Abney Park is a historic C18th century parkland located in the Hackney area of East London and preserved in memory of Dr Isaac Watts and Lady Mary Abney. These are the grounds where Isaac Watts wrote a number of his hymns and verses; the site of a novel Quaker girl's school where the first school bus in the world was introduced, and an early Methodist training college. In 1840 most of the historic park was set aside as the first wholly non-denominational garden cemetery in Europe; a largely Congregationalist enterprise. It became a celebrated example of a Victorian 'rural cemetery' modelled on Mount Auburn in America. At this time it also contained a free public arboretum of immense proportions.
Today Abney Park is a local nature reserve and centre for arts and stone masonry training. It also offers a school classroom and associated out-doors activities. Some parts of Abney Park are still, ocassionally, buried in as a courtesy to people who once held family plots from the private cemetery company before it closed in 1978; this is discretionary and requires the permission of Hackney Council.
© Sandra J Smith MBE 2006