Past Activities

Summer Open Day 2016

img7The FoHCT Open Day was held on Saturday June 7th 2016 and was a great success. The photograph shows a teddy bear whizzing down the wire from the tower roof to the lamp post at the end of the Garden of Remembrance – ‘teddy abseiling’ has become a very popular attraction for the children. The photograph is rather misleading in one respect, as there are very few people in the photograph despite the 2016 Open Day being one of the best attended we have ever held. Each tour group of the tower was at full capacity and towards the end of the day people had to be turned away as all the remaining tours were fully booked. Publicity for the FoHCT Open Day is greatly helped by it now being part of the Crouch End Festival, which is billed as the UK’s largest community arts festival. The annual Pets’ Blessing Service was again held during the Open Day and the day’s activities raised a total of £512 towards the upkeep of the Tower and Churchyard.

Islands cafe Churchyard Launch 2016
The Islands cafe opened on the 20th August 2015 and is situated at 104 High Street, just next to the cycle path entrance to the churchyard off Hornsey High Street. Theo and Panos who run the Islands cafe have been very supportive towards the FoHCT and are appreciative of the efforts made by the Friends and volunteers to keep the Churchyard and Garden of Remembrance well maintained. With the enthusiastic support of the Church and to mark the first anniversary of the cafe, Theo and Panos have expanded their seating capacity by setting up chairs and tables in the Garden of Remembrance so that they can serve their excellent drinks and hot and cold food ‘al fresco’ as well as in the cafe. This development got off to a wonderful start at the launch during the Summer Bank Holiday on Saturday 27th August 2016 and was a regular feature throughout the summer when the weather allowed.

Hornsey Music Festival 2016
img3The FoHCT were delighted that the organisers of this year’s Hornsey Music Festival, which took place on the first three days of July, chose to hold the launch of the Festival in the Garden of Remembrance. Thanks to all the hard work put in by the FoHCT gardeners, it provided a very beautiful setting for the five events held here on the third day. These were the ‘Leonora Davies Choir’, ‘Hornsey Dance’, ‘Kids on a Mountain’, ‘Ekim Hatter’, ‘Haringey Young Musicians’, and ‘Taize at the Tower’. All events here and at the other three Festival venues were free and collections were made to support Haringey Young Musicians and the charity ‘All People All Places’, which supports the homeless and those at risk of becoming so.


Haringey Young Musicians performing in the Hornsey Church Tower Garden of Remembrance as part of the Hornsey Music Festival in 2015.

Churchyard Tombs
img7To follow a lecture given to the Hornsey Historical Society on significant tombs in the churchyard, Bridget Cherry, a FoHCT founder member and our greatly missed long-time secretary, took a group on an informative tour of the churchyard in October 2013. Together with the Hornsey Historical Society we had carried out a Tombs and Monuments Survey. This was completed in 2012. To accomplish this survey, many tombs had to be uncovered. It was salutary to find on this tour how many had in such a short time been recovered in vegetation and, in some instances, even earth. The survey revealed a considerable loss of legibility of many inscriptions since a survey carried out in 1987. Our survey lists those tombs in need of urgent repair. These surveys will be available to view in full on our new website soon to be launched.

Green Community Flag Award 2016 – 2017
img1Thanks to the continuous hard work of the Friends, volunteers and staff of the Council Parks Department, Hornsey Churchyard has retained its Green Community Flag status for the seventh year running, since the first award in 2010. It is hoped that the new flagpole will be erected in time to display the flag for the Tower Open Day on Saturday June 3rd 2017. Prior to the transformation of the Churchyard by the Friends, we have often been told by visitors that they felt uncomfortable and rather unsafe when quickly passing through. Now they stay to sit, picnic or linger to enjoy the beauty of the new planting in the Garden of Remembrance. The Green Flag award recognises this achievement.

New Bench
img2With a Haringey Parks and Open Spaces Small Grants Award the Friends have been able to provide a third bench for the churchyard. This is located on the central path leading off the High Street.

Crouch End Festival – June 2015

img2Thanks to the initiative of the newly formed ‘Intimate Space’ project, the Tower Chapel was the setting for an excellent performance to celebrate the work of WB Yeats on the 150th anniversary of his birth. The performance took place in the evening of June 13th and was entitled ‘Into the Mystic: the Extraordinary Life and Poetry of WB Yeats’ written by Chris Howe for Black Tooth Productions. The event was performed by two professional, very accomplished actors, Oengus Macnamara and Nora Connolly, who read a number of Yeats’s best-known poems including The Lake Isle of Innisfree, The Wild Swans at Coole and Sailing to Byzantium. The actors also gave a full and humorous account of the poet’s life and his relations with James Joyce, Ezra Pound, George Bernard Shaw and his great love, Maud Gonne. The actors were supported by two musicians Sally Davies and Martina Schwarz (Bow and Bellows), who played a selection of Irish songs during the evening, including My Lagan Love, Courting in the Kitchen and Down by the Salley Gardens, a well-known setting of a Yeats poem.

