Highgate Cemetery

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Highgate Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery East.JPG
Highgate (East) Cemetery (c. 2010)
Coordinates51°34′01″N 0°08′49″W / 51.567°N 0.147°W / 51.567; -0.147Coordinates: 51°34′01″N 0°08′49″W / 51.567°N 0.147°W / 51.567; -0.147
Owned byFriends of Highgate Cemetery Trust
Size15 hectares (37 acres)
No. of graves53,000+
No. of interments170,000
Find a GraveEast, West
On the top of the grave lies a sleeping angel on a bed of clouds. ‘In Ever Loving Memory of Mary, the darling wife of Arthur Nichols and fondly loved mother of their only son Harold who fell asleep 7th May 1909. Also of Dennis Arthur Charles son of Harold and Winifred who died 28th April 1916 aged 15 months.’
Mary Nichols and The Sleeping Angel, Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery is a place of burial in north London, England. There are approximately 170,000 people buried in around 53,000 graves across the West Cemetery and the East Cemetery at Highgate Cemetery.[1] 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 designated Grade I on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.[2][3] It is one of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries in London.


The cemetery comprises two sites on either side of Swains Lane in Highgate, N6, next to Waterlow Park. The main gate is located on Swains Lane 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 Transport for London C11 bus Brookfield Park stop or Archway tube station.

History and setting[edit]

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 (West) Cemetery was dedicated to St. James[4] by the Right Reverend Charles James 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. Both the cemeteries are still used today for burials, but these areas are closed to the public. Most of the open unforested area in the East Cemetery still has fairly few graves on it.

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.

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[edit]

The Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust was set up in 1975 and acquired the freehold of both East and West Cemeteries by 1981, since then they have had responsibility for the maintenance of the location. In 1984 they published Highgate Cemetery: Victorian Valhalla by John Gay.[5]

East Cemetery[edit]

Tomb of Karl Marx, East Cemetery

Many famous or prominent people are buried in Highgate cemetery; the most famous burial is arguably that of Karl Marx, whose tomb was the site of attempted bombings on 2 September 1965[6] and in 1970.[7] The tomb of Karl Marx is a Grade I listed building for reasons of historical importance.

Notable East Cemetery interments[edit]

Grave of William Friese-Greene by Lutyens, East Cemetery

Fireman’s corner[edit]

A monument erected in the East Cemetery by widows and orphans of members of the London Fire Brigade in 1934. There are 97 firemen buried here. The monument is cared for by the Brigade's Welfare Section.

West Cemetery[edit]

Entrance to the Egyptian Avenue, West Cemetery
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 (previously topped by a huge, 280 years old Cedar of Lebanon, which had to be cut down and replaced in August 2019) feature tombs, vaults and winding paths dug into hillsides. The Egyptian Avenue and the Columbarium are Grade I listed buildings.

Notable West Cemetery interments[edit]

Other notable interments (location unknown)[edit]

War graves[edit]

The cemetery contains the graves of 318 Commonwealth service personnel maintained and registered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, in both the East and West Cemeteries, 259 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 west cemetery.[12]


The cemetery is maintained by the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust. They charge an entry fee to cover expenses for the tours and the maintenance of the property. The cemetery is a private cemetery and not generally open to the public.

The West Cemetery is accessible by ticketed guided tour only (mainly for safety reasons) on Saturday and Sunday afternoons or with prior booking for weekdays. However, the cost of the guided tour includes access to the East Cemetery and a map. The tour lasts for approximately one hour. The East Cemetery is accessible by a ticketed self-guided (entry includes a map) or a guided tour. Full terms can be found on the website. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic the West Cemetery was opened for self-guided tours for the first time in its more than a century old history, as part of a move to increase public accessibility.

In popular culture[edit]



  1. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Highgate Cemetery. Highgate Cemetery. Archived from the original on 16 February 2013. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  2. ^ Historic England, "Highgate Cemetery (1000810)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 21 June 2017
  3. ^ "Highgate Cemetery". Historic England. Retrieved 24 April 2010.
  4. ^ "History". Highgate Cemetery. Highgate Cemetery. Archived from the original on 24 January 2017. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  5. ^ A Brief History of Highgate Cemetery
  6. ^ News
  7. ^ "Tomb raiders' failed attack on Marx grave", Camden New Journal, UK
  8. ^ "Farewell to YPG's Mehmet Aksoy in London". ANF. 11 November 2017.
  9. ^ Davis, Angela (20 June 2019). "Angela Davis praises CPUSA for its history "of militant struggle"". PeoplesWorld.org. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
  10. ^ GRO Register of Deaths: JUN qtr 1861 1a 174 St Geo Han Sq – Henry Gray
  11. ^ "DServe Archive Persons Show". .royalsociety.org. Archived from the original on 15 April 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2013.
  12. ^ "Cemetery Details: Highgate Cemetery". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  13. ^ "The Bullet Machine". 4 June 1970 – via www.imdb.com.
  14. ^ Niffenegger, Audrey (3 October 2009). "Audrey Niffenegger on Highgate Cemetery". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 October 2009.

External links[edit]