Abney Park is one of Hackney's finest green spaces and is listed as a Grade II park on Historic England's register of parks and gardens of historic interest. As one of the "Magnificent 7" cemeteries in London, it's the resting place of around 200,000 people in 60,000 graves ranging from elaborate monuments to path-side common grave markers. No longer a working cemetery, Abney Park is run as a park and is a site of metropolitan importance for biodiversity. It's one of London's most central woodlands and an important site for deadwood invertebrates and fungi.
The site was formed in 1840 from the estates of Fleetwood House and Abney House. Abney House had been the home of renowned non-conformist and hymn writer Isaac Watts, which led to Abney Park becoming the foremost burial ground for Dissenters - people who practised their religion outside the established church. It was founded on these principles, with a non-denominational chapel, and was open to all, regardless of their religion.
The cemetery was designated a local nature reserve in 1993 due to its value for people and wildlife. It's also a metropolitan site of importance for nature conservation, meaning that it's one of the most important nature sites in London. It's home to an impressive collection of trees, as it was originally laid out around 1840 as an arboretum - a labelled tree collection.
The cemetery dates back to 1840 and there are a large number of memorials, some of which are very old and need to be inspected to make sure they're safe. As the grave stones and memorials are inspected, some may need to be cordoned off or possibly laid flat. If you visit the cemetery please stay on the paths and observe the safety notices. Families of the deceased whose graves are affected will be informed where possible.
The Council has received £21,400 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a new project led by volunteers from the local community to research, map and learn about the people buried when the park operated as a commercial cemetery from 1840 to the late 1970s.
Collating all existing knowledge and filling in the gaps due to missing or illegible from a period when the site fell into disrepair, Abney Unearthed will tell the story of the park and how it reflects the changes that have taken place in Hackney and East London since the cemetery opened in 1840. This two year project will mean we finally know exactly who is buried in Abney and where their graves are.
The Abney Wildflower Project
Tesco Bags of Help are providing up to £5,000 from for a new project to purchase seeds, bulbs, tools and training for volunteers to create areas of wildflower in Abney Park. They'll learn the ancient techniques of wildflower and meadow management, from preparing the ground to sowing the seed. They'll create between two and eight wildflower meadows on site, each featuring different species of flowers and grasses depending on location.
The wildflower meadows will add to the existing biodiversity, complement the graves and allow access to memorials that were previously hidden or overgrown, and introduce new habitats and native species to the site.
Vote for our wildflower project in your local branch of Tesco - the project with the most votes will receive £5k, the second; £2k and the third; £1k. You can vote throughout December.
If you'd like to volunteer as part of either project, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There's an abundance of wildlife in Abney Park Cemetery. A local amateur naturalist has produced some drawings of the birds and butterflies that are present there:
- butterflies [pdf, 1.48Mb]
- birds [pdf, 736.72Kb]
- wildlife [pdf, 201.79Kb]
- trees [pdf, 201.18Kb]
- veteran trees [pdf, 449.59Kb]
Abney Park Trust
The park was previously managed by Abney Park Trust, a charitable trust who leased the park from the Council between 1992 and 2015. They're still closely involved in an educational and community capacity, and receive a Council grant to run activities at the site including workshops for both adults and children, guided walks and practical volunteering. For more information on events and activities see Abney Park Trust.
It's now owned and managed by the Council. We've recruited a park manager and are developing proposals for a programme of investment that includes repairs to the chapel and a bid for Heritage Lottery Funding.
Barbecues are not allowed in Abney Park. If you'd like to hold a barbecue, there's a dedicated area in London Fields.
Abney Park is a unique and atmospheric place and has provided a backdrop for films, music videos and other media. If you'd like to film in Abney Park please contact our film office.
Abney Park newsletter
- July 2017 [pdf, 741.74Kb]
- June 2017 [pdf, 740.57Kb]
- May 2017 [pdf, 1.52Mb]
- April 2017 [pdf, 15.45Mb]
- February 2017 [pdf, 548.41Kb]
- January 2017 [pdf, 332.33Kb]
- December 2016 [pdf, 324.33Kb]
- November 2016 [pdf, 348.87Kb]
- October 2016 [pdf, 315.79Kb]
- September 2016 [pdf, 374.24Kb]
Hackney parks newsletter
Keep up to date with what's happening in Hackney parks.