I visited Highgate cemeery while on a walk in Highgate a few days after I got to London in March. I had done this walk numerous time but hadn't stopped to visit. In 1990 I walked through with some friends mainly to see the grave of Karl Marx. On this visit I took my time and purchased a leaflet with all the famous people who were buried there.
Highgate is one of the "magnificent seven" of the London cemeteries which include Nunhead Cemetery, Brompton Cemetery, Kensal Green cemetery (all of which I've been to..blog post coming up on the last two in the next few months), Abney Park cemetery, West Norwood cemetery and Tower Hamlets cemetery. For hundreds of years bodies were buried in parish cemeteries. However in the first fifty years of the 19th century London's population exploded from one million to over two million. Overcrowded church yards resulted in fluids from rotting bodies going into the water supply (I know..ewwww...) which caused epedemics. Bodies were being buried on top of one another - rats were getting into graves and defiling the bodies. Rain would cause bodies to be exposed and children playing with actual human bones was not an uncommon sight. Obviously, something had to be done. The burial act of 1852 required that new cemeteries be built. At the time all of these cemeteries were not in London itself but in nearby parishes. Of course there are many more cemeteries in London but these seven built at around the same time were dubbed the "Magnificent Seven" in the early 80's.
Some people have the view that cemeteries are creepy and scary but to me it's all about history. You won't see me prowling modern cemeteries...boring! I like to see all the beautiful monuments and find out a bit about the people who are buried there.
Highgate cemetery has two sides - East and West. The East side you pay a fee and can wander around on your own. The West side is supposed to be even more amazing but you need to go on an organized tour. I had one booked in May however it was a very rainy miserable day and I did not fancy walking in the rain on slick paths with my wonky knee. I will try again next time!
The people buried here range from the very famous to people just like you and me; some graves are old and others are new. So let's get walking...
Anna Mahler: Austrian sculptor and daughter of composer Gustav Mahler
Corin Redgrave: part of the famous Redgrave family - brother to Vanessa
Jim Horn - avid reader but not a partner in the firm. For those who don't know Penguin books is a famous UK publisher. I love this tombstone!
As you can see stones have shifted.
Douglas Adams: author of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy among others. Love the pens and pencils!
No one famous but isn't it gorgeous...someone was very much loved.
And we come to Karl Marx's grave..d 1883.
This was the original grave of Karl Marx but he and his family were moved into the tomb pictured above in the mid 1950's.
Okay that's different..
Spring was late coming to London!
How cool is this? Naturally it is the grave of a pianist...Henry Thornton who died in the flu pandemic of 1918.
Obviously paid the trumpet. I love this one.
The actor Sir Ralph Richardson and his family
And last but not least..Bruce Reynolds who was the mastermind behind the Great Train Robbery of 1963. Yep all kinds are buried in East Highgate Cemetery. Well worth a visit!