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Abbey Wood

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An affordable dormitory district situated south of Thamesmead, which it prefigured. It is named after the ancient woodlands that surround the remains of Lesnes Abbey, founded in 1178. The abbey’s site was close to a marsh that was prone to frequent flooding when the Thames overflowed its banks. The monks had to maintain the river wall to prevent the floods, which allowed the development of a small settlement here. The hamlet had only a hundred inhabitants when the North Kent Railway arrived and a small station opened in 1850, and its setting remained rural for the rest of that century. To the south, the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society began building the Bostall estate from about 1900. Further expansion came with the construction of a tram depot, which was subsequently converted to a bus garage. In the 1950s land sales by the shrinking Woolwich Arsenal allowed the council to build the Abbey Wood estate on land west of Harrow Manor Way. For a while the estate was a boom town, with industry and more housing piling in. Local amenities followed, but only after pressure from community activists. Half the households are now owner-occupied and Abbey Wood constitutes a useful first step on the ladder for cash-strapped home buyers, especially those with children.

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Abbey Wood east of the station

Postal district: SE2
Population: 13,372
Station: South Eastern (Zone 4)
Further reading: Darrell Spurgeon, Discover Woolwich and Its Environs: A Comprehensive Guide to Woolwich, the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich Common, Plumstead, Shooters Hill and Abbey Wood, Greenwich Guidebooks, 1996

Brewer's London Phrase & Fable

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