The Harrow Inn
Abbey Wood shown within Greater London
|OS grid reference|
|– Charing Cross||10.6 mi (17.1 km) W|
|Ceremonial county||Greater London|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|UK Parliament||Erith and Thamesmead|
|London Assembly||Greenwich and Lewisham|
|Bexley and Bromley|
The Abbey of St Mary and St Thomas the Martyr at Lesnes (or Lesnes Abbey) was founded in 1178 by Richard de Luci, Chief Justiciar of England. The Abbott of Lesnes Abbey was an important local landlord, and took a leading part in draining the marshland. However, this and the cost of maintaining river embankments was one of the reasons given for the Abbey's chronic financial difficulties. It never became a large community, and was closed by Cardinal Wolsey in 1525, under a licence to suppress monasteries of less than seven inmates. It was one of the first monasteries to be closed after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1524, and the monastic buildings were all pulled down, except for the Abbott's Lodging. Henry Cooke acquired the site in 1541 and it eventually passed to Sir John Hippersley who salvaged building materials, before selling the property to Thomas Hawes of London in 1632. It was then bequeathed to Christ's Hospital in 1633.
Abbey Wood railway station was opened in 1849, immediately to the north of the area now known as "The Village", built where Knee Hill became Harrow Manorway. Contemporary maps show Knee Hill as a minor track compared with a more major pathway through the centre of the existing woods. The Village consisted of a dozen or so cottages, and two pubs, the Abbey Arms (next to the railway station) and the Harrow Inn (demolished in 2009).
Abbey Wood was suggested as a site for a cemetery serving east London at a time of burial crisis in the capital. When the station was new, Edwin Chadwick proposed the closure of all existing burial grounds in the vicinity of London other than the privately owned Kensal Green Cemetery northwest of the city, which was to be nationalised and greatly enlarged to provide a single burial ground for west London, while a large tract of land on the Thames around 9 miles (14 km) southeast of London in Abbey Wood was to become a single burial ground for east London. The Treasury was sceptical that Chadwick's scheme would ever be financially viable, and it was widely unpopular. Although the Metropolitan Interments Act 1850 authorised the scheme, it was abandoned in 1852.
The Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society (RACS) owned two farms on the hillside to the south of The Village, and between 1900 and 1930 built the Bostall Estate. Once known as "Tin Check Island" after the Society's dividend system, and known locally as "The Co-op Estate", this has streets named after Co-operative themes (Alexander McLeod, the first secretary of the RACS, Rochdale, Robert Owen, Congress), a school & shops but, like much social housing of the period, no public houses. The housing is largely traditional of the "two-up, two-down" design, in distinctive yellow London brick, with gardens to the front and rear.
Between 1955 and 1959 the London County Council built the Abbey Estate on former Royal Arsenal marshland just south of the railway. Predominantly conventional brick houses with gardens, equipped with a shopping centre, schools and open spaces, the estate was first used to rehouse people from London's East End, though again at first there were no pubs and few shops. The main through-road is Eynsham Drive.
In the mid-1960s the Greater London Council began building the first phase of Thamesmead on more ex-Royal Arsenal land, north-east of Abbey Wood station. The original railway level crossing was replaced by a flyover.
Abbey Wood has benefited from the opening of the DLR station at Woolwich Arsenal, whilst the next stage in the development of the area will be the construction of Crossrail, a development tipped to encourage the growth of local house prices by the time it is opened in 2018.
Places of interest
Places of interest include the ruins of the 12th-century Lesnes Abbey and the adjacent Lesnes Abbey Woods, a Local Nature Reserve. Part of the Woods are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest called Abbey Wood, which has important Paleogene fossils. The ancient Bostall Woods & Heath. Bostall Woods (part of the South East London Green Chain) includes one of the few camping and caravan sites in London, which is owned and operated by The Caravan Club. The co-operative woods were also the site of the first camp for the Woodcraft Folk.
St. Michael and All Angels Parish Church  was opened in a temporary building in 1905. A permanent church, designed by Sir Arthur Blomfield, was consecrated three years later, and the original building became the church hall. The Victorian Crossness Pumping Station is another notable local attraction.
