one to five were removed from the tower and taken to White’s works in Oxfordshire to be fitted with new headstocks and bearings. They were returned and re-hung in February 2006. In the meantime both bell & ringing chambers were refurbished.

The Parish was generously helped financially with the costs of the 2005/6 operation by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and by the help received, especially of the Kent County Association of Change Ringers, in the removing, re-hanging, and transportation of the bells.

There is an active band of bellringers at Aylesford today, well 4 supported by young people. Visiting bellringers are welcomed by appointment.


     consists of:

     Communion Cup, silver, 7” high and 3 1/2 “  diameter. This was made in about the year 1627.

     Paten, silver, 4” round and 1” high, made with the above in 1627.

     Paten, silver, inscribed ‘Tuum est Domine, tibi Reddo. T. Tilson, Vic. Aylesford 1724/5’

     Flagon, silver, 11½“ high and the foot 6” across. It was made in 1711 and is inscribed ‘Ex sumptu Parochiae de Aylesford et Thoma Tillson, Vicari Conjunctim, AD 1711’. This originally cost £13.11s. showing the change in values that has taken place. It was paid for half by the parish and half by the Vicar. A memorial tablet to him can be seen in the tower.

     Alms Dish silver, 11½”  diameter, 1” high. This is of the same date as the second paten, and is inscribed ‘ The gift of ye Lady Taylor to the Parish of Aylesford. Lady Taylor was the daughter of Sir Richard Colepepper of Preston Hall. She died_in1734 at the age of 80, having outlived her 4 husbands, and all her children. She was the last link between Aylesford and the Colepeppers.

     Alms Plates, two given by Thomas Franklin in 1859, with engraved pictures.

All the plate is in regular use, on Sundays, and at Festivals.


     commences in 1653, the original register (1538-1653) having been lost in the nineteenth century.

There are many interesting entries, some of which are appended below:

  • “In January, 1653, Thomas Birchall of Aylesford, was chosen Register.”
  • “George Battee a man wch. was drowned in ye River, (or as some said his name was Tho. Bart) was buryed the xxivth of April, 1654.”
  • “Henry Grymston, Esquire, and the Vicar of the Parish, was bured ye 20th of September, 1654.” (Note in margin) “Mr. Grimestone, was buried in ye chancel neare to Sir Peter Rychant, and Laid in his grave upon his right side as he desired.”
  • “Thomas Day (being shot by a souldier who with three other were stealing conies in the Warren) was buryed the lsth of Maie 1660”
  • “A poore man which dyed in ye highwaie (beside Henry Day’s land belonging to Cossington Warren) was buried on the sixth day of August, 1662.”
  • “Elizabeth, the daughter of George and Mary Burde, Baptised the 30th day of January, 1662: being the first that was baptised in the new font after the iniquities of the tymes had broken down the old one.”
  • “Dorothy Birchali, senior, (an ancient maide aged about 75 years) Buried the 12th day of ffebruary 1663.
  • “Peter Dyne Appntice to Robert Kembsley alias Kemsley at Cossington by falling from a horse or being thrown or strooke or trod upon by a horse soe bruised and wounded thereby that he died thereof and was buried the xxxisth day of July Ano Dni 1661”
  • “Thomas ffilery (a child aged about 21 Weeks) the son of John ffilery and of Elizabeth his wife, whose dwelling (as they say) is in White-Chappell Parish and travelling for harvest and hopping-work lodged at the signe of the blew-bell in this parish; where theire saide sone Thomas ftilery dyed and was buryed here at Aylesford the xvith day of August 1670.”

Aylesford church also possesses some interesting ‘Winchester’ measures, made of pewter, which were used by the parish overseers to make sure that everyone was measuring corn in the same amounts.

A unique item, a Drowned Man Resuscitator, was given to the parish in 1840. It is basically a pair of bellows with various attachments, in a beautifully made mahogany case. It was hoped that this would bring people back to life who had been dragged drowning from the river It was never used, and by the turn of the century had found its way into the church. In 1966 it was placed, together with the measures, on permanent loan to Maidstone Museum.


1145 Jordan
1280 Gregory de Elmham
1324 Thomas de Borstall
1325 Walter de Coulyngs
1327 John de Visel
1329 John de Acholte
1336 Robert de Waldene
1337 Richard de Berham
           Richard Baker
1394 John de Battiscombe
1397 William Goring
1404 John Long
1422 John Stubbecroft
1424 William Handton
1425 William Battesford
           Richard Bride
1432 John Hill
1445 William Redysdale
1451 Thomas Carter
1459 Thomas Charlton
1491 John Roche
1521 Henry Fleecher
1524 Robert Blacus
1539 Richard Welbore
1546 Lawrence Thompson
1560 Thomas Shaftesbrooke
1574 William Giles
1575 George Glysson
1576 William Gyles
1593 Henry Barnwell
           Thomas Moreton
1616 John Decke
1617 George Smith
1628 John Harcocke
1630 Henry Crispe
1636 Richard Webb
1638 Joseph Jackson
1640 Walter Artson
1649 Henry Selby
           Henry Grymston
1660 Joseph Jackson
1662 Daniel Alderne
1666 Thomas Tilson
1702 Thomas Tilson
1754 John Lawry
1750 John Upton
1773 Charles Coldcall
1782 John Eveleigh
1793 William Eveleigh
1831 William Griffith
1832 William Staines
1840 Edward Marsh
1862 Anthony Grant
1877 Cyril Grant
1896 George Vaux
1902 Arthur Thorndike
1909 Thomas Sopwith
1915 Frederick Everett
1941 Trevor Southgate
1950 Henry Powell
1964 Alec Thorpe Goodrich
1980 Arthur Edwin Heathcote
1990 Paul Edward Francis
2000 Simon Christopher Tillotson
2007 Christopher Jan van Straaten
2016 Jonathan Hill
Updated: 19th August 2017 — 11:56 am

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