In the vibrant area of Stoke Newington in North London lies a haven of peace and historical intrigue: Abney Park Cemetery. More than just a resting place for the departed, Abney Park is a tapestry woven from nature and architectural marvels and forms part of London’s so-called Magnificent Seven garden cemeteries.
Abney Park Cemetery
Abney Park Cemetery was the third of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries we visited. It isn’t as striking as Brompton Cemetery or Highgate Cemetery. It doesn’t have the grandeur, but it has its own feel and a certain charm, making it worth visiting.
Interestingly, it was busier than the other two or certainly felt that way. Maybe that’s because it feels as much like a woodland as it does a cemetery, where people go for a walk or to exercise their dogs. There’s probably a good reason for this, too. It was initially laid out as an arboretum with around 2,500 varieties of plants and trees, with collections of oaks, thorns, and pine set around the perimeter.
Or maybe it’s because it’s in Stoke Newington, which is full of vibrant indie shops, chic cafes, hip global eateries, pubs and trendy bars, which attract visitors from far and wide.
Abney Park Cemetery feels more forgotten than some of the other cemeteries because it’s heavily overgrown. Work is ongoing to restore it, but part of the charm of the cemetery is that nature has claimed the land back, and the trees have started to grow into a thick canopy, creating an atmosphere unlike the other Magnificent Seven.
If you’re wondering what the other Magnificent Seven cemeteries are, they are:
- Brompton (read our guide to visiting Brompton Cemetery)
- Highgate (read our guide to visiting Highgate Cemetery)
- Kensal Green (read our guide to visiting Kensal Green Cemetery)
- Tower Hamlets (read our guide to visiting Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park)
- West Norwood
A Brief History
In 1840, Abney Park Cemetery became a non-denominational garden cemetery and burial ground for nonconformists, known as Dissenters. They were people who practised their religion outside the established church. The cemetery was open to all, regardless of their religious conviction and had a non-denominational chapel at its heart.
Abney Park Cemetery is named after Sir Thomas Abney because of his historical connection to the area through land ownership and contributions to the city.
He was an important figure in London who served as the Lord Mayor from 1700 to 1701 and owned significant properties in the early 18th century, including Stoke Newington Manor and Abney House. The cemetery was established on land belonging to Abney House and Fleetwood House.
The cemetery was designed to provide a peaceful and beautiful resting place for the deceased, and it was quickly filled with ornate graves and memorials, of which you can still see plenty of today. Many of them are overgrown, partially damaged or have subsided, and you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the set of Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video.
The cemetery was closed in the 1970s when the owners went into administration. From there, nature claimed the cemetery, creating a wild landscape, much of which remains today to create a rather unique environment and atmosphere.
In the 1980s, the London Borough of Hackney took over ownership of the site and started to manage it in partnership with the Abney Park Trust, a small volunteer-run charity. The dedicated efforts of the Abney Park Trust breathed new life into the cemetery to create a vibrant green space and Local Nature Reserve teeming with diverse flora and fauna.
The restoration includes work on the chapel, which lies in the very heart of the cemetery, which was damaged by fire and vandalism. Interestingly, the chapel is the oldest surviving non-denominational chapel in Europe.
Between 1840 and 2000, a staggering 196,843 burials had taken place there – quite a figure for a 32-acre site.
Abney Park Cemetery Famous Graves
Abney Park can’t compete with Highgate Cemetery for famous graves, but it has a few standout names among the 200,000 people laid to rest on the site.
Abney Park’s grounds hold the final resting places of a diverse and fascinating array of individuals, and below are a few we picked out:
- William Booth – the founder and first general of the Salvation Army.
- Betsi Cadwaladr – ‘the forgotten Florence Nightingale’, who, aged over 60, trained to become a nurse in the Crimea War. She worked alongside Florence Nightingale, and it’s claimed they clashed. However, Nightingale credited Betsi for her work on the front line in Balaclava.
- William Smith – a pioneering geologist who created and published the first detailed, nationwide geological map of Great Britain in 1815.
- Joanna Vassa – daughter of the former slave and anti-slavery campaigner Olaudah Equiano, the man who was Britain’s first Black activist.
- Isaac Watts – hymn writer and poet.
Abney Park Cemetery Events
Abney Park holds several events, including chapel tours, nature walks, history walks, storytelling, craft events and even a Remembrance event. Check out their events page for the latest information and to see what’s on.
If you’re interested in walking tours, the cemetery has a series of self-guided walking tours. You’ll find them on their website on the self-guided walking tours page.
The cemetery has two entrances: one on the east side and one on the south side.
On Google Maps Terrain view, the cemetery has a simple layout, where you can walk a figure of eight to get around it.
When you arrive and start to explore, you’ll realise it’s far more complex than it appears, with paths breaking off all over the place. It’s quite the adventure making sure you’ve covered all the ground and found everything.
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Abney Park Cemetery Photos
Search Quieries & FAQs
Is Abney Park Cemetery worth visiting?
Yes, the cemetery is worth visiting. It’s an interesting place to visit, and it’s located in the vibrant area of Stoke Newington, where you’ll find plenty of cafes and shops to visit, too.
How to get to Abney Park Cemetery
The Stoke Newington station serves the cemetery on the Overground network. Bus numbers 73, 393 and 476 stop near the south entrance on Stoke Newington Church Street. Buses 67, 76, 106, 149, 243, 276, 393 and 476 stop near the east entrance on Stoke Newington High Street.
The address above provides a link to Google Maps to help you navigate your way to the cemetery.
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