Dorothy Barley (1505 – 1572) took up the post of Abbess of Barking Abbey in 1527. She was to be the abbey’s last, and a few years later was responsible for negotiating the terms of its surrender during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. While they had escaped the first wave of suppressions in 1536 (on account of the abbey’s high income), the nuns were under no illusions about the eventual fate of their house. The well-connected Barley (she was the sister of Henry Barley of Albury and a personal friend of Sir William Petre the young lawyer who was Secretary of State under Henry VIII, Edward VI and Queen Mary I) was able to arrange good terms for the abbey’s inhabitants. Sir William himself received the deeds from the Abbess on November 14, 1539 and personally saw that the nuns were given pensions, graded according to rank and age. Barley herself was awarded one of the largest pensions ever for someone in her position – £133 13s. 4d. Demolition of the abbey began in June 1540. This street was one of the first built by the prolific Victorian/Edwardian developer Archibald Cameron Corbett. It has also been suggested that the name is a reference to the area’s agricultural heritage since it was first recorded as Berdelevestrete in the 15thCentury, the name appeared as Barley Lane, literally a lane running between two barley fields, in 1609.
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