Abbey Wood was first recorded in the late nineteenth century, when the area of hitherto mainly marsh and woodland first came to be developed. It takes its name from the Medieval Lesnes Abbey, the remains of which can still be seen in Lesnes Abbey Woods (see below).
Lesnes Abbey was founded by one Richard de Luci, Chief Justiciar to Henry II, in 1178, and dedicated by him to St Mary and St Thomas the Martyr, possibly as penance for his, Richard’s – indirect – involvement in Thomas Becket’s murder in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. The first abbot, William, was consecrated in 1179, the by-then canon Richard de Luci dying that same year and being buried in the Chapter House. The abbey was originally an Augustinian foundation, but under the second abbot, Fulc’s incumbency between 1187-1208 adopted the Rule of Arrouaise. It always struggled financially to meet its running costs, which included those of maintaining its river walls and draining its marshy land-holdings, and, in consequence, its buildings began to fall into disrepair in the fourteenth century. The abbey was eventually closed down by Cardinal Wolsey in 1524, in other words some years before the Dissolution of the Monasteries beginning in 1536. Most of its buildings were at least partially pulled down in the sixteenth century (some of the salvaged stone being used in the construction of Hall Place in Bexley), although the former Abbot’s Lodgings survived intact and in use until the nineteenth. Only picturesque ruins remain today.