Saturday, 6 May 2017

Lesnes Abbey ..........once lost and now found courtesy of Woolwich and District Antiquarian Society

Lesnes Abbey was a place I discovered purely by chance in the summer of 1966.

The north wast wall of the abbey, 2013
At sixteen I was a bit old for an adventure but that was what it was and I was captivated by the place.

Now depending on your take on Tudor history it was either one of those monasteries Henry V111 knocked about in pursuit of a bit of extra cash or was a legitimate target in the campaign to reform the church of some of its more corrupt practices.

Either way it was one of the first to be closed in 1525. In time I will go looking for the records of the abbey to see how corrupt it might have been but for now I know it didn’t offer up much in the way of glittering prizes and apart from one building the entire monastery was demolished .

I have to confess that back in 1966 what I knew about the Dissolution of the Monasteries was not much and it never occurred to me to wonder how what was lost was found.

In fact it is only since I joined the Woolwich and District Antiquarian Society that I have discovered its history.

The plaque to Frank Charles Elliston-Erwood
During 1909-10 the society carried out an archaeological dig, and recently one of those involved has been honoured by a blue plaque which has been placed on his house in Foxcroft Road Shooters Hill.

This was Frank Charles Elliston-Erwood who was born in 1883 and died in 1968.

Sadly another plaque to him on the site is badly damaged so the one on Foxcroft Road is important.

And that is where I shall leave it other than to promise I will dig deep and find out more about both Mr Elliston-Erwood and the dig.

Charles Elliston-Erwood  by C A Rohn, 1953
According to the Treasuer of the Society, "the excavation between 1909-13 and report published in 1915 on Lesnes Abbey was paid for by WADAS.

I’m sure the Central Ref will have a copy, its full title is :-Lesnes Abbey in the Parish of Erith Kent by Alfred W Clapham F.S.A.  (he later became Sir Alfred Clapham) London the Cassio press 1915

It does also come up for sale now & again at £70-£90.

WADAS and Bexley Council paid for further excavations and the laying out of the site in the 1950’s Frank Elliston-Erwood worked on the 1909-13 excavation, & the 1950’s. 

He produced most of the line drawings in the report, he was a Technical Drawing teacher.

I’ve attached a watercolour of him at the 1950’s excavations, he made & is wearing our Presidential badge."

Location; Abbey Wood

Pictures; North west wall of Lesnes Abbey, 2013, Ethan Doyle at English Wikipedia, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license and the blue plaque and painting courtesy of Woolwich and District Antiquarian Society

* Woolwich and District Antiquarian Society, "Report on Explorations at Lesnes Abbey Kent", several volumes 1909 to 1912

** Woolwich and District Antiquarian Society, The Hon Treasurer, 4 Hill End , Shooters Hill, London SE 18 3 NH

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