Tag Archives: Kilburn Abbey

The History of Abbey Road Studios: Part 2

St John’s Wood and the Eyre Estate

Over the years/decades/centuries, the area that had become known as St. John’s Wood would change hands several times as the Kings and Queens of England would take possession of the land only to have the next owner of the throne gave it away again. In the year 1238 A.D.,  King Henry III gave the land to the Knights Templar, until it was taken back by the crown. In 1323, King Edward II bestowed the land upon the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, which is the origin of the name of St. John’s Wood. In 1539, King Henry VII took it back and St. John’s Wood, which by this time was being clear of trees because of the demand for lumber, remained under control by the crown until the 18th century.

Eventually, in 1732, local, wealthy, wine merchant Henry Samuel Eyre (1676 – 1754) purchased almost 500 acres of St. John’s Wood from the Earl of Chesterfield. Never having had any children of his own, Henry would ultimately name his nephew, Walpole Eyre (1734 – 1773), as heir of the entire estate. Upon his death, Walpole would leave the entire estate to his son, Henry Samuel Eyre, Esq. (1770 – 1851).

Starting in the late 1700s, the Eyre estate would be divided up and leased out in lots ranging from a half acre to over 36 acres. The 20 acre plot of land that would eventually contain 3 Abbey Road, was originally leased to Jonathan Alderton in 1796. In total, he leased 7 plots totaling over 70 acres that ran along the west side of Grove End Road and what would eventually be Abbey Road. The land was considered a “grass farm”, meaning it was either used to grow grain or feed or it was used as grazing pastures for farm animals.

Eyre Estate map w/ 3 of Alderton’s plots
Purple line = Abbey Road
Blue line = Road to Kilburn

By 1805, the lease to the same 7 plots, plus several more, were in the hands of John Hill. According to letters held in the Westminster archives, Walpole took exception in 1806 to how Hill was caring for the fields. Walpole wrote in his letter that one of the fields was now a “soil pit” and is being used to dump “all sorts of London filth & nastiness”. Apparently, Hill had also made a road/path leading to this ‘dump’ and along the road, he built two small cottages, which Walpole claimed were against his lease. This “road” would eventually become Abbey Road.

I’ve tried to create a somewhat accurate map to show the different routes that were used to reach Kilburn Abbey. By the time Abbey Road was created, the Abbey had been destroyed. The purple line on both of the maps below mark where Abbey Road would eventually be created after the other two routes to the Kilburn Abbey.

"This work is based on data provided through www.VisionofBritain.org.uk and uses historical material which is copyright of the Great Britain Historical GIS Project and the University of Portsmouth".

Map showing alternate routes to Kilburn Abbey in 1700s St. John’s Wood, London


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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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