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.
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.