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Monday, October 19, 2009

A Stroll Through Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery is located in London, England and is one of the 7 cemeteries that were created in the early to mid 1800’s to ease the overcrowding of churchyard cemeteries. The other members of the “Magnificent Seven” are: Kensal Green Cemetery, West Norwood Cemetery, Abney Park Cemetery, Nunhead Cemetery, Brompton Cemetery, and Tower Hamlets Cemetery. They are private cemeteries that were positioned in a circle around the outskirts of London (at the time).

Highgate is divided into the Western Cemetery (the older part established in 1839) and across Swains Lane is the Eastern Cemetery (the newer part established in 1856). Originally 17 acres made up this cemetery – 15 acres were for those belonging to The Church of England and 2 acres were for the Dissenters. Once the newer cemetery was open, they had to find a way to transport the body from the church on the western side to the cemetery on the eastern side without leaving consecrated ground. This problem was solved by creating a tunnel under the ground in which the coffin was transported from one side to the other.

After the 1930’s Highgate fell into disrepair and eventually ran out of money to operate in 1975. Friends of Highgate Cemetery came together in 1975 and have worked ever since to restore and clean up the cemetery. Tours are required to visit the older portion of the cemetery but the newer portion can be toured freely.

Highgate is a very beautiful cemetery. There are many different architectural styles – from the Egyptian Avenue to Gothic monuments. It became of fashion for Victorian people to “tour” and saunter through the cemetery. After falling into disrepair, plantlife grew and took over - it is still that way today, only more of a controlled overrunning.

There are many famous people buried in Highgate, including: Michael Faraday, George Eliot, Karl Marx, John Singleton Copley and many more.

Highgate Cemetery features prominently in Audrey Niffenegger’s new novel, Her Fearful Symmetry. Keep an eye out this week for my review.

You can virtually visit Highgate by clicking here.

Has anyone been there?

Copyright © 2009-2011 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. How a-propos for this time of year:) The architecture is awesome- and it's rather pretty for a cemetery- oddly enough. Very interesting post:)

  2. I've had the pleasure of taking a walking tour through Highgate Cemetary. It's beautiful, unfortunately the parts I wanted to see, where Rossetti and Lizzie Siddal are buried, are overgrown and haven't been kept up.

  3. I enjoy visiting cemetaries with great architectural elements. It's like they are beautiful parks for the living to enjoy.
    Thanks Heather.
    Here's my teaser

  4. I loved Highgate Cemetary when we visited in 2006. Amazing place! I was particularly impressed by Karl Marx's giant head. :)

  5. I loved Highgate, fascinated by some of the wildness of the cemetery. When I was there, groupies sought out Radclyffe Hall's tomb the way they seek out (though for different reasons I suspect) Jim Morrison's grave at Pere Lachaise in Paris.

    I recall buying a postcard of Michael Faraday in the Highgate gift shop (a cemetery with a gift shop??) because I was struck by how handsome he was.

    I'm so glad I found your post, Arleigh, since 'tis the season to talk about famous cemeteries, I guess. It must be something in the crisp, pre-Halloween air, becuse my history hoydens post today is on Sleepy Hollow cemetery in Concord Mass., where the Alcott, Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne families are buried.

  6. Whoops, I typed too fast, which is what I get for typing before coffee in the morning. Heather -- I meant Heather (not Arleigh!) So sorry!


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