Large Victorian cemetery
in Swain's Lane, Highgate
, north London
. Now largely closed and protected by a Friends group, it contains many ornate vaults including an Egyptian
circle. Famous stiffs include Michael Faraday
, Karl Marx
, George Eliot
, Sir Ralph Richardson
, Radclyffe Hall
, and Jacob Bronowski
It was founded in 1839, when London's traditional burial places in churchyards were full, and the authorities established a ring of large cemeteries around London. The eastern and western halves are divided by the street, Swain's Lane, and the guides tell you some odd story about... I can't remember exactly, something like you're not allowed to disinter corpses from consecrated ground, that sort of thing... so there's a tunnel under the lane so that services could take place in the chapel on one side, then be carted over to the other, without ceasing to be inside consecrated ground. It's been a while since I did the tour.
The cemetery is now a charity, and a place of outstanding historic architectural interest. The eastern half is open all the time for a £2 fee at the gate (cameras £1 extra). This contains the hideous, gigantic, monstrous bust of Karl Marx (a modern addition, 1950s IIRC), and opposite him are many graves of freedom fighters from the Third World who died in exile in London, and other such with heroic credentials.
The main walks in this area are pleasant; here you will find the discreet slab to Sir Ralph Richardson. There are a lot of Victorian family tombs near the front, and little regions filled with Poles, Chinese, or Italians. Away from the gate the paths get narrower, and all the stone angels have been allowed to be covered in ivy, which is the great charm and characteristic image of Highgate cemetery. Here is the grave of Opal Whiteley, self-styled princess (see her node for details).
The western part is open only by guided tour, and contains the enormous gallery circuit in vaguely faux-Egyptian style. This bit contains Radclyffe Hall and the founders of the English National Opera (Carl Rosa) and Cruft's dog show and Foyle's bookshop and Chubb locks. Eliot's and Faraday's graves are unfortunately in areas too dangerous for access now. Jacob Bronowski's is a very plain small slab.
If you're visiting it make sure to have a wander through the exquisitely beautiful Waterlow Park right next door.
The official website is at
and our very own gnarl's photographs are at