Lesnes Abbey

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Abbey ruins and ancient woodland

Lesnes Abbey and its woods, Abbey Wood

This page is under development. It should be finished in a few days’ … or weeks’ time.

Lesnes Abbey footings
Lesnes Abbey remains

Born c.1089, Richard de Lucy (or Luci) was a Norman nobleman who served as Henry II’s chief justiciar from 1154 until a few months before his death at the age of 90. 

Excom­mu­ni­cated by Becket: 1166 & 1169.

In 1178 de Lucy founded Westwood Abbey on the Thames marshes west of Erith. According to most sources, he died here in 1179 and was buried in the Chapter House.

The abbey was dedicated to St Mary and Thomas Becket, who had been canonised just five years earlier

It is said by some that de Lucy founded the abbey as a penance for the murder of Thomas Beckett, though there is little evidence that he played a signif­i­cant role in this xxx.

Augus­tinian order, though the abbey’s design … more Cistercian
building work seems to have continued until the 14th century

De Lucy bequeathed the abbey to Christ’s Hospital and it remained in their xxx until disso­lu­tion of the monas­teries the first round of suppressions … 

Rosesia was the great grand­daughter of Sir Richard de Lici, and as a young girl she was raised at Lesnes Abbey and grew to love the place. She even­tu­ally married and moved away, becoming Roesia de Dover. However, when she died her heart was buried at Lesnes Abbey as a relic to be prayed for in order to speed the passage of her soul through purgatory. 

with barns and fishponds

Edward I changed the name of the abbey’s from Westwood to Lesnes, a manorial name of unknown origin, though it may relate to an Old English word for ‘shelter’ or ‘refuge’.

This was never a wealthy insti­tu­tion, not least because it was encum­bered with the cost of frequently repairing flood damage when the Thames inundated the marshes.

The monks were said to have been respon­sible for draining the marshes in the vicinity of the abbey

The abbey was suppressed by Wolsey as early 1524 or 25 … and most of the buildings were pulled down

The site was granted 

described by Pevsner as “a useful diagram from which to learn the layout of monastic buildings”

… and in 1630 became the property of Sir John Hippesley, who commis­sioned an exca­va­tion that found xxx. fleur-de-lis (aka flower-de-luce), which may have been a rebus

The relics were said to have been rein­terred, and a bay tree was planted near the spot. However, later exca­va­tions found no trace of them.

Henry VIII granted the abbey and its 

Peasants’ revolt

Nineteeth-century authors speak of ‘the Abbot’s thorn’, an ancient tree that still stood in the grounds and may have been grown from a cutting taken from the Holy Thorn of Glas­ton­bury.

Over the following centuries the abbey walls gradually disintegrated
Clapham 1909
but the remains were only laid bare in a second ‘campaign’ programme of exca­va­tion 1955–61?
relics in the heritage musuem and the V&A

Lesnes Abbey Conser­va­tion Volun­teers help the council look after the woods through the delivery of practical nature conser­va­tion events, such as hedge laying, coppicing, heathland restora­tion and wildlife surveys.

With the assis­tance of lottery funding, Bexley council built a new community hub called Lesnes Lodge in 2014–16. Its land­scaped surround­ings include the pleasing Monk’s Garden.

Lesnes Abbey ruins with an artist's impression of the abbey on mouseover

Lesnes Abbey, access via Abbey Road and New Road, London SE2
Phone: 01932 765328
Website: Lesnes Abbey Woods, also on Facebook
Bing bird’s eye view: Lesnes Abbey ruins (viewed from the north)
Open: always
Admission: free
Facilities: Limited light refreshments; books and souvenirs for sale at reception
Nearest station: Abbey Wood (National Rail) then a 5 minute walk