To our knowledge, the lifestyle of Pilsdon is unique although we have some similarities to other vow-based communities. We believe that we are the only ones that are directly based on the precedents and model set by Nicholas Ferrar, in Little Gidding. Little Gidding was the first Anglican community to be developed after Henry VIII's dissolution of monasteries. Its leading characteristic was that it was based around families, rather than the monastic lifestyle.
Nicholas Ferrar was a theologian, born in London and educated at Clare Hall, Cambridge. He was elected to Parliament in 1624 but retired at the age of 33 to Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire in 1625. There, with his mother, brother and sister and their families, he organised a small community centred on a manor house, small farm and a little church. With other families and their children they lived a life of corporate simplicity set within a framework of daily prayers, meals, work and recreation. Nicholas Ferrar guided this community for twelve years and it continued for 20 years after his death. Throughout this period a constant stream of guests visited Little Gidding, finding there the 'spirit of joy and serene peace'.
The first Pilsdon Community was established at Pilsdon Manor near Bridport in 1958. Since then there have been several wardens, each shaping and developing Pilsdon to how it is today and it continues to change and adapt with each continuing Warden (or Guardian) and the different guests who join them on their journey. After ten years of being Warden in Dorset, the Reverend Peter Barnett and his wife, Mary, served as the founders of the Pilsdon at Malling Community.
There has been an Abbey in West Malling for nearly 1,000 years and part of the original building still stands. Many changes have taken place over the centuries and the present St Mary's Abbey has been the home of Anglican Benedictine Sisters since 1916. Cistercian Monks leased the adjacent Ewell Monastery from the Abbey in 1966. When Fr Aelred & Br Tim decided to retire from the Cistercian life after Easter 2004, the Sisters invited Pilsdon to establish their second community at the former Ewell Monastery.
The Pilsdon at Malling Community continues the tradition of offering a safe space where lives can be rebuilt. We live and work in the former monastery on six acres of land leased from St Mary’s Abbey. Surrounded by the Abbey walls and hidden behind West Malling High Street, we are an unexpected find.