Ivy-Mantled Tower Book Launch 2015

An impressive event was held on 4 November 2015 at St Mary with St George Parish Church to launch the publication of Bridget Cherry’s book ‘Ivy-Mantled Tower, A History of the Church and Churchyard of St Mary Hornsey, Middlesex’.  Bridget notes in her introduction ‘the book is not a history of the parish: the focus is on the church and churchyard’. The book gives a fascinating account of the three churches which have come and gone, from the medieval church with its bell tower (which still stands) to an 1833 church, followed by the late Victorian building which was demolished in 1969, leaving the only part remaining from the start – the medieval tower, with its 1833 addition. Lavish illustrations of all three churches through the ages make it a delight to read. For those of you who haven’t yet managed to acquire a copy, it is on sale at the Hornsey Historical Society headquarters, The Old Schoolhouse at the corner of Rokesly Avenue and Tottenham Lane, N8. The pictures below show the front cover of the new book and Fr Bruce cutting the celebratory cake together with the author Bridget Cherry and the mayor of Haringey Councillor Jennifer Mann (Ward Councillor for Hornsey).


Pet Service

img13Following the success of the first Pets’ Service held on the 2013 Open Day, the Pets’ Blessing has become an integral part of the Open Day’s activities. Fr. Bruce Batstone led the fourth annual Pet Service Blessing at the 2016 Open Day held on Saturday June 12th 2016 for a wide range of domestic and exotic animals, including his dog Peggy, who made her own forceful contribution to the great amusement of the congregation.

Christmas Carol Service

img9In previous years we have experienced cold and wind. For 2013 it was rain! However, the Chapel was just large enough to accommodate the many who gathered at the Tower to take part in the annual Carol Service. It has become a tradition that this is followed by mulled wine accompanied by mince pies. The tradition was amply maintained.

St Mary’s Tower: The Long View
The first meeting was organized by the Hornsey PCC and took place on Saturday 15th October at The Great Northern Railway Tavern.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the long term future and viability of the Tower as the PCC are concerned for the integrity of the building and the financial burden this might place on the parish following the recent electrical survey of the Tower and the defects identified.

The meeting was chaired by the Archdeacon of Hampstead, The Venerable John Hawkins and a number of interested groups were represented and provided input. These included the Church, FOHCT, Hornsey Historical Society (HHS), Intimate Space, Hornsey Choral Society and the MP for Hornsey & Wood Green, Catherine West.

The consensus from the meeting was that the Church are keen to promote a future for the Tower that does not involve any financial costs to the parish (i.e. self-financing) but that the building should act both as a ‘beacon’ for local parishioners and have a practical purpose.

FoHCT and Intimate Space indicated that the Tower was basically structurally sound and had a promising future as a performing space for new and emerging artists as has been demonstrated over the past 18 months.

The HHS felt that the loss of the Tower would be unacceptable and that the Church as an organization had an obligation to lead fund raising efforts as they have ‘leverage’ with the government and agencies that provide funds for the maintenance of historic buildings and cathedrals. In summing up, the Archdeacon of Hampstead, The Venerable John Hawkins agreed that closing the Tower was not an option but that the way forward was problematic due to the limited size of the Tower as a venue and its lack of modern facilities.

Having held this first meeting it was unanimously agreed by all attending the meeting that a second meeting should be held in the New Year on the 14th January 2017 to further discuss options – the venue and time would be confirmed at a later date.

Another wonderful concert

img1On 7 July 2012, we were privileged to be given a chamber concert by Byrdsong a musical group born out of the London Chorus. The group of twelve sang an unaccompanied, diverse programme of songs including a selection of early music, the Baroque and Classical periods, the Romantic era and finally through to the 19th and 20th centuries. To reflect the jubilee year, folk songs from all parts of the British Isles were included and the group were very complementary about the Tower’s acoustics. David Winskill, who reviewed the concert for the Hampstead & Highgate Express, wrote “The acoustic of this ancient building is superb and it was possible to believe that we were hearing music as it would have been performed over 400 years ago.” Very generously, the members of Byrdsong donated all the proceeds from the evening to the upkeep of the Tower.

The Olympic Torch

On 25 July 2012 the Olympic Torch passed the churchyard, taken by Pam Moffatt along the High Street on its way to Alexandra Palace for the flame to stay overnight.

