The ruins of Lesnes Abbey are described as a 'hidden treasure in the heart of suburban London'. The Abbey was founded by Richard de Luci in 1178.
Richard de Luci was Chief Justiciar of England (equivalent to the modern day Prime Minister) and spent the last three months of his life in retirement at the Abbey before being buried in the chapter house.
Throughout much of its existence, Lesnes Abbey struggled with financial difficulties, resulting in the buildings falling into neglect through the fourteenth century. Rebuilding in the early sixteenth century came too late.
In 1524, Henry VIII's chief minister, Cardinal Wolsey, obtained permission from the Pope to close all monasteries in England and Wales with 'less than eight inmates'. The revenue raised was intended to finance Cardinal Wolsey's College at Oxford. Lesnes, with only an abbot and five canons, became one of the first monasteries to be suppressed.
Most of the abbey was pulled down soon after and used for building materials. Since this time it's ownership has passed through many hands before London County Council purchased it in 1930 and opened it as a public park a year later. Since 1986 the site has belonged to London Borough of Bexley.
The site is also home to a striking mulberry tree reputed to have been commissioned to be planted by King James I who wanted to set up his own English silk industry. However, silk moth caterpillars feed on the white mulberry whilst the trees the King was sold were black.
The nearby Lesnes Abbey Wood is full of a diverse range of of wildlife habitats, plants and flowers, with self guided trails to help you find your way through the area.
Finding Lesnes Abbey
Lesnes Abbey is situated off the B213, around eight miles from Junction 2 of the M25. The site is just a ten minute walk from Abbey Wood Rail Station and is well serviced by local buses which stop nearby. See the map for more information.