The oldest surviving non-denominational chapel in Europe, and Hosking’s only surviving public building, is now a picturesque ruin on the brink of being lost without immediate action
The chapel in Abney Park is both the oldest surviving non-denominational chapel in Europe, and the only surviving public building by the architect William Hosking. Built in an adaption of early English gothic, the Grade II listed chapel’s 120 foot steeple remains the focal point in one of London’s ‘magnificent seven’ cemeteries established in the 19th century to alleviate overcrowding in local parish burial grounds. However, 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. Subsequently, ownership passed to Hackney Council and the park is now managed by the Abney Park Trust.
In 2012 Hackney Council hoarded off the chapel for safety reasons. The Council states it will update its long term strategy for the park following a re-survey of the chapel in the near future. Although now a picturesque ruin, without immediate action this building could be lost forever. The Victorian Society is calling on Hackney Council to work with the Abney Park Trust to take advantage of the chapel’s position within the heart of an engaged community to save this unique piece of architectural heritage.
Another Hackney building featured in 2013’s Top Ten, the Haggerston Baths. Closed and boarded up since 2000 the Baths seem no closer to being restored or finding a new use.
Other London buildings nominated for inclusion in this year’s Top Ten included, the Grade II listed Ladywell Swimming Baths, which have been empty since the Ladywell Gymnastics Club left in 2004, and the Sutton Dwelling Chelsea, among the world’s first social housing, where residents fear re-development.