The first written record of any land related to the present-day Thamesmead appeared in the Domesday Book in 1086 under the entry for the manor of ‘Loisnes' where sixty villagers, three smallholders, two slaves and three cottagers were listed.
William the Conqueror granted the land to a Norman noble, Sir Richard de Lucy who founded Lesnes Abbey in 1178. which housed a small religious community of twelve brothers, or canons, and an Abbott. It is widely believed that that Richard founded the abbey as an act of penance for his involvement in the murder of Thomas à Becket eight years earlier.
The Lesnes monks grew their own crops, reared domestic animals and began draining the land. The River Thames originally came right up to Lesnes Abbey and it is said that the monks used to fish from the walls (and sharks teeth have been found in the Abbey Woods).
In 1236 the Thames overflowed its banks, resulting in a disastrous flood which ‘caused the Marshes about Woolwich to be all on a Sea, wherein Boats and other vesselles were carried with the streame, so that besides cattell, the greatest number of men, women and children, inhabitants there, were drowned'.
In 1524 AD the Pope gave permission to close all monasteries with fewer than eight canons and Lesnes was one of the first to be suppressed and the land passed back to the King, who later sold the marshland to his nobles. Click here to find out more about Lesnes Abbey.