Most people think it strange when I say that Highgate Cemetery is an afternoon out worth doing. After all it is just a graveyard isn't it?!
The cemetery was opened in 1839 and currently has over 150,000 people buried in over 50,000 graves. It is divided into two parts - the older West Cemetery and the newer East cemetery. In its Victorian heyday up to 29 gardeners were employed to keep the grounds neat. However, as it filled up and the money dried up the cemetery became overgrown and in disrepair. In the 1970s the Friends of Highgate Cemetery became involved and as volunteers, preserved the cemetery and opened it for visitors. Their policy is not one of restoration but of preservation and conservation or, as my guide told me, "managed neglect"!
Tours of the Wesy cemetery run during the week at 1.45pm and at weekends on the half-hour from 13-3pm £12.00. It is worth getting there up to 30 minutes in advance at peak times as you can't book at weekend - only mid-week. The ground is uneven and there is a slight incline which should not bother most people, but could be difficult for the elderly. Our guide was a knowledgeable chap who took us around the West cemetery and showed us some of the key graves and told us some interesting stories about some of the 'residents' of the cemetery. I am sure with 50,000 plus graves there are 50,000 stories but we have to be content with a dozen or so. You are not allowed to wander through the West side without a guide.
In the newer east side you may wander as you wish. Admission is £5, and I think they occasionally do tours (I went at the wrong time) and you can take photos. This side has Karl Marx and George Elliot's graves. If you carry on down from Marx's grave and go off the beaten track a bit you will see quite a lot of older graves that are crumbling and buried in the bushes, and you realise exactly how much work the Friends of Highgate Cemetery have done so far, and you no longer begrudge the admission charge.
Both cemeteries contain a range of simple graves to the more opulent and I must say I find a certain Englishness in the simple wonky stones overgrown with ivy, or where the roots of a tree have broken the stones, and probably prefer them to the angels, urns, dogs, lions, cats and armchairs.
I went on a very hot, sunny day and found it very pleasant and tranquil as the grounds were very green and there were plenty of birds singing, the shade of the trees gave a welcome relief from the sun, but it would probably be not such a pleasant place on a wet or cold day.
When me and my mate went to London last weekend we didn't have mega bucks to spend but still did the capital pretty well on a shoe string, the only way we could do it was to forget all the big HUGELY priced attractions and go and look at some of the cheaper sights. We explored London itself instead of looking at stuff like Taussauds and going on the London Eye because if we'd started doing things like that then we'd have run out of money quick.
We drove out to Highgate Cemetery because we THOUGHT it would be free but it turned out it wasn't and we ended up paying to look at just the East Cemetery because the West one is only open if you want to pay £7.00 for a guided tour. To see the East Cemetery cost us £3.00 for me and £2.00 for my mate because she'd got her NUS card in her bag.
It was a nice walk round, I like cemeteries anyway because they're always so peaceful and this one is gorgeous. It's a bit hilly and the ground isn't dead level but that's good because with the trees all round it feels natural and not messed with too much.
The best grave is the one in the photo Dooyoo have got up, Karl Marx. It's not as tall as I thought it would be but it was amazing to see this grave up close because I'd seen it sooooooo many times in pictures. Not everyone in Highgate Cemetery is famous and I found it just as interesting to look at the graves of ordinary people, working out how old they were when they died and just thinking. There are graves in there from the Victorian times but they've all been looked after good and even the proper old ones are mostly still readable.
Other famous people buried in Highgate Cemetery are Douglas Adams and Charles Dickens mum and dad plus loads of others...... the list is tooooooo long!!! I got it from the Highgate Cemetery website because I didn't notice any other particularly famous ones as I was walking round.
For a fiver for 2 of us I think it was well worth a look, we got some wicked photos and it cost a fraction of what it would have to get into some of the major London attractions. I kind of think it should be free with it being a cemetery but wouldn't moan about that cost, it's one of them places though that I won't think about the cost again because now I've been once it's not the sort of place I'd want to go back to.
Recommended.... peaceful and interesting!
