Volunteers vital to conservation of Abney Park Cemetery


Volunteers are crucial to the restoration and maintenance of Hackney’s most impressive cemetery.

The volunteers, both local people and groups from businesses, help the Abney Park Cemetery management team maintain the unique urban wilderness that the cemetery’s recent history has created.

A committed group of volunteers turn up every Thursday, come rain or shine, for four hours of demanding but vital digging, weeding, planting and landscaping around the park, helping to preserve the site as a woodland, local nature reserve and conservation area.

One man has been coming to the park for decades, and has been volunteering for over ten years. Volunteers come along to socialise, enjoy the outdoors and learn about the varied plant life and how to look after it.

Lifelong Hackney resident Pauline, 69, who has been volunteering for a few weeks following her first visit to the cemetery, said: “Volunteering here is a lovely way to pass the morning, and to keep fit too.”

Large groups of corporate volunteers go to the park for whole-day visits, and have been fundamental to much of the recent improvements, including the laying of new paths to replace mud tracks.

Hackney Council's Group Director for Neighbourhoods and Housing Kim Wright said: “The dedicated work of the volunteers that come to Abney Park week after week is helping to maintain and improve the cemetery. Green spaces with such a variety of trees, plants and wildlife are rare in London. The preservation of Abney Park’s unique atmosphere, biodiversity and history is of the utmost importance.”

The cemetery just off Stoke Newington High Street, at the bottom of Stamford Hill, is one of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries in London. The cemetery was built in the early 1800s, as London’s rapid population growth proved too much for inner city burial grounds, which were literally overflowing. A total of 196,843 burials took place at the cemetery, including that of William and Catherine Booth who founded the Salvation Army. The chapel is non-denominational, and the cemetery was open to all, regardless of religious conviction.

In the 1970s after the cemetery company went into administration, Abney Park fell into disrepair and was abandoned.The work of the volunteers is really helping to improve the historic site.

If you would like to join the volunteers at Abney Park Cemetery come along on Thursday mornings at 10am, call 0207 275 7557 or email info@abneypark.org.