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The History of Abbey Road Studios: Part 1

Now that I had the opportunity with last week’s post to do a lead in to what I’ve been researching for a couple years, I’ll start at the very beginning of the story behind 3 Abbey Road or as we now know it…Abbey Road Studios.

In order to understand the history of Abbey Road Studios, we need to start at the beginning with the actual Abbey Road. Obviously, one can assume by the name that it has something to do with an Abbey somewhere along the road. But, when you look at a map, there is no Abbey along the one mile stretch of Abbey Road in Middlesex. There are churches and synagogues, but no Abbeys.

The abbey that is referenced in Abbey Road was Kilburn Abbey which would have been located somewhere in close proximity to the northern end of Abbey Road. No one is quite sure of its exact location, but it was approximately 3 miles north of St. Peter’s Church (the future Westminster Abbey) and about 1.3 miles northwest of what was to become Abbey Road Studios. What we do know is that it was originally a hermitage that was built by a man named Godwyn who decided he need to get away from London during the reign of King Henry I (1100-1135). At the time, the area (that would later be called St. John’s Wood) was mostly wooded and very popular among the royals for hunting.

After many years, around 1130, Godwyn grew tired of the solitude and gave the hermitage and its land to St. Peter’s Church. There’s no record as to how Godwyn acquired ownership of the property but it’s speculated that it may have been by squatters rights. Herbert, the Abbot of Westminster, decided to give the Kilburn Priory to Emma, Gunilda, Cristina – three virginal Ladies in Waiting to the late Queen Matilda. Herbert put Godwyn the Hermit in charge of them. Not a bad gig for a hermit, eh?

That is the simple explanation of how Abbey Road got its name, and it would be nice if it were that simple. But Abbey Road isn’t the original footpath that led to Kilburn Abbey. According to a 1799 map of St. Marylebone, the original path led north along what was to become the west side of Regents Park and then turned northwest at what is now the intersection of Grove End Road and Finchley Road. There was another footpath to the Kilburn Abbey that ran north to south along what is now Hamilton Terrace.

I’ll try to create a simple map for next week’s post about the history of 3 Abbey Road…

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