Ingress Abbey

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Ingress Abbey
Ingress Abbey
Ingress Abbey, Greenhithe, England - April 2009.jpg
Ingress Abbey, front facade
Ingress Abbey is located in Kent
Ingress Abbey
Location within Kent
General information
Status Grade II listed[1]
Type Stately home
Architectural style Elizabethan
Location Greenhithe, Kent, England, UK
Coordinates 51°27′08″N 0°17′20″E / 51.4521°N 0.2890°E / 51.4521; 0.2890Coordinates: 51°27′08″N 0°17′20″E / 51.4521°N 0.2890°E / 51.4521; 0.2890
Construction started 1833

Ingress Abbey is a Jacobean-style country house in the hamlet of Greenhithe, Kent, England. It was built on the Ingress Estate, site of the Viscount Duncannon in the 18th century. It was one of the filming locations for the episode "The Kidnapped Prime Minister" on the ITV television drama Agatha Christie's Poirot.[2]

History of the Ingress Estate[edit]

The Ingress Estate was a manor in the hamlet of Greenhithe. In 1363, the manor was endowed upon the Prioress and Abbey of the Dominican Sisters in Dartford, Kent, by Edward III (1307–1377).[3] The priory of Dartford was the only house of Dominican nuns in England. The sisterhood was placed under the care of the Friars Preachers of King's Langley, Hertfordshire, and a community of sisters commenced religious observance at Dartford in 1356 under the friars already there. The original intention of the founder, Edward II, was to establish a convent of forty nuns, which with the sixty friars of King's Langley would make up the hundred religious he contemplated when he founded the friary of King's Langley, but it is doubtful whether this number was ever reached.[4]

During the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, the estate was confiscated and sold, with the proceeds used to finance the wars of King Henry VIII. According to legend, the Abbess of Dartford put a curse on Henry VIII and all of his male descendants as a punishment for confiscating the estate. This curse was supposedly passed onto all future owners of the estate, such that no male heir would ever live to inherit the estate.[3]

Henry VIII kept the site and rebuilt it to use it as a country retreat whilst visiting the coast. In 1540, Sir Richard Long was paid £8 per day to be keeper of the site. In 1548, the King, in consideration of the compulsory surrender of certain lands in Surrey, granted the priory and manor of Dartford[3] to Anne of Cleves.

After Henry VIII's death, seven nuns, who had already been permitted by Queen Mary to return to Dartford, re-established the convent at King's Langley Priory, Hertfordshire, with Elizabeth Cressener as prioress. However, in 1559, visitors from the Privy Council came to Dartford and tendered the oaths of supremacy and uniformity, first to the provincial prior, and then to each of the nuns separately; all refused to take the oaths. The visitors then sold the goods of the convent at low prices, paid the debts of the house, divided what little remained among the sisters, and ordered them to leave within twenty-four hours. The band of Dominican exiles, consisting of two priests, a prioress, four choir-nuns, four lay sisters, and a young girl not yet professed, joined the nuns of Syon House, Middlesex (now London), and crossed to the Netherlands. Queen Elizabeth then granted the estate to Edward Darbyshire and John Bere, who purchased much of the lands of Hartford Priory made available by the dissolution of the monasteries.[3]

In the midst of war in 1649, the estate, including the mansion house, manor, farm, lime kiln, wharf, and land (including the chalk cliffs and salt and freshwater marshes) were passed to Captain Edward Brent of Southward for £1122. It was sold in 1748 to William Viscount Duncannon, who on his father's death succeeded him as Earl of Bessborough and Baron Ponsor of Sysonby. He lived at Ingress with his wife Carolina, the eldest daughter of William, Duke of Devonshire. He greatly improved the seat, and reputedly commissioned Capability Brown to landscape the grounds (though evidence for this is lacking). In 1760, Carolina died at Ingress. The property was then sold to John Calcraft, MP for Rochester.[3]

Construction and development of Ingress Abbey[edit]

In 1820, a wealthy lawyer named James Harmer purchased the land, and in 1833 built his Elizabethan-style mansion, which he called Ingress Abbey, on the banks of the Thames. He provided his architect, Charles Moreing, with £120,000 for the construction of follies, grottoes, and hermit's caves. The poet Eliza Cook lived and wrote some of her works at Ingress.[1][5]

In the 1880s, the Shah of Persia sailed up the Thames and noted that "the only thing worth mentioning at Greenhithe was a mansion standing amid trees on a green carpet extending down to the water's edge".[6]

By the early 20th century, Harmer's descendants had sold off a large part of the grounds for development of the sprawling Empire Paper Mills. The rest of the garden was left to go to seed and the house was allowed to fall into decay.[citation needed]

The estate has been redeveloped with modern housing, with the first phase completed in 2001.[7] The developers, Crest Nicholson, spent £6 million restoring the abbey, follies, and grounds as part of the redevelopment scheme.[7][8]


  1. ^ a b "Ingress Abbey - Swanscombe and Greenhithe - Kent - England". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  2. ^ "On Location with Poirot". 
  3. ^ a b c d e Edward Hassed (1797). "Parishes: Scotswoman". The History and the Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 2. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  4. ^ Victoria County History (1926)- Kent: Volume 2, Friaries: 29. The Dominican Nuns of Dartford.[1]
  5. ^ "Ingress Abbey". Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  6. ^ "History of Ingress Abbey, Greenhithe". Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "Ingress Park Case Study". National Archives: Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  8. ^ "Ingress Park". Retrieved 2013-11-02. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Ingress Abbey at Wikimedia Commons