As far as cemeteries go, Highgate is on the must-see list! Highgate opened its gates for business in 1839. At the time it was privately owned and operated by a company called The London Cemetery Company. They purchased the seventeen acres for a sum of £3,500 and off they went. In 1856 they opened an additional twenty acres to accommodate the growing popularity of the fashionable cemetery. This “newer” section is now referred to as the East Cemetery (the West Cemetery being the original seventeen acres).
For various reasons which you can read about here, the cemetery fell into disuse in the 1950s and nature took over. Well, nature and vandals who love a good headstone destruction party. 😦
Thankfully a keen group of enthusiasts formed The Friends of Highgate Cemetery in 1975 with the sole purpose of restoring this beautiful cemetery back to its original glory. Today you can visit both sections for a fee: £4 for the self-guiding walk of East Cemetery and £12 for a guide-only walk through West Cemetery.
Now that I’ve given you a very quick history lesson, let’s get down to business. Highgate Cemetery is number 21 on my journey to 1000.
That’s pretty much all you can say when walking through this cemetery. Brandon and I decided to walk through the East Cemetery only (time/money reasons) and I can assure you it was well worth the £4 each we paid.
I could write lengthy paragraphs describing the beauty of each headstone but I’d rather show you. The first thing you’ll notice upon entering is the sheer size of the headstones and just how crammed together they are. They are quite literally right beside each other. There are some areas where walking between the markers is impossible.
The grounds are rolling with hills making some of the headstones tower over you. The detail in the carvings and elaborate lettering are amazing. Each stone seemed completely unique.
When the cemetery fell into disuse, nature seemed to have had a lot of fun. Several headstones are draped with lush green ivy, bluebells and Queen Anne’s Lace. The Friends of Highgate have done a fantastic job of clearing away some of the foliage so you can view the graves, while maintaining its charm. The graves are picturesque!
Trees have sprung right from the graves, spreading their roots to cradle the headstones. Whether they were intentionally planted or not, they make for an eerie but beautiful sight.
As we meandered along the pathways, snapping photos and soaking up the sounds of chirping birds, we came across two famous inhabitants: Karl Marx and Douglas Adams.
Both had several visitors paying their respects, candles and some flowers alongside their graves. Douglas Adams also had a jar of pens and pencils left by visitors as tribute to an amazing writer. What a cool and unique idea! Sadly, I didn’t think to leave one.
We spent a few hours exploring the East Cemetery before we continued our journey that day. The weather was perfect and I probably could have spent all day there. I know, I say that like every time I visit a cemetery but really, Highgate has quickly become one of my favourites! I’m sure from the photos you’ll understand why. 🙂
Side Note: I wanted to update you on two other cemeteries I’ve since visited, but I think I’ll leave that for another post.