Sunday, January 12, 2014

Highgate Cemetery

More years ago than I'd like to admit, I took my niece who was about 14 at the time to London.  Her mother, my sister Pam went along also.  In planning that trip I bought a book about what children would enjoy doing and seeing in London and one of the things featured in the book was Highgate Cemetery.  The author of the book said the eeriness of the place was appealing to kids and fed their imaginations.  I'm not sure my niece was so keen on a visit there but, evidently the "kid" in me was all for it.  So, on a drizzly day we went and I loved it and have always wanted to go back and get some proper photos of the place.  My November trip to London gave me that opportunity.

The cemetery opened in 1839 as a privately run company but by 1970 it was no longer profitable and the place fell into the not so kind hands of nature and vandals.  It is now operated by an all volunteer group who take tours on the older side of the cemetery and use the money raised to maintain and restore the place.  
The above and below photos feature a place in the cemetery called Egyptian Avenue.  The people of the Victorian era had a fascination for all things Egyptian fueled by the discoveries of ancient treasures by the explorers of the day.

Egyptian Avenue features family vaults where prominent London families were interred.

On the tour they tell you about some of the people buried there like this fellow, Thomas Sayers.  Sayers was born into poverty but established himself as a prize fighter, a nefarious business.  Even though the fighting was illegal and frowned on by society, Sayers had developed a following.  His last fight went 40 rounds and injured him so badly that he had to retire from the business but,  his admirers raised around 3,000 pounds for him to live on but, he only lived another five years. When he died, over 100,000 mourners attended his funeral. The chief mourner was his beloved mastiff, Lion who is memorialized guarding his tomb.

The cemetery gets it's eerie atmosphere from the overgrown look of the place with tree roots and vines crawling all over the monuments.

Even though this side of the cemetery is only accessible by tour, burials still take place here.  If you have family buried here, you get an ID card that lets you in at anytime to visit the grave.

To the left is one of the recent graves. It's the grave of Alexander Litinenko, the ex-Russian spy who was poisoned by radioactive material just a few years ago.  I bet you remember reading about that incident in the news.

You can visit the newer side of  Highgate Cemetery on your own after paying an entrance fee.  That side of the cemetery is well known to many people because the grave of Karl Marx is there.  I didn't visit that side cemetery on this trip.  I was much more interested in the overgrown and tumble-down side I've pictured here.


Anonymous said...

Your images capture the sense of decay and atmosphere perfectly!

Kate said...

Truly remarkable, and I understand your fascination with it. You've probably been to Pere Lechaise in Paris, too, although it appears to be completely different than this one! said...

Which was more impressive to visit, Highgate Cemetery in London or Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires?

This could be yet another subject about which Argentines and the British could have a disagreement.

Judy said...

I'd say you got the proper pictures that you were aiming for. It is kind of eerie looking with all the vines.

Billy Blue Eyes said...

That is a place on my list to go, I've seen photos before but aways want to visit the place. Have a look at the one I visited last week.

Mersad said...

I would love it so much to take a stroll down all the paths and take a peak!

Mersad Donko Photography

Lowell said...

I can't say enough nice things about this post. It's absolutely wonderful. Your photographs are superb -- so well-exposed and sharp and the commentary is a delight. Thank you so much. If I ever get to London, I shall look up this cemetery!

LOLfromPasa said...

Really informative and super collection of photos put together beautifully!

Thérèse said...

It's looks pretty Victorian! No empire any more :-)
But such interesting pictures and stories.
You are now part of the taphophiles.

Thérèse said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Reed said...

For what it's worth, the "newer" side is also quite overgrown and tumbledown! I really need to check out this "older" section -- I've never signed up for that official tour.