The church organized live music and free refreshments in the churchyard, which were enjoyed by a large number of those who gathered to see the flame go past.
Green Community Flag 2012 – 2013

img3For the a third year running, the churchyard has been was awarded a Green Community Flag, the national award for public and community parks and green spaces. The Friends noted the judge’s comments made last year in the previous year and made sure that recommendations were acted upon. Important developments that helped achieve the award were the near completion of replanting the Garden of Remembrance and the installation of a the third park bench.

Fr. Geoffrey Seabrook’s Tree
img12A mountain ash (sorbus acuparia Rossica Major) has been planted in the churchyard close to the entrance to St. Mary’s Infant School to commemorate Fr. Geoffrey Seabrook, the late Rector of Hornsey and, as incumbent, previous owner of the Tower. It was felt that this is an appropriate location for the tree as Fr. Geoffrey had a close relationship with the school. A commemorative plaque has been installed beneath the tree in his memory. This tree accompanies the wild cherry planted in 2010 in memory of Dr. Joan Schwitzer, a founder member of both the FoHCT and of the Hornsey Historical Society, and a magnolia stellata planted in 2012 in the circular bed in the centre of the Garden of Remembrance in memory of Alan Fox, another founder and long term key active member of FoHCT.
Lighting in the Churchyard
img6Very unexpectedly the Council adopted a proposal for improving the external lighting in the churchyard that FoHCT made in March 2010, plus installing flood lighting for the Tower. This was made possible because they still had some of the remaining fund for local improvements which the developer of the housing on the waterworks site was obliged to provide. Inappropriate lighting fittings have been replaced with ones of appropriate historic design. The location of the flood lighting was tested by experimenting with mobile fittings, to see which elevations should be illuminated. We have been informed that the remnants of original fittings will be restored and stored by the Council for re-use elsewhere.
The Bell Ringing Chamber
img4As a start to restoring the Bell Ringing Chamber, a new timber ceiling has been installed by the Friends. Timber planks, reclaimed from the nearby old Assembly Rooms, have been laid above the massive beams spanning this room so that these remain on view. A new trap door sits at the centre, to replace one originally there. This new ceiling doubles up as a floor to a void beneath the floor of the clock chamber above. This space can be utilised for storage. The next stage will be the replacement of rotten and missing timber wall lining. When this is done the whole room can be repainted. New light fittings have been acquired for hanging when rewiring has been carried out.


The Hornsey Church Tower Committee was formed by members of the Hornsey Conservation Areas Committee in 1988 following considerable encouragement to do so by the Hornsey Historical Society because of a concern that the building was very evidently in extremely poor shape and in need of urgent remedial works. This group became a registered charity called the Friends of Hornsey Church Tower, which held its first meeting in Hornsey Historical Society’s headquarters, the Old Schoolhouse on May 15 1989.


In November 1989 we received an English Heritage grant of £10,000 which was the maximum possible amount under the Buildings at Risk scheme. Further sums were obtained from Haringey Council; Heritage of London Trust and from fundraising by FoHCT and the parent church, St Mary with St George, in Cranley Gardens. This allowed us to employ a builder to get into the crypt, clear out 20 years of pigeons dead and alive and their debris and replace the roof from which all the lead waterproofing had been stripped.

The bricked-up Crypt doorway

1_Crypt door bricked up in c.1970s

Debris in the Crypt

2_Debris revealed following opening up crypt door in 1989

3_Blocked doors to the vestry in 1988

In 1988 the doors to the vestry were also found blocked up and the grant aid allowed us to gain entrance. The doors found under the timber and corrugated iron have subsequently been restored and now serve the chapel that has been formed from the old vestry. 4_Lifting up merlons in 1991 which had fallen off roof

5_Leaking roof in 1989The theft of the lead covering resulted in the rotting of the roof timbers. A mobile crane was hired in 1990 to remove the old main roof beam and lift in lift a new beam to support the new roof.

The dangerous state the building had come to in 1989 was illustrated by the stones fallen from the building. Two of the stones from the roof parapet are being recovered.

The old beam

6_Old main roof beam coming out

The new beam

7_New main roof beam going in


A major part of the 1990 work was to entirely replace the main roof timbers, including the installation of the new main beam.

8_New Roof Structure in

The Friends, using voluntary labour only, covered the roof with paving slabs and installed a new metal guard rail around the roof in time for our first Open Day on 20 May 1990. All materials were hauled up from the ground in an open wicker basket.


In 2001 the FoHCT had the blockwork filling the west window removed and the window reglazed at a cost of nearly £3000 borne entirely from our own funds.

The window prior to being unblocked seen shortly after we first entered the tower in 1990.

10_Blocked west window

The window following reglazing and later works to transform the vestry into a working chapel carried out with additional funding from St Mary with St George.

