Highgate Cemetery - A Victorian Valhalla. Burial place Of Karl Marx.
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Highgate Cemetery

Introduction Restoration Famous Occupants Photographs Credits and Information

Page Contents

About Highgate Cemetery
A Short History
Karl Marx
Guest Book

About Highgate Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery  -Entrance to Egyptian Avenue  egyptian.jpg
Entrance to the Egyptian Avenue
Highgate Cemetery - Fallen Firefighter  firefighter.jpg
Fallen Firefighter. Killed in The Alhambra Theatre fire in 1867

Situated at the Top of Highgate Hill in North London, this world famous 37 acre cemetery was built in 1839. It was originaly one of a hoop of 7 private burial grounds built when London expanded and the old "town burial grounds" could no longer cope.

It is divided into the Western (original) Cemetery and the Eastern (built 1854) separated by Swains Lane. Originally there was a tunnel beneath Swains Lane where, after a funeral, a coffin could be lowered from the Anglican Chapel on the West side for burial on the East

There are about 167,000 people buried in the Cemetery in 52,000 graves. The Western Cemetery contains several Grade II listed buildings. Whilst it's most famous occupant is probably Karl Marx a number of prominent Victorians are also buried there (Funerals still take place and recent internments include Sir Ralph Richardson, Sir Micheal Redgrