Abney Park Cemetery Chapel in dire need of rejuvenation

Abney Park cemetery endangered of being lost forever. Pic: Sophie Sainty

Abney Park cemetery endangered of being lost forever. Pic: Sophie Sainty

Europe’s oldest non-denominational Chapel, in Hackney, has been revealed as one of the most endangered Victorian and Edwardian buildings in England and Wales by The Victorian Society.

The mortuary chapel in Abney Park is currently in ruin, and The Victorian Society is urging the council to work with the local community to ensure the chapel is not lost forever.

The chapel, based on an adaption of early English Gothic architecture, boasts a 120 foot steeple that remains the focal point in one of London’s ‘magnificent seven’ cemeteries. These cemeteries were established in the 19th Century to alleviate overcrowding in local parish burial grounds.

Unfortunately, over the years, the site has been vandalised severely and become overgrown. The chapel’s catacombs’ contents were also lost.

Due to the growing unsafeness of the chapel, Hackney Council boarded it off in 2012. The council have said they will reconsider their plans for the chapel after a re-survey in the near future.

Councillor Jonathan McShane, Hackney Council’s Cabinet Member for Health, Social Care and Culture, said: “The Council wants to protect this much-loved building, and we are continuing to develop proposals to stabilise the condition of the chapel and, subject to funding being secured, we hope to be able to carry this out in the future.”

The Victorian Society believes that Hackney council should consider seeking local help. They said: “The Council should work with the Abney Park Trust to take advantage of the chapel’s position within the heart of an engaged community to save this unique piece of architectural heritage.”

The Victorian Society is the national charity campaigning for the Victorian and Edwardian historic environment. Chris Costelloe, Director of the Victorian Society, said: “Once again the number of nominations from the public has demonstrated that it cares about preserving Victorian and Edwardian buildings. Those we selected for the Top Ten are those in the most urgent need of help now, but they also illustrate the problems faced by many more buildings around the country.”

He added: “Once these buildings are gone they are lost forever. The Victorian Society is asking the public for its help in the battle to save the buildings in the Top Ten. If one of the buildings is local to you, or particularly resonates with you, please consider writing to the relevant local council or paper to demonstrate that the building has public support. You can also help raise awareness by sharing our Top Ten campaign online so that more people are aware of the problems these buildings face.’’

Haggerston Baths, also a Hackney building featured in the Top Ten last year, but the building still remains boarded up and seems no closer to being restored or finding a new use.

McShane said: “The massive cost involved and the huge financial pressure we are under means we have no plans to reopen the pool at present. We are in regular contact with the Haggerston Pool campaign and have provided them with information and advice as and when requested. We will work with them or anyone else who has viable proposals for the building.”

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