May seem like a strange destination for the casual tourist, but what a surprise Highgate cemetery is. A wonderfully preserved victorian cemetery full of great sculptures and well known names. From the wonderful atmosphere in the West side, to the tranqulity of the East. The guides certainly know their stuff, very knowledgeable and entertaining. We had a tour of the West side. It cost us £5, but it was certainly worth it. The guide we had seemed to know so much about the cemetery, from the people there to what various symbols on the stones meant. She took us to many places in the West side but some of the one's we wanted to see (Faraday, Rosetti and Dickens) were apparently along pathways which were quite overgrown. Didn't matter though, the places that we went were spectacular. There was a great atmosphere there, including a stragely misty path, which made it a very eerie place to be. Small wonder then that in the early seventies Hammer Horror used it in some of their films. The East side cost us a further £2 plus £1 for a camera permit (who still has those?). Karl Marx is here, he has a wonderful tombstone which stands high above the rest. Other famous people here include Ralph Richardson, George Eliot and some whose names were not familiar but what they did will be (inventor of the cinema projector anyone?).
In all quite a brilliant day out, if you go make sure you have time to take in both sides. One drawback though is that there are no toilets for visitors or is there anywhere to get a drink. These minor drawbacks though pale into insignificance though when you think of the entire package. All in all a fantasic place.
(Sorry, really couldn't think of a better title.) There are seven large cemeteries in London. All were created in the 1830s (or thereabouts) and were designed to allow interment of bodies in a secure environment, safe from roaming animals, city improvements and grave-robbers. They weren't connected with any of the existing churches, although all had chapels built in them for funeral rites to be performed. They were all built in what were then the outskirts of London, although all have now been absorbed by the ever-growing city. I guess Highgate is the most famous of all of them. Karl Marx is buried there, it generally has a reputation for being pretty spectacular, as cemeteries go, and of course there was that business with the vampire in the 60s. It's one of the ones I hadn't seen before, so when some of my friends decided to go at the weekend I tagged along with them. The best way to get there is to go to Archway tube station on the Northern Line (zone 2, I think), although you'll probably need an A to Z when you get off, as it isn't signposted terribly well. There are other ways too - we went to Gospel Oak on the appalling North London line, which was only 20 minutes walk away. There are bound to be buses, although I don't know their numbers as this isn't a part of London I know that well. There are two halves to the cemetery. The most exciting, the western, is sadly only accessible via a guided tour. This half was damaged by vandals during the 60s and 70s, and has been gradually restored since then. You have to turn up at the gates and wait for the next tour to start. At weekends the tours start every hour or so (from 11a.m. to 4 p.m.) and last for 55 minutes. On weekdays there is apparently only one tour a day, at 2.00. Tour parties only seem to be able to accommodate 12 people at a time, so if there are lots of you going you might want to consider booking a private tour. This half of the cemet
ery isn't open at all in the Winter. The tours are taken by elderly ladies, all volunteers for the Friends of Highgate Cemetery organisation, which owns and maintains the cemetery. These ladies are notoriously rude and intolerant, and so any complaints you may have are probably best off being kept to yourselves. While one is certainly grateful to be able to see the cemetery at all, it might be nicer if the people showing you around it weren't scary old loonies. That said, the old lady who took our tour was very friendly and funny, and clearly enjoyed showing us around and telling us all about what we were seeing. It's all the luck of the draw, I guess. I've heard horror stories about rude tour guides, but then I've also heard horror stories about American goths sneaking off from the tour to photograph themselves draped naked over graves, so you can sort of see their point. I think that as long as you don't wander off or (very important this) mention the vampire at any cost, you'll be absolutely fine. The actual cemetery itself is amazing. There are some really very impressive mausoleums and memorials, all splendidly Victorian. The western cemetery is very overgrown, and many of the tombs have been badly damaged by trees, but that adds to its appeal. Somehow the statues of angels or whatever look a lot more interesting when they're partly obscured by ivy - there's probably a crushingly obvious metaphor for something in there, but I can't figure out what right now. Sadly quite a lot of damage has been done by vandals over the years, so some of the tombs aren't nearly as impressive as they once were. Some have been restored, but I don't think there's enough money to do all of them. The centrepiece is an immense mausoleum in Ancient Egyptian style, although I was more taken with various stone animals draped over a few of the tombs - aah, those sentimental old Victorians, eh? This tour costs £
