Abney Park Cemetery In London

One of the so-called ‘Magnificent Seven’ Victorian cemeteries in London, Abney Park in Stoke Newington was founded as a non-conformist cemetery from the grounds of the home of the hymn-writer Isaac Watts. It was the first arboretum to be combined with a cemetery in Europe.

Gothic Chapel at Abney Park Cemetery

Gothic Chapel at Abney Park Cemetery

The condition of the cemetery declined throughout the twentieth century and its Gothic chapel, centrally placed in the landscape, fell into disuse. A condition survey of the chapel was carried out in 2012 and has identified its repair needs.

The condition of the cemetery declined throughout the twentieth century and its Gothic chapel, centrally placed in the landscape, fell into disuse. A condition survey of the chapel was carried out in 2012 and has identified its repair needs.

Abney Park Cemetery is one of London’s foremost non-conformist burial grounds. It was opened in 1840, created from the grounds of two 17th century private Stoke Newington houses, Abney House, where Isaac Watts the hymn-writer lived for many years, and Fleetwood House.

More park than cemetery, Abney Park Cemetery began as an experiment in mixing the natural delights of an arboretum with a non-denominational burial ground. Specimen trees with names covering all the letters of the alphabet were planted in an informal layout, mixed with shrubs and flowering bushes. Burials were placed between plantings, with no divisions between members of different faiths.

The design drew inspiration from the recently established Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, looking for ways both to mix a natural setting with design and symbolism that would promote its origins in the non-conformist movement. Its controversial Egyptian Revival gates provoked some disapproval, setting Abney Park’s style as distinctly different and more eclectic than the traditional NeoClassical or Gothic inspiration from which the other park cemeteries of the era were drawn.

A grade II registered landscape, Abney Park Cemetery was laid out to the design of William Hosking who also designed the now ruinous mortuary chapel in the center of the park and the entrance gates and lodges. The plans retained many of the 17th and 18th century garden features including the Great and Little Elm Walks, the Yew Walk and other planting. The cemetery was landscaped and planted by George Loddiges and the result was an arboretum cemetery with over 2,500 varieties.

Gravesite Of The Salvation Army Founders

Gravesite Of The Salvation Army Founders

Notable burials include William and Catherine Booth, founders of The Salvation Army. They are interred in a prominent location close to Church Street and next to their son Bramwell Booth. Also buried here, along with several prominent abolitionists and missionaries, are pioneering fire fighter James Braidwood, credited with forming the first city fire brigade; Edward Calvert, painter; engraver and painter and novelist Isabella Banks; newspaper editor and playwright George Linnaeus Banks; and the African-Jamaican Baptist missionary Rev. Joseph Jackson Fuller, are also buried in the Abney Park Cemetery

The condition of the cemetery declined over the 20th century with apparently insufficient income for maintenance. The London Borough of Hackney acquired it for a nominal sum in 1979 and since 1992 it has been managed as an historic landscape and managed wilderness by the Abney Park Trust.

Abney Park Cemetery has been identified as one of the 10 priority Heritage at Risk cases for the London office.

A full condition survey of the mortuary chapel was carried out in 2012 and it has now been screened off with security fencing. Inspections have been carried out on other built structures including some tombs and John Swain’s is scheduled for repair in the coming year.

In addition, a feasibility and options study for the cemetery park has been commissioned by the London Borough of Hackney and is expected to be completed in 2014.

The park, chapel and two monuments remain at risk and restoration and repair is required.

Details about the efforts to save Abney and what you can do to help can be found at Help Save Abney!

English Heritage, Atlas Obscura

 Here is a captivating photo montage of the Abney Park Cemetery:

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