Gothic Hackney ruin linked to black magic rumours declared one of England’s most endangered buildings

The chapel in Abney Park Cemetery

The chapel in Abney Park Cemetery - Credit: Archant

A picturesque gothic ruin, whose catacombs were scattered leading to black magic rumours, has been added to a list of the country’s 10 most endangered Victorian and Edwardian buildings.

The chapel in Abney Park Cemetery

The chapel in Abney Park Cemetery - Credit: Archant

Following a national appeal for nominations, the Grade II-listed chapel in Stoke Newington’s Abney Park Cemetery has been added to The Victorian Society’s annual Top 10 list.

It is Europe’s oldest surviving non-denominational chapel and the only surviving public building by architect William Hosking, who was commissioned to design it in 1839 by the Abney Park Cemetery Company.

The idea at the time was for it to form part of a landscaped park cemetery, boasting an arboretum and educational institute, open for the burial of anyone regardless of belief or denomination.

Joe O’Donnell, spokesman for The Victorian Society conservation charity, said the group felt the chapel, whose roof is leaking, could be lost if action was not taken soon.

The chapel in Abney Park Cemetery

The chapel in Abney Park Cemetery - Credit: Archant

He said: “Time has not been kind. Over the years the site became overgrown and the chapel suffered severe vandalism – even the chapel’s catacombs’ contents were scattered leading to rumours of black magic.

“Although now a picturesque ruin, without immediate action this building could be lost forever.

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“It is impressive but the best thing when I first saw it was that there was a Goth couple having a picnic outside it.”

Following the vandalism, ownership passed to Hackney Council and the park is now managed by the Abney Park Trust.

The Victorian Society is calling on them both to work together with the community to save the unique piece of architectural heritage.

The chapel, which boasts a 120 foot steeple, was boarded off for safety reasons by the council two years ago.

Jonathan McShane, Hackney Council’s cabinet member for health, social care and culture, said: “The council also 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.”

No plans to restore another Hackney building, the Haggerston Baths – which have been closed and boarded up since 2000 – have been announced since it was listed on the charity’s Top 10 list last year.

Other buildings in this year’s Top 10 include a Grade II*-listed church in Hastings facing demolition, the huge Tonedale Mill complex in Somerset and Sheffield’s Crimean war memorial which has been hidden in council storage for over a decade.