When Hassan Ibrahim found a beautiful old book in the builder’s rubble at Abney Public Hall, TimeLine history detectives helped him discover what it was. A long time ago, just next door to where restaurant is now at 71 Stoke Newington Church Street, there was a church. Its name was Abney Chapel, or Congregational Church.
This was the third place the church had been in since it started in 1662. In 1831 a man called John Jefferson became the Pastor. He was very proud of his job. Just like all the Pastors who had been in charge of the church since it started, he kept a really careful note of what was happening there in a sort of diary. He wrote about the services, and about everything that happened in the community every week. He only stopped when he retired. When he had filled one book up, he would start another one. People worshipped at Abney Chapel for about three hundred years, but there came a time when it was no longer used for services. During World War 2 it had been damaged when a bomb had exploded just outside. The church closed, and eventually in 1999 it was pulled down.
John's books were taken to the Hackney Archives department, who look after all the records and documents for Hackney so carefully. All accept one that went missing. In place of the church Townsend Court Flats were built - named after an old pastor of the church. Just behind the church, there had been a hall that had first been used as a Sunday school. Later it was a community hall where kids could go for loads of things like Scouts and Girl Guides. Like the church before, the hall had fallen into ruins. Hassan Ibrahim decided to rebuild the hall and he chose to name it Abney Public Hall.
During the building work, Hassan was amazed by some of the things the builders found. There were bibles left over from the church and gas marks left over from the war. They found one thing which Hassan could not work out. It was like a little lead parcel fixed on a doorpost. He took another look at it. I could see there was some writing inside but it was not in English. I thought maybe it was a prayer. Hassan was not sure what he should do with it, so he told the builders to put it in a special place in a wall where it could not come to any harm. One day, when the building was almost finished, Hassan spotted something incredible in a huge pile of rubble. He ran forward and grabbed it just before it went into the dustbin. As he wiped away the dust, he saw it was a book bound in leather. He read the words written in golden letters on the cover Abney Chapel Church Book Commencing January 1860. Inside there was page after page of perfectly neat handwriting. Hassan had found the missing book!