Abney Gardens, N16

Place Name

Sir Thomas Abney (January 1640 – 6 February 1722) was a merchant and banker, serving as one of the original Directors of the Bank of England, who was Lord Mayor of London. But it was as Lord of the Manor of Stoke Newington in the early 18thCentury that he has a street name here. Abney was was born the youngest son of a Willesley, then in Derbyshire but now in Leicestershire, family. He was the brother of Edward Abney, later MP for Leicester. He was educated at Loughborough Grammar School, where a house is named after him. He began his career as an apprentice to William Thorogood, citizen and fishmonger of London, on February 1, 1658. Within a decade he had taken up the Freedom of the Fishmongers Company and also married Sarah Caryl, who died in 1698. In 1694 he was one of the original Directors of the Bank of England and was elected a Sheriff of London. He was also a president and benefactor of St Thomas’s Hospital. He was elected Lord Mayor of London in 1700 (ahead of his turn in order to keep out the Tory, Charles Duncombe), and was knighted by William III. Abney, “a keen Whig who sat  as a Member of Parliament for the City” was a pious man, and no business or festivity, was allowed to interrupt his religious observances. It was said that “on the day he became Lord Mayor, he withdrew from the Guildhall after supper, read prayers at home, and then returned to his guests”. For 36 years he kept Dr Isaac Watts, the hymn writer whose works included include When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, O God Our Help in Ages Past and the great Christmas carol, Joy to the World, as his patron and friend, at his mansion at Stoke Newington. In 1700, Abney married Mary Gunston, who was surprisingly independent. The following year, after the death of her brother, Thomas Gunston, Lady Mary inherited the Manor of Stoke Newington, then a small farming community. She named Abney Park, their home, after her husband, who was one of the wealthiest men in the world. By Mary’s will she directed that on her death the lease of the estate of Abney Park, together with the rest of her property in Stoke Newington, should be sold, and the proceeds distributed amongst the poor. In 1840 Abney Park became a cemetery for Dissenters, five years later Abney House was torn down. The gates to the house were preserved as a side entrance to the cemetery.

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