Recreational facilities and parks
Abbey Wood has a number of parks and sports areas, including Bostall Gardens (play area, tennis courts and basketball court), Bostall Heath (cricket pitch, bowling green, orienteering, football pitch) and Abbey Wood Park (play area and football pitch). It also has a women's netball team Abbey Angels.
People of interest
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Sir Charles Tilston Bright, the British electrical engineer who oversaw the laying of the first transatlantic telegraph cable in 1858, died in Abbey Wood in May 1888.
Snooker champion Steve Davis lived in Commonwealth Way Abbey Wood and went to Alexander McLeod Primary School and Abbey Wood Secondary School. Boxer Julius Francis went to St Thomas a Becket Primary School and Abbey Wood School, and Olympic runner Jennifer Stoute also went to Abbey Wood School. Playwright Jonathan Harvey also taught there. Kate Bush attended the convent school at the top of Knee Hill. Victor Ogunwusi who played for Nigeria u17 (2007) and Hampton & Richmond Borough F.C. also attended Abbey Wood School. Tinie Tempah attended St. Paul's Catholic School in Abbey Wood.
Robert Napper is one of Abbey Wood Schools more infamous names. Convicted of two murders, one manslaughter, two rapes and two attempted rapes Robert was at Abbey Wood from 1977-1982. He is most commonly known for his fatal attack on Rachel Nickel on Wimbledon Common in 1992 and the killing of Samantha Bisset and her four-year-old daughter Jazmine at Samanthas home in Plumstead in 1993. Napper was convicted of these crimes in December 2008 and sentenced to be held 'indefinitely' at Broadmoor Hospital. He is also believed to be the "Green Chain Rapist", who carried out at least 70 savage attacks across south-east London over a four-year period ending in 1994.
William Morris lived at the nearby Red House, in Bexleyheath , a house which was built for him by the architect Philip Webb. Morris regularly walked to Abbey Wood station, and a plaque just off Knee Hill commemorates this association.
Time 106.8, a licensed local radio station that evolved from an early cable channel - Radio Thamesmead - had studios on the Abbey Wood/Plumstead borders, and closed in April 2009. Abbey Wood also hosted London's first cable TV station at Wickham Lane. Stewart Cochrane a Cruise ship Bandleader; Jazz musician, onetime member of NWOHM band Samson and author of "Chindit Special Force Burma 1944" attended both DeLucy infant/primary school and Abbey Wood comprehensive.
St Paul's Academy is a Roman Catholic secondary school located in the area, on the original site of the Abbey Wood comprehensive school. It was previously known as St Paul's RC Secondary School, whilst located in Wickham Lane, before converting to academy status in 2005 when it moved to the new site.
The nearest station is Abbey Wood for Southeastern services towards Barnehurst, Crayford, Dartford, Gillingham, London Cannon Street and Charing Cross. The station will soon become a terminus for the south eastern branch of Crossrail's Elizabeth Line, beginning in late 2018.
- Mills, A.D. (2010). A Dictionary of London Place-Names. Oxford University Press. p. 1. ISBN 9780199566785.
- See http://www.ideal-homes.org.uk/greenwich/abbey-wood/map-abbey-wood-1870.htm.
- See http://www.stmichaelsabbeywood.co.uk/history.htm
- Clarke, John M. (2006). The Brookwood Necropolist Railway, Locomotive Papers 143 (4th edn). The Orchard Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-85361-655-9.
- Arnold, Catherine (2006). Necropolis: London and its dead. Simon & Schuster. p. 160. ISBN 978-1-4165-0248-7.
- The Brookwood Necropolis Railway. p. 11.
- See http://www.kentarchaeology.ac/authors/006.pdf for a more detailed description of the building of the Bostall Estate.
- Thelwell, Emma (2007-10-05). "Crossrail to create property hot spots". The Daily Telegraph (London).
- "Abbey Wood Women's Netball Team,". Abbey Angels. Retrieved 2012-06-15.