Not one of the oldest churches in and around Hornsey - not one of the biggest - not one of the prettiest ... but there is a charm about Hornsey Moravian Church, don't you think?
The building dates back to 1908, and according to Pevsner it is 'distinguished by an attractive octagonal corner turret with a spire'. And this is certainly the stand-out aspect of the architecture.
The Moravians are one of the oldest Protestant churches, dating back to the fifteenth century, and perhaps best known for their symbol of the Lamb of God.
They are also one of the smaller churches with perhaps a million members worldwide, mainly in Africa, the Caribbean and Central America.
There are around 20,000 Moravians in Europe - and a thousand or more are in the UK in about thirty congregations (including the Chelsea church and burial ground which I have blogged about before).
The Hornsey church seems to house the headquarters of the church in Britain. The Hornsey Moravians have a good website, and have posted online a comprehensive history of their church, from which this photograph of its opening in 1908 is taken:
The Moravian Messenger reported the plans for the construction of the church as follows:
'Various sites in North London suburbs were examined by the Committee, and it was decided to recommend a plot of ground on Priory Road, Hornsey, at the foot of Muswell Hill. ... The district is a new one, few of the houses in it being more than ten years old. While to all intents and purposes the site is on the main road, it is separated from it by a public garden which runs along the Priory Road to Hornsey. This ensures a certain amount of privacy, and will also prevent the noise of the electric cars causing annoyance during services. ... Ours will be the first Free Church in the field. Trams to various parts pass the site, and several G.N.R. Stations are within a short distance. The people belong almost entirely to the middle class and the wish, so often expressed, that efforts be made to reach the middle classes, will have a chance of fulfilment.'
I feel an affinity with the Moravians because I am part of the 0.01% of the population - actually, that's probably on the high side - that went to a Moravian primary school ... at Fulneck outside Pudsey in West Yorkshire. A beautiful spot with wonderful eighteenth century architecture. My parents weren't Moravians (indeed they were, if anything, lapsed Baptists) - but they preferred me going to fee-paying Fulneck rather than the village primary.
So although I'm a non-believer, I'm pleased there is a flourishing Moravian church just down the road.
This is, believe it or not, just off King's Road in Chelsea. A hidden acre of green space. 'God's Acre', as the Moravians - a Protestant church with its roots in central Europe - describe their burial grounds.
It's also the site of one of a handful of Moravian churches in London. If you haven't been here - and I hadn't until this week - then here's where you go...
The congregation dates back to 1742. It worshipped at Fetter Lane near Fleet Street, and still carries that name. According to its website, the congregation was established by Moravians who had come to London with the intention of moving on to the Caribbean to take the gospel to slave communities there. The Chelsea burial ground was set up nine years later.
During the Second World War, the church suffered severe bomb damage and the congregation dispersed. In the 1960s, they reassembled and began to worship in one of the buildings at their burial ground. They gather here still.
The burials are marked by small, uniform stone tablets in the ground, evenly spaced - quite an impressive statement of social equality and human brotherhood. More remarkably, the burial ground is in four quarters, reserved respectively for married women, single women, married men and single men. So no husbands and wives in neighbouring plots.
There have been 400 hundred interments in this particular God's Acre. As the graves were dug deep, the cemetery escaped the initial ban on burials in Central London and they continued here until 1868. The grounds are still in use for the interment and scattering of ashes.
I have a particular interest in the Moravian church - I went to a Moravian primary school at Fulneck outside Leeds, a community established at almost exactly the same time as the Chelsea burial ground. My parents weren't Moravians and the school certainly didn't proselytise. In my four years there, I don't think I ever set foot inside Fulneck's Moravian chapel, which I now rather regret.
Its main claim to fame back in the day was that the cricketer Sir Leonard Hutton and the actor Diana Rigg had attended the school.
I came across another Moravian church many years later in the most unlikely of places - at Leh in Ladakh, a Tibetan-infused corner of the Indian Himalayas. But that's another story!
In a corner of the burial ground off King's Road, not in the cemetery proper but on it's margins, there's this remarkable grave -
The plaque reads: 'NUNAK AN ESKIMO BOY 1770-1788'
Curious? I certainly am. We'll find out more in Curious Chelsea - a new addition to the Curious stable, with new authors too. Watch this space for more details!
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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