3, and it costs an extra £1 if you want to take a camera in (they also ask for donations at the end, although these are not compulsory). As this is still a working cemetery, they do insist that you behave in a respectful fashion. Eating, drinking and smoking are not permitted, neither are dogs or mobile phones. If you have bare shoulders you'll need to cover them up. (If you're a goth, I'd suggest dressing in a way that won't arouse the suspicions of the old ladies - they'll almost certainly tell you to clear off if they don't like the look of you.) Children under the age of eight aren't allowed at all. The Eastern cemetery is just across the road from the western. It's visually less exciting, but it is where the famous bodies are buried. (The western cemetery does have Radclyffe Hall, but I think it might be pushing it a bit to call her famous these days.) It costs £2 to enter, and is open all year round from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can buy a map showing the sites of the famous graves for 50p. This is far more of a typical cemetery, and is still used extensively - we saw several people leaving flowers at recent graves, so obviously you should behave yourself while there. This cemetery was for non-conformists, so the variety of nationalities on display is pretty varied. You can find George Eliot easily enough, who has a traditional Victorian obelisk type grave, and Sir Ralph Richardson is there somewhere too. The main attraction, though, is Karl Marx (who has a lot of foreign communists buried near him). His monument is an enormous block of stone topped with a huge replica of his head. Quite apart from it not really epitomising socialism, what with it being bigger and better than everyone else, it really is rather silly. You kind of expect the head to spout communist slogans, or perhaps to project fearsome death rays from its eyes. It's marvellous. (We overheard the best conversation ever while strolling near Marx
- two guys wandered past, one saying to the other "He was blind, like Homer, but he could calculate the motions of the planets forwards and backwards." For the rest of my life I'm going to wonder who he was talking about.) It's a good place for wildlife - unusually green and overgrown for London. We saw two foxes running around, plus a couple of cats that looked quite wild. (60s pop sensation Joe Meek allegedly encountered a cat in Highgate Cemetery that spoke in human tongue - the cats we saw showed no evidence of possessing such powers, sadly. Although it must be said that Joe Meek was crazier than a sack full of weasels, and shortly afterwards shot both his landlady and himself.) So all in all not a bad place to visit. It would perhaps be nice if more tours were run, and if the tour guides were a little less idiosyncratic. It would be even better if you were allowed to simply wander as you pleased in the western cemetery. But such things would obviously knock the price up a fair bit, and for a total of £5 for both halves you can't go wrong, really. It's also very close to Hampstead Heath, so you could go for a picnic afterwards if you fancied it. Probably the best of the London cemeteries that I've seen. I was supposed to write my CV this afternoon. Instead I wrote this. Oh well.
I live just a few yards from the Cemetery where Karl Marx is buried and what a spooky place it is . During the day if you go and visit all the graves in the Cemetery you will get a very spooky feeling but pass by it at night and a whole new type of fear will rush through your body. When i take the dog out in the evenings the best place to take him is down the hill past the cemetery but there are no houses and very few cars pass at night and if you do happen to look to your left you see straight in to the graves and it can be really terrifying when you see the great big angle figures on the graves and broken and un-cared for graves that are in the thickets just by your side. Highgate cemetery is indeed a very good place to visit for those with a slight liking for morbidity but if you really want to scare yourself try walking it's perimiters at night a very spooky yet excilirating experience. P.S If you have one take the dog just a little comfort.
A tour of this stunning, spooky, atmospherically overgrown hillside cemetery is a must for anyone looking to discover off-the-beaten-track London. Victorian funereal extravagance at its most extreme and extraordinary can be witnessed in ever increasing intensity as you climb the hill towards the promenade at the top end (where once the fashionable walked, contemplating their own mortality). The guides certainly know their stuff, but manage to convey the attitude that taking tourists around is a necessary evil, and there's no time at all for lingering or asking any but the most cursory questions. The West Cemetery (the best part) is only accessible by guided tour (£3). The less spectacular East Cemetery (where Marx is buried) can be wandered round on your own (£1).
I remember back in the 60s during summer holidays, my parents taking me to Highgate Cemetery. Most children would probably cringe at such an outing. But for me, it meant that the summer had arrived and with it came those long days, intermingled, with play and an essence of growing up. Highgate cemetery in the mid to late 60s, before The Friends of Highgate took over, was the wildest, chaotic, crumbling, weirdest, beautiful, twisted, memory etched in stone, of a Victorian Era. It stands on a hill with an imperialistic view over North London and the cemetery then, like its more permanent occupants, was in a state of decay. Hammer films used Highgate cemetery for most of their films, remember Hammer House of Horror, well it was all filmed here. One thing I remember most about Highgate cemetery, as a child, was how threatening it felt, as I walked around the broken headstones, it felt like the ancient briars and ivy had a life of their own and were waiting to consume everything around them, just like the British had wanted to colonize the world. Like the decline of the British Empire, so too did the strangling weeds have to be controlled, this happened 1975. The the friends of Highgate took over and cleaned up the place. It looks so different now. Can be found at the back of Waterlow Park, Highgate N6. Cost £4 for adults