Barnes Cray is named for the Barne family, who owned land here in the mid-18th century.
Up until the Victorian era it was a hamlet a kilometre downstream of Crayford where no more than sixteen homes were clustered. A calico-printing works drew water power from the culverted River Wansunt in early Victorian times, being later adapted for the manufacture of rubber goods, then felt and finally Brussels carpets. This carpet mill was demolished by 1890 and Barnes Cray House, the next largest building, was cleared by 1933, ending its days as a nursing home.
The remnants of the settlement became absorbed into Crayford with the building of a garden village to facilitate the expansion of Vickers’ armaments factory during the 1915 to 1919 period. Six hundred cottages were built in a variety of styles.
In 1920 the area became part of the Crayford Urban District of Kent (having previously been in Dartford Rural District).
Following World War I, Crayford Urban District Council erected further housing estates to the north, eventually merging with estates spreading southwards from Erith. In 1965, under the London Government Act 1963, the urban district was abolished and its area transferred to Greater London to form part of the present-day London Borough of Bexley.
The Geoffrey Whitworth Theatre is in Barnes Cray.