History of Lenses Abbey


The layout of Lesnes Abbey closely resembles the common Cistercian pattern of the late twelfth century. In this arrangement the church us ually occupied the highest part of the site, the conventual buildings arranged around a cloister, situated to the south of the church. The church at Lesnes is unusually placed to the south instead of the north of the conventual buildings. This may have been because the Abbey was built on a sloping site between the river marshes and the wooded hills.

Lesnes Abbey belonged to the order of Augustinian canons whose duty it was to baptise, preach, give penance and bury the dead.The most important parts of the Abbey were the church, the buildings around the cloister, the infirmary and the curia or great court. In these areas the canons lived and worked, looked after the sick, showed hospitatlity to guests, made contact with the outside world and carried out the day-to-day administration of the monastery and its estates.Lesnes Abbey was founded in 1178 by Richard de Luci, Chief Justiciar of England and was deicated to St Mary and St Thomas, the martyr.

The London County Council purchased it in 1930 and in 1931 Lesnes was opened to the public as a park and since 1986 the site has belonged to Bexley Council. You can visit the information centre which has more information about the history of the site.


You can find out more about the abbey by visiting The Greenwich Heritage Centre, Artillery Square, Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, SE18 4DX, where there are many interesting archaeological finds on display from the excavation of the Abbey.

Click here to visit The Greenwich Heritage Centre website

A number of tombs, other stonework and tiles are on display at St. John's Church, Erith. The Victoria and Albert Museum contains the effigy of a member of the de Luci family found in the chapter house, along with the missal of Lesnes Abbey, a richly illuminated manuscript from the early thirteenth century.

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