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You are in: London > History > Cemeteries > Abney Park Cemetery

Abney Park Cemetery

Abney Park Cemetery

Abney Park Cemetery

The roar of traffic is a distant memory when you chance upon the white marble lion in Hackney's woodland haven, Abney Park.

The roar of traffic is a distant memory when you chance upon the white marble lion in Hackney's woodland haven, Abney Park.

Dedicated to Frank C Bostock, this monument is one of many revelations in this eerie Victorian cemetery.

At its zenith, the cemetery eclipsed the Royal Park at Kew, with 2,500 different species. The effect was to make Abney Park a tourist attraction from the outset.

Abney Park was unusual at the time in that it was expressly a place for non-conformists (persons who rejected the ceremonial and liturgy of the Church of England, instead worshipping in Methodist, Baptist, Congregationalists, Wesleyan and other chapels; the Quakers and Salvationists are similar groups).

Many lived in the area. As one of only two key places for the burial of non-conformists in the capital, the cemetery offers a fascinating insight into the history of London's dissenting families.

Gravestones with shrubs growing around them.

Abney Park Cemetery

Architectural historians have sometimes been dismissive towards Abney Park for it has just one mausoleum. However, the park's relative sobriety is a reflection of its uniquely puritan tradition.

In its quiet demeanour, it still boasts dozens of well-proportioned monuments.

Dissenters

The cemetery extends over 32 acres on a slope running down from an ancient ridgeway track, now Stoke Newington Church Street, to the course of Hackey Brook.

The site was for 150 years occupied by the grounds of two large 17th century houses, Fleetwood House and Abney House, both long demolished.

The ornamental ironwork, along an Egyptian theme, over the Church Street entrance came from the entrance to Abney House, named after Lady Mary Abney, who retired here in the early 1700s with her daughters and their tutor and chaplain, Dr Issac Watts.

He was a well-known dissenter, who lived in the area for many years and was famous as a composer of hymns and sermons.

The heiroglyphs over the lodges read, 'The Gates of the Abode of the Mortal Part of Man'. They have recently been complemented by a formal courtyard fronting on to the High Street and a cobbled carriageway leading to a novel sundial set in a circle of paving.

Also found in Abney Park, are wonderful Celtic crosses, austere Welsh Slate memorials to members of the London Welsh community, and a vast statue to Isaac Watts.

Gothic Chapel including tower.

Chapel at Abney Park Cemetery

There is also War Memorial commemorating local people who fell on active service in two World Wars. A smaller Civilian War-Memorial was raised in memory of local people who died as a result of enemy air bombardment during World War II.

It particularly commemorated 20 people killed by the bombing of flats in nearby Coronation Avenue. Another small monument includes a marble police helmet, and recalls the heroism of a local policeman killed whilst on duty in Tottenham.

Volunteering

The cemetery's chapel, in a fine gothic style, was part of the original installation of Abney Park. The imposing spire retains much of its original cladding, but today the chapel is a sad shell, home to a population of pigeons and used as a setting for horror films.

The cemetery was abandoned by the Abney Park Cemetery Company over 25 years ago, and was bought by The London Borough of Hackney.

The fortunate result of neglect was to allow the cemetery to develop into an 'urban forest'; the unfortunate result was a considerable amount of unchecked vandalism plus damage from fallen trees.

Volunteering opportunities are plentiful at Abney Park. There is tree aftercare (watering and weeding); footpath improvement (using reclaimed wood to create and repair); meadow management (cutting, weeding and planting of meadow plants).

last updated: 09/04/2008 at 13:06
created: 10/05/2005

You are in: London > History > Cemeteries > Abney Park Cemetery

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