Abbey Wood History Books

Abbey Wood History Books

Abbey Wood history books are not just for local historians; family historians can add flesh to the bones of their basic research by finding out more about the location in which their ancestors lived.

Although there doesn’t appear to be any dedicated Abbey Wood history books, Records of the Woolwich District, vol II, originally published in 1890, and recently republished by FamLoc, has much information on the area which is now known as Abbey Wood, and is an important asset for local and family historians.

Abbey Wood history books: Records of the Woolwich DistrictRecords of the Woolwich District vol. II, by W. T. Vincent

This was originally published in 1890, and covers Abbey Wood, Bexley, Charlton, Eltham, Erith, Kidbrook, North Woolwich, Plumstead, Shooters Hill, Welling, and Wickham, as well as additional topics on Woolwich. It includes over 200 illustrations, plus 45 photographic portraits of local men of influence. The book includes many old maps, is rich in the main institutions of churches, schools, charities and industries, and also includes topography, and notable events, making it invaluable for the local historian, family historian, and others with connections to the area around Woolwich.
This FamLoc edition is a slight modification: there have been changes to format and punctuation. However, the grammar and prose has been faithfully retained, other than changes to a handful of typographical errors and the very few instances where clarity was required.

Click HERE or on the image to buy Records of the Woolwich District vol. II.

Below are extracts from Records of the Woolwich District, vol II:

“The Abbey Wood portion of our story is dealt with under the head of Plumstead, from which I could not conveniently disassociate the history of the ancient Abbey (see Chapter XL: The Early Days of Plumstead), Erith proper having been at the time of the Abbey’s existence comparatively remote. Abbey Wood (West Wood) is mentioned in Domesday.”

“But let us pursue the old road of which we have been speaking and trace the bygone memories of Lesness Abbey and Abbey Wood.
Abbey Wood is only in part within the parish of Plumstead, but the spot on which the abbey stood is too inextricably associated with Plumstead history to be omitted from its records. To-day we find Abbey Wood and its neighbour Bostall Heath preserved in all their natural simplicity and beauty, while the hills to the westward and the eastward are peopled with townships.
But the rural scenes which we now enjoy in our rambles about Bostall and Abbey Wood had at one time a far better chance of becoming the site of a town than either Erith or Belvedere, Plumstead or Woolwich.”

“But let us pursue the old road of which we have been speaking and trace the bygone memories of Lesness Abbey and Abbey Wood.
Abbey Wood is only in part within the parish of Plumstead, but the spot on which the abbey stood is too inextricably associated with Plumstead history to be omitted from its records.To-day we find Abbey Wood and its neighbour Bostall Heath preserved in all their natural simplicity and beauty, while the hills to the westward and the eastward are peopled with townships.But the rural scenes which we now enjoy in our rambles about Bostall and Abbey Wood had at one time a far better chance of becoming the site of a town than either Erith or Belvedere, Plumstead or Woolwich.”

“The Abbey and Roman Dock. Far back in our history, when King Henry II reigned, in pious conflict with the priesthood, the Saracens, and the French, the small but wealthy abbey of Lesness stood by the brink of the broad waters. Still farther away in time, perhaps when the Romans dwelt as conquerors in England, the early shipbuilders had here a naval station at which they built their ships of war and of commerce. With the deep hollow close by the ruins of the old abbey tradition has always associated the name of “The Roman Dock,” and, although tradition alone is a bad witness, tradition supported by collateral facts is always receivable as evidence. The dock is partly a natural “slade” and partly excavation. There are manifest signs of its having been deepened in places, and the angular protuberances on the banks, which are like nothing in nature, were, I imagine, formed by heaps of soil scooped out of the basin (Plate LV, Chapter XL: The Early Days of Plumstead).
The likelihood of the Romans having previously built the river wall has already been mentioned, but, admitting the assumption, it is quite reasonable to suppose that before (and even after) that work was accomplished, a navigable creek or canal stretched to this spot. All we see of this channel to-day is a mere ditch across the marsh, but in some old maps it is represented as a respectable river. The dock may have been maintained by a dam piled against the entrance (just where the road is), easily cut when a ship was finished and a favourable tide available for floating out.I know that in advancing this hypothesis I have to confront the fact that it has never been taken up or entertained, so far as I am aware, by any other writer, but I venture to declare my entire faith in the tradition of the Roman dock, and submit, at least, that the evidence is plausible.
It must be conceded that the Romans, the Danes, and other early shipwrights, would build their vessels somewhere near the capital, and, apart from tradition and probability, I would ask if anyone can find a situation and a conformation so suitable and convenient for the purpose as this? Remains of primitive boats have been dug out of the peat in this part of the marsh, and, although such discoveries merely show that the marsh was flooded when the wrecks occurred, they are to some extent in favour of the dock theory.
From the rear of the dock there was an ancient road to London over Plumstead Common. This road, which will be further spoken of hereafter, and also the lower road which led to Woolwich, were of service, not only to the shipbuilders, but to that other active community which next made busy this pleasant scene.”

“The Abbey Ruins. The crumbling walls we see on the prominent ground are the vestiges of a flourishing monastery. West Wood, or Lesness, was founded in 1178 by that remarkable man, Richard de Lucy, Grand Justiciary of England, and Regent of the kingdom in the absence of Henry II. De Lucy appears to have resided at West Wood (that which we now call Abbey Wood), and to have been as brave a soldier as he was an accomplished lawyer and distinguished statesman. He had fought in the Holy Land, and was everywhere famed and honoured for his learning, piety, and wisdom. His exalted position in the realm was second only to that of the throne itself. John Fisher, who wrote a description of the abbey ruins in 1776, says:

`The genius of the religion which prevailed in his time led this wise man to build this monastic edifice and to endow it with ample possessions. It was begun by him not quite two years before his death, and, after he had finished it, he retired from the active world, and, it is said, became the prior of his own convent. The king, unwilling to lose the counsel and assistance of so able and experienced a servant, earnestly endeavoured to dissuade him from entering into this idle and useless scheme of life, but it was a vain attempt. Influenced by the superstitious prejudices of the age, he thought the putting on of a monkish cowl would render his passage to heaven more speedy and less tormenting. And in another instance did he likewise show himself to be a very bigoted Papist, for he made Thomas Becket, jointly with the Virgin Mary, the patron and protector of his new society, though that haughty and seditious prelate had formerly excommunicated him for “being a favourer of his sovereign and a contriver of those heretical pravities, the constitutions of Clarendon.” Richard de Lucy was buried in the church belonging to his convent, and on removing part of the foundations of this building in the reign of King James I, several coffins with portraitures upon them were discovered in a vault, which are supposed to have contained the remains of this illustrious man and of some of his family. The abbey of Lesness was suppressed before the general dissolution of monasteries, Cardinal Wolsey having obtained a Papal bull for appropriating the revenues of it towards endowing the new college he had founded at Oxford (1524).’ “

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More Abbey Wood history books and maps


We are always looking for more Abbey Wood history books to display, and welcome suggestions.

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1 Comment

  1. Ellie Gee

    Hello
    We are doing our family tree and have come to a dead end.
    We are hoping you can help!
    We are looking for any information about Goldie Leigh lodge from between 1848-1902. If you could point us in the right direction we would be most grateful.
    Thank you in advance

    Reply

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