London’s Pocket Parks: Abbey Gardens, E15

Next to the DLR in east London is a large community garden that sits on a partially excavated ancient monument.

This is Abbey Gardens, which you will not be surprised to learn takes its name, as does the wider area, from the Stratford Langthorne Abbey. The abbey, one of the richest in England, was closed down by King Henry VIII in 1538, and the buildings were sold off for their stone. The land wasn’t heavily developed until the 1800s though as London expanded and the area became industrialised.

The Abbey was by now little more than a few small walls and a moat, and as factories needed people to work in them, new roads and houses were built, including where this pocket park now stands. The road, once with houses on both sides, now only has a small block of Railway Cottages on the south, and on the north, about half the road has been given over to the pocket park.

OS map 1867

OS map 1893

OS map 1914

The park is relatively new, as it was an urban wasteland until 2008, when two artists, Nina Pope and Karen Guthrie, secured funds to create a community garden — think of it as a very large shared allotment.

A shed at one end, decorated with an old photo, and a cafe (closed) at the other, but between them, running along most of the far wall, are vegetable plots and compost areas. On the back wall, almost covered over now, is the park’s original name, “What will the harvest be?” although it’s now known as Abbey Gardens.

However, sitting by the fence is a deep depression and you can see some bits of old wall in there, and my initial thought was that this was the remains of maybe

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