Little and Lessnes
Little and Lesnes is a hundred in northern Kent, forming the northernmost part of the Lathe of Sutton at Hone, and indeed the whole county south of the Thames. The hundred has existed since ancient times, before the Domesday Book of 1086.
The name of the hundred has been recorded differently over the centuries, and was also linked with names of localities within it. In the Domesday Book of 1086 through the mid-13th century it was called the Hundred of Litelai, which became Litlelee, then in 1347 it was recorded as the Hundred of Litley. By around 1400 it started being referred to as the Hundred of Little and Lesnes. The spelling Lessness is also used at least from the early 19th century, and in some records, the word "Little" was not used in the name and the hundred was referred to by the shorter name Hundred of Lessness. In the 1831 census, Lessness was recorded as being the preferred name, but Little and Lessness was still recorded as an accepted alternative name. The hundred also shares its name with the hamlet of Lessness, Lessness Park, Lessness Heath, and Lesnes Abbey, which in turn gave its name to Lesnes Abbey Woods and Abbey Wood.
The hundred borders three other hundreds of the Sutton-at-Hone Lathe: Blackheath Hundred to the west and south-west; the Hundred of Ruxley to the south; and to the east and south-east, the Hundred of Dartford and Wilmington. The northern boundary of Little and Lesnes is formed by the River Thames, across which lies Essex. Little and Lesnes has borders with the Essex hundreds of Becontree to the north and north-west; Chafford to the north-east; and also with the Royal Liberty of Havering in Essex to the north-east. Watling Street forms much of the southern boundary between Little and Lesnes and the Hundred of Ruxley. To the east the River Cray and the River Darent form some of the eastern boundary between Little and Lesnes and the Hundred of Dartford and Wilmington.
Parishes and places
The Hundred of Little and Lesnes comprises four ancient parishes: Plumstead in the west, Erith in the centre, Crayford in the east and East Wickham which was by far the smallest parish in the hundred in the south. Before the 19th century the parish of Wickham was sometimes recorded as having a chapel that was annexed to the parish and church of Plumtead, and not fully its own parish. East Wickham, although having some powers before, became an official parish in its own right, completely separate from Plumstead parish in 1854.
History and records
The hundred was established in ancient times, like most Kent hundreds it already existed when the Domesday Book was compiled in 1086. The hundred was recorded in the Domesday Book as the Hundred of Litlelee, the largest settlement in the hundred at this time was Lessness. In 1086 the Domesday Book recorded 153 households being present in 4 populated places, 68 households in Lessness, 43 in Plumstead, 34 in Crayford and 8 in Howbury.
In the 1831 census, the area of Little and Lesnes Hundred was recorded as 10,410 acres. In that same census a population of 6,699 was recorded, of which 3,256 were female, 3,443 were male and 1,657 were males over 20. The population in 1831 was recorded as belonging to 1,432 families living in 1,165 houses of which 473 families were involved in agriculture, and 491 families were involved in trade, manufacture, or handicraft.
- Location map: 51°29’10"N, 0°6’40"E
- An Historical Atlas of Kent, edited by Terence Lawrence & David Killingray (2004) ISBN 1-86077-255-2 - Maps front cover and back cover inlay
- Litlelai (not Litlelee in the records of the Domeday Book) accessed from OpenDomesday.org
- Edward Hasted, 'The hundred of Little and Lesnes: Introduction', in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 2 (Canterbury, 1797), Hundred of Little and Lesnes entry p. 184. accessed from British History Online Lists parishes, and Litelai previous name
- Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72) John Marius Wilson accessed from VisionofBritain.org
- F. Youngs, Local Administrative Units: Southern England (London: Royal Historical Society, 1979), p. 633. accessed from www.visionofbritain.org
- A Dictionary of London Place Names (2001), by A.D. Mills p. 147 "Lessness Heath" ISBN 978-0-19-956678-5
- A Dictionary of London Place Names (2001), by A.D. Mills p. 2 "Abbey Wood" ISBN 978-0-19-956678-5
- An accurate map of the county of Essex, divided into its hundreds by Emanuel Bowen, published by John Bowles 1764, accessed from 
- Map of the Hundred of Little and Lesnes and the Hundred of Dartford and Wilmington by Edward Hasted published, by W Bristow Canterbury (1778 and 1797) included in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent (1778–99) (Hasted) accessed from 
- Plumstead Parish entry in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent (1778–99) pp.203-227 by Edward Hasted published, by W Bristow, Canterbury (1778-1797) accessed from British History Online
- East Wickham Parish entry in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent (1778–99) pp.184-203 by Edward Hasted published, by W Bristow, Canterbury (1778-1797) accessed from British History Online
- 1831 census of Great Britain, listing statistics and population breakdown of the hundreds of Kent accessed from Visionofbritain.org.uk
- 1831 census of Great Britain listing 1'657 males over 20 in Lessness Hundred. accessed from www.visionofbritain.org.uk
- 1831 census of Great Britain listing statistics on numbers of families and houses in Kent hundreds accessed from www.visionofbritain.org.uk