Cemetery Chapel to be re-opened..............

Abney Park’s chapel is to be reopened to the public, after being fenced off and left “in a ruinous state” for years, the Abney Park Trust has confirmed.

Damage to Mortuary Chapel increased after “intrusive and inappropriate repairs” were made in the 1980s, with a lack of maintenance carried out since then, a surveyor’s report found.

The grade II-listed church has been fenced off to the public since October 2012. But in January Hackney Council and Historic England submitted a joint planning application to Hackney Council to repair the chapel so it can be reopened.

To reverse the “downward spiral of decay”, surveyors have recommended maintenance work be carried out to fix the damaged roof and loose masonry, as well as structural repairs to make the chapel safe to the public.

A spokesperson for the Abney Park Trust, which maintains the park, said: “We are really pleased with the prospect of the chapel being made safe and the hoarding removed, and it being on the way to becoming a usable space.”

Hackney Council has refused to reveal the budget it has allocated for the repairs.

At risk

The gothic style church was built in 1839 and is the oldest surviving non-denominational chapel in Europe. It functioned purely as a funeral chapel, and is surrounded by 200,000 graves, including those of William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, and Betsi Cadwaladr, known as ‘the forgotten Florence Nightingale’.

But vandalism and fire damage left the historic chapel closed to the public. Historic England listed the chapel as a high priority at risk site in 2013 and in 2014.

A contract is out to tender and repair work will begin once the council has chosen a successful applicant. The work will take a minimum of six months to complete and the park will remain open during this period.

Nick Perry, a spokesperson for the campaign group the Hackney Society, said: “We hope the council engages a contractor with extensive heritage and conservation experience and begin the works as soon as possible.

“If they succeed it bodes well for the future management of the cemetery and long term cooperation with the Abney Park Trust and the community.”

A Historic England spokesperson said: “We are very pleased to be working so closely with Hackney Council to bring the chapel back into good repair and are hoping the first phase of works, including repairs to the roof and spire will start soon.

“We are looking forward to getting this important chapel off the Heritage at Risk Register.”