London (formerly in Kent)

Lesnes Abbey, Abbey Wood, London (formerly in Kent)

Augustinian Friars

The Augustinian (Austin) Friars was founded by Richard de Luci in 1178, possibly as part of penance for his role in the death of Thomas Becket. In 1179 de Luci retired from public life and went to live in his new Abbey, where he died a year later.

The Abbey was never a vast foundation, but continued to exist quietly aside from a brief period at the start of the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381 when one Abel Ker of Erith broke into the Abbey and forced the Abbot to swear and oath to them before heading off to Maidstone to join up with Wat Tyler.

The Abbey’s situation, on the edge of marshland by the Thames, meant it spent an inordinate amount of money on keeping the marshland drained and it was never a rich Abbey like, for instance, Ramsey or Glastonbury.

It was one of the first monasteries to be hit by the Dissolution – Wolsey arrived in 1525 and found less than nine monks. This allowed him to dissolved the Abbey there and then. Much of the Abbey was torn down immediately, although enough survived to donate a great deal of stonework to nearby Hall Place.

The land became farmland and the Abbey disappeared and it remained obscure until excavations in 1909. The land was bought by London County Council and has ever since that time been in a public park with the Abbey walls and buildings exposed to give the park focus.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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