England was one of the earliest sites of the Carmelites in Europe. Their coming exemplifies the classic scenario of the Carmelites fleeing from the Holy Land (Israel) under the protection of the crusaders; in fact it was the crusader, Sir Richard Grey of Codnor, who brought them back in 1242 and settled them on his lands at Aylesford in Kent. Sir William de Vescy also gave them a home in Hulne in Northumberland about the same time, or earlier. In the lists of Provinces, England ranked third, after the Holy Land and Sicily.
Carmel in England experienced an early and rapid growth and exercised considerable influence in the Order's evolution in Europe. The English Province opened several houses in Ireland and Scotland. The Irish communities formed a separate Province in 1305 while the Scottish communities had to wait until 1324 to become an independent Province. The Scottish Province closed its last remaining house in 1559 during the Reformation. With studia in Oxford, Cambridge, and London, the English Province produced a goodly number of learned men and took a notable part in the controversy with Lollardy, Thomas Netter of Walden especially distinguishing himself. In the persons of such men as Richard Misyn, Thomas Fishlawe, and Robert Southfield the Carmelites shared in the medieval mystical movement.
It was not until the 20th century that the Irish Carmelites definitively brought the Order back to England after its suppression in 1538 by Henry VIII, settling first in Kent, later in Wales, eventually in other parts of England. The turning point in the revival of Carmel in England was the recovery of the convent in Aylesford which has since become a noted spiritual centre and Marian shrine. A commissariat was erected in 1952, and a Province in 1969, with the title of "The Province of the Assumption". The Anglo-Welsh Province opened two communities in Scotland. The Province officially changed its name in 1999 to the Province of Great Britain.
At present the Province has about 40 religious working in England and Italy.
For further information: Province of Great Britain
Kent ME13 7JW