11_ Reglazed west window



12_Badly decayed stonework awaiting repair in 2002A substantial Heritage Lottery Grant augmented by money for the benefit of the community from the developers of the nearby new housing on the waterworks site, plus a very generous sum from an anonymous donor, enabled considerable further repair works to be carried out in 2005. Badly decayed stonework was replaced in accordance with best conservation practice.

13_ West clock face repair

The figures of the prominent west clock face were regilded and the hands replaced.


15_GardeningThroughout the period from 1990 the FoHCT have continued to carry out voluntary work on the tower, churchyard and Garden of Remembrance.

Volunteers are working on external stonework repairs using conservation materials under the supervision of Lachlan McDonald, our Membership Secretary, who is a structural engineer with considerable experience of ancient buildings.

Gardening has been a regular activity since 1990. In conjunction with Haringey Council many improvement have been made to the churchyard.

A problem we are continually having to contend with is the dumping of rubbish in the churchyard. Over the years the Friends have taken a considerable amount to the nearby recycling plant, and have also arranged for it to be taken by the Council.

Another continual nuisance is litter dropped by thoughtless people. The Friends have carried out voluntary litter picking and are seeking to have this dealt with by the Council.

The Garden of Remembrance on the site of the demolished section of the church had by 2007 become full of over-large dense and woody shrubs.

With grant assistance from Haringey and voluntary work by the Friends, the Garden of Remembrance has been transformed with new planting. The plants have now become well established, but the work of tending and adding to them continues with regular Saturday gardening days.

With grant aid from Haringey benches in poor condition and unsuitable location were removed in 2008 and two new benches were installed. These have proved to be very well used. Drinkers who used to use the original benches close to the Infant School have not returned to use these new ones.

Also with grant aid from Haringey in 2011 we installed two information boards and a new lockable notice board in the churchyard. This is the board giving the history of St Mary’s Hornsey being put in place. The other information board describes trees and shrubs in the churchyard.


The Friends have organized a number of exhibitions at various locations, including at the Tower, at St Mary with St George, Hornsey Historical Society’s headquarters and Bruce Castle. These have covered a number of different topics relating to the tower, churchyard and work of the Friends.

Part of and exhibition held at St Mary with St George in 2009 which brought together the history of St Mary’s and its monuments with the small number of interesting memorials and other items which were transferred to St George’s after the demolition of the Victorian church.


For most years since 1994 the Friends have run fund raising tours to visit significant churches and places of interest.

Representative of the significant churches we visit on our Towers and Turrets Tours is St Andrew, in Greensted Essex. This is the oldest wooden church in the world and probably the oldest wooden building in Europe and is the single surviving ‘log church’ in England. The nave walls are constructed of split oak logs set vertically tight together.


Every year since 1991 we have held an Open Day, when visitors can come and explore the tower and churchyard and climb to the roof to see the unexpectedly wide views across and beyond London. In more recent years we have participated in the London-wide Open House weekend in September when we again let visitors into the tower.
Looking north from the roof of the tower you get a wonderful view of Alexandra Palace and Park as well as unobstructed views west to Queen’s Wood, south to the Hog’s Back and Canary Wharf beyond, and east to Epping Forest. The extent of the views is a surprise to first time visitors to the Tower.


As part of an ongoing policy we have run a number of individually planned events in the tower and churchyard both to raise money and also to generate and maintain interest in both. These include a series of Green Art days and concerts.

Using material found in the churchyard we have held a number of Green Art days at different times of the year. We have had participants of all ages who have creatively used natural material they have selected to make green art.

We have found that the ground floor chapel is an excellent venue for small concerts. The room has good acoustics and we can accommodate up to thirty people, depending on the number of performers and how much space they need. The standard of musicianship has been set very high by those who have performed so far. Following a concert given by the very talented young Evropska string quartet a very successful recital was given by the vocal ensemble Byrdsong of madrigals, folk songs and sacred music. This was their second visit to the Tower.


Together with the Hornsey Historical Society, the Friends have carried out a survey project of both the surviving tombs and monuments in the churchyard and tower, and of those to be found elsewhere that had once been there. This has been made possible through a grant from English Heritage. A requirement by EH was that we made an assessment of a new survey form, to be launched nationally by EH, for the purpose of making systematic and comprehensive tomb and monument surveys. Results of this survey are on the Tombs page.

In order to check the tombs a great deal of clearance and uncovering was needed, which tied in well with the gardening maintenance work regularly carried out by the Friends. Work on all parts of the churchyard is always required to keep growth of ‘thugs’ such as brambles in check, in conjunction with the Council, who deal with the trees and larger growth and grass cutting.