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Lesnes Abbey Bexley

Lesnes Abbey

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Lesnes Abbey was founded in 1178 by Richard de Luci, and housed no more than 12 monks. It was not a wealthy living although the land eventually became valuable pasture. The Abbey was dissolved in 1525, one of the first monasteries to be dissolved by Cardinal Wolsey for Henry VIII. The only building to survive was the Abbot's lodgings, which became the manor house for the Manor of Lesnes. Following C20th excavations the Abbey has been partially rebuilt; the grounds and woods were acquired by the LCC in 1930 for a public park. The site has formal garden area near the ruins, some fine mature trees including an old mulberry, as well as woods and grassland.
Previous / Other name:
Site location: Abbey Road, Belvedere
Postcode: DA17 5DY
Type of site: Public Park 
Date(s): Abbey founded c1178. Park largely C20th
Listed structures: Abbey ruins: Scheduled Ancient Monument GL103
Borough: Bexley
Site ownership: LB Bexley
Site management: Parks and Open Spaces; Bexley Ranger Service; Lesnes Abbey Conservation Volunteers (LACV)
Open to public? Yes
Opening times: unrestricted
Special conditions: Permission to visit SSSI can be obtained by contacting Ranger Service
Facilities: Toilets, Sports pitches. Self guided nature trail
Events: Various (see noticeboard on site). Has opened for Open House London
Public transport: Rail: Abbey Wood then bus. Bus: 00, 229, B11, 602, 469
Lesnes Abbey ruins, looking towards Thamesmead, postcard c.1961.  Courtesy Bexley Local Studies & Archive Centre
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The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2000
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. LACV:

Fuller information:

Lesnes Abbey of St Mary and Thomas the Martyr was founded in 1178 by Richard de Luci, Chief Justice of England and Lord of Lesnes, in penance for his support of Henry II in dispute with Thomas a Becket; it never housed more than 12 monks. The Abbey belonged to the Order of Augustinian Canons but was never a wealthy living, mainly due to the expense of having to maintain the river walls and draining the marshes to the north. The land eventually became valuable pasture. The Abbey fell into neglect and in 1525 was one of the first monasteries to be dissolved by Cardinal Wolsey in the reign of Henry VIII; it was later sold by Henry VIII to wealthy laymen for demolition. The only building to survive was the Abbot's lodgings, which became the mansion house for the Manor of Lesnes.

Between 1903-13 and 1938-68 the Abbey was re-excavated and partially rebuilt to its present state. Initial excavations took place in 1909 although these were then backfilled to allow farming to continue. The Abbey grounds and woods were acquired by the LCC in 1930 as a public park; further excavations followed in 1951 with farm buildings demolished. Gardens presumably laid out after 1951 excavations were completed, comprising three formal lawns with flower beds divided by large herbaceous borders and the whole is enclosed with yew hedges and with a terrace along the south side. There is an old Mulberry tree north of the ruins; tree planting has chiefly been ornamental conifers. There are specimen trees on the lawn to west including Gingko, flowering Cherries, Horse Chestnut, Copper Beech, Hornbeam, Zelkova and there are Rhododendron beds. Beyond the gardens to the south is ancient woodland on the slopes, chiefly Sessile Oak and Sweet Chestnut. To the north, a footbridge and landscaped strip (Abbey Way) connects Lesnes Abbey to Southmere Park in Thamesmead (q.v.).

In Hurst Wood, Pine Pond was created in the late C19th as part of the grounds of Hurst House, which was located to south of Hurst Lane. There are the remains of a fish pond to the west and of a dew pond to the east. Ornamental and specimen trees grow in the woods beyond the gardens made to the south of the Abbey. The rest of the site is given over to grass and woodland with a recreation ground to the north-east. The chalk pit to the south of the Abbey is designated an SSSI on account of the fossils from the Tertiary period, mainly sharks teeth and sea shells.

Sources consulted:

GLC, Lesnes Abbey a short history and guide, 1968; A W Clapham, 'Lesnes Abbey, a short history and guide', 1915; Darrell Spurgeon, 'Discover Crayford and Erith', Greenwich Guide Book, 1995. See
Grid ref: TQ478788
Size in hectares:
On EH National Register : No
EH grade :
Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:
Registered common or village green
on Commons Registration Act 1965:
Protected under London Squares
Preservation Act 1931:
The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.
On Local List:
In Conservation Area: No
Conservation Area name:
Tree Preservation Order: No
Nature Conservation Area: Yes - Metropolitan Importance
Green Belt: No
Metropolitan Open Land: Yes
Special Policy Area: No
Other LA designation: SSSI. Lesnes Abbey Woods: Local Nature Reserve

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