Stoke Newington High Street Entrance
Go through the gates and go past the office and head down towards the cemetery.
When you are at the junction of the paths - take the path on the right and walk along until you reach a bench - immediately facing the bench on the opposite side of the path is a marble angel with wings - this is the memorial to Dan Crawley.
Carry on down the path and you will reach the cemetery chapel, designed by William Hoskings in a Gothic style - the chapel was the first non-denominational funerary chapel to be built. It has a single entrance and a single interior space for the sole purpose of holding funeral services.
Turn left at the chapel and head towards the War Memorial. On your right you will see a memorial to William Jennings (Harry Hunter)
Walk past the War Memorial and the statue to Isaac Watts keeping on the path until you reach the boundary path. Here turn left and continue until you see a carved face of a girl with the name Agnes on your left. Opposite is a gap in the memorials and a small path that will lead you to the white marble memorial of George Richard Howell (Fred Albert)
Return to the main path and turn right, keeping on the boundary path until you reach the circle junction and take a sharp left up a small pathway. About 25 meters up this path you will see a small clearing and the memorial of George Walter Davis (Walter Laburnham)
Go back the way you came and at the end of the path turn left. Carry on until you reach a bench and an interpretation panel, showing the connections Abney Park Cemetery has with Music Hall. Just beyond this is a gap in the memorials and you will see the rear of a red granite obelisk. Stand by the obelisk and turn around to see a white marble headstone - both to Herbert Edward Storey (Herbert Campbell)
Get back onto the main path and turn right, keep walking for about 50 meters until you reach a gap in the headstones with a kerbed step. Head towards the rear of a large white marble memorial - Nelly Power.
Keep Nelly Power’s memorial to your left and see a memorial to Edmund Payne and then two graves to the right - George Leybourne, Albert Chevalier and Florence Leybourne.
Return to the main path, turn left and head back towards the main gate to finish the tour.
ABNEY PARK CEMETERY
Abney Park Cemetery - Memorial Trail
With its location in the fashionable area of Hackney, Abney Park Cemetery, became, almost by default, the last resting place of some of the greatest stars of the Music Hall stage from the 1870’s onwards.
Although non-conformist in character, there is no evidence to suggest that those artistes buried here shared had any particular religious leanings and in fact it is perhaps a statement of how death is the great equaliser We see this most clearly as buried alongside our array of star performers is General Booth - the founder of the Salvation Army, who for much of the nineteenth century was the scourge of the Music Hall industry with his vociferous campaign against the sale of alcohol - which alongside the attraction of the performers was, for many, a major part of an evening at the Music Hall.
Theatre Critic, W R Titterton, in his 1912 book “From Theatre to Music Hall” describes an evening at a nineteenth century Music Hall - Gatti’s in The Strand. From personal experience he reminisces “How we chorused! Three times over at the least - five times with our special fancies. The orchestra commonly struck at number four, and number five was shouted unaccompanied. Then we clapped our hands off with cries of “Well done us!” and the pretty ogling maiden or dilapidated comic man resumed the interminable story. What was the performance life I do not well remember. Through the mist of tobacco smoke, and the swirl of the beer and the band I seem to see and hear a girl very like the one at my side, but got up regardless, and a fellow very like me, masque in the loot of a second hand clothes store, celebrating joyously the extravagant happenings of our everyday life. I seem to hear many things that would be quite shocking uttered in cold blood, but are quite proper to this glowing temperature. There is a whirl of flounces and petticoats and a liberal display of buxom ankles……..and then another chorus that goes with a rip and all the lights in the hall start dancing.
That, ladies and gentlemen, was a Music Hall”
This cemetery, which was founded in 1840, is one of the “Magnificent Seven” - Highgate, Nunhead, Kensal Green, West Norwood, Brompton and Tower Hamlets. Each have their characteristics and are worth a visit, but Abney Park Cemetery is unique among this septet as it was founded without an act of Parliament and on a non-denominational basis. There is no consecrated ground here as the dissenting founders wanted to create an elysian paradise without the imposition of Christian denominational boundaries where the brethren could rest in peace.
By the 1880’s the cemetery had been sold to a commercial company and by the time the right of burial had ceased in 1978, there were well over 200,000 burials packed into this 32 acre site. After a period of closure an local campaign prompted the local authority, Hackney, to establish a Trust, which managed the site since the early 1990’s, with management only recently reverting back to the Council in 2015.
The site has suffered over the years from neglect and vandalism and much damage has been caused to the many memorials through a lack of tree management, we hope that now the Council will take its responsibilities seriously. So on the tour, do take care and wear sensible footwear.