Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery East (2010)
Established 1839
Location Highgate, London
Country England
Coordinates 51°34′01″N 0°08′49″W / 51.567°N 0.147°W / 51.567; -0.147
Owned by Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust
Size 15 hectares (37 acres)
Number of graves 53,000+
Number of interments 170,000
Website highgate-cemetery.org
Find a Grave East, West
Unknown grave, Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery is a place of burial in north London, England. It is designated Grade I on the Historic England Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England.[1] It is divided into two parts, named the East and West cemetery. There are approximately 170,000 people buried in around 53,000 graves at Highgate Cemetery.[2] Highgate Cemetery is notable both for some of the people buried there as well as for its de facto status as a nature reserve.


The cemetery is located on both sides of Swain's Lane in Highgate, N6, next to Waterlow Park. The main gate is located just north of Oakshott Avenue. There is another disused gate on Chester Road. The cemetery is in the London Boroughs of Camden, Haringey and Islington. The nearest transport link is Archway tube station.

History and setting

The cemetery in its original form – the northwestern wooded area – opened in 1839, as part of a plan to provide seven large, modern cemeteries, now known as the "Magnificent Seven", around the outside of central London. The inner-city cemeteries, mostly the graveyards attached to individual churches, had long been unable to cope with the number of burials and were seen as a hazard to health and an undignified way to treat the dead. The initial design was by architect and entrepreneur Stephen Geary.

On Monday 20 May 1839, Highgate Cemetery was dedicated to St. James[3] by the Right Reverend Charles Blomfield, Lord Bishop of London. Fifteen acres were consecrated for the use of the Church of England, and two acres set aside for Dissenters. Rights of burial were sold for either limited period or in perpetuity. The first burial was Elizabeth Jackson of Little Windmill Street, Soho, on 26 May.

Highgate, like the others of the Magnificent Seven, soon became a fashionable place for burials and was much admired and visited. The Victorian attitude to death and its presentation led to the creation of a wealth of Gothic tombs and buildings. It occupies a spectacular south-facing hillside site slightly downhill from the top of the hill of Highgate itself, next to Waterlow Park. In 1854 the area to the east of the original area across Swains Lane was bought to form the eastern part of the cemetery. This part is still used today for burials, as is the western part. Most of the open unforested area in the new addition still has fairly few graves on it.

Circle of Lebanon, West Cemetery

The cemetery's grounds are full of trees, shrubbery and wildflowers, most of which have been planted and grown without human influence. The grounds are a haven for birds and small animals such as foxes. The Egyptian Avenue and the Circle of Lebanon (topped by a huge Cedar of Lebanon) feature tombs, vaults and winding paths dug into hillsides. For its protection, the oldest section, which holds an impressive collection of Victorian mausoleums and gravestones, plus elaborately carved tombs, allows admission only in tour groups. The eastern section, which contains a mix of Victorian and modern statuary, can be toured unescorted.

The tomb of Karl Marx, the Egyptian Avenue and the Columbarium are Grade I listed buildings.

Because of the Karl Marx association a variety of Socialist leaders and thinkers are buried within the cemetery grounds.

Highgate Cemetery was featured in the popular media from the 1960s to the late 1980s for its so-called occult past, particularly as being the alleged site of the "Highgate Vampire".

Friends of Highgate Cemetery

The Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust was set up in 1975 and acquired the freehold of both East and West Cemeteries by 1981, since when they have had responsibility for the maintenance of the location. In 1984 they published Highgate Cemetery: Victorian Valhalla by John Gay.[4]


Karl Marx grave, East Cemetery
Entrance to the Egyptian Avenue, West Cemetery

The most famous burial in the East cemetery is arguably that of Karl Marx, whose tomb was the site of attempted bombings on 2 September 1965[5] and in 1970[6]

There are many other prominent figures, Victorian and otherwise, buried at Highgate Cemetery. Most of the historically notable figures lie in the eastern part. Tours of the most famous graves are available but, due to vandalism and souvenir hunters, visitors are no longer allowed to explore unaccompanied, unless they have a personal connection with the cemetery and hold a pass to their deceased relative's grave.

Notable gravesites

East Cemetery

Grave of William Friese-Greene by Lutyens, East Cemetery

West Cemetery

War graves

The cemetery contains the graves of 316 Commonwealth service personnel maintained and registered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, in both the East and West Cemeteries, 257 from the First World War and 59 from the Second. Those whose graves could not be marked by headstones are listed on a Screen Wall memorial erected near the Cross of Sacrifice in the older (western) cemetery.[9]


As of 1 March 2013, a new pricing structure was implemented at Highgate Cemetery. The West Cemetery is accessible by guided tour only, the cost of which has increased to £12 per adult and £6 per child. However, this now includes access to the East Cemetery and a map. The tour lasts for approximately one hour.

The cost per adult to access the East Cemetery (self-guiding) is now £4.00 and also includes a map. The cost of a guided tour of the East Cemetery is now £8 per adult and £4 per child.

Booking for a weekday tour (13h45) is essential and can be done via the Cemetery's website. However, weekend tours do not need to be booked online in advance and tickets can be purchased in person on the day for tours later that same day. These start at 11h00 and the last tour during summer hours departs at 16h00.

There are now no longer concessions for students, a decision taken in line with the policy of the National Trust.


  1. "Highgate Cemetery". Highgate Cemetery. Retrieved 24 April 2010.
  2. "Frequently Asked Questions". Highgate Cemetery. Highgate Cemetery. Archived from the original on 16 February 2013. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  3. "History". Highgate Cemetery. Highgate Cemetery. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  4. A Brief History of Highgate Cemetery
  5. News, Google.
  6. "Tomb raiders' failed attack on Marx grave", Camden New Journal, UK.
  7. GRO Register of Deaths: JUN qtr 1861 1a 174 St Geo Han Sq – Henry Gray
    • "DServe Archive Persons Show". .royalsociety.org. Retrieved 18 March 2013.
    • "Cemetery Details: Highgate Cemetery". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
    • Niffenegger, Audrey (3 October 2009). "Audrey Niffenegger on Highgate Cemetery". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 October 2009.
    • http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0064171/
    Wikimedia Commons has media related to Highgate Cemetery.
    This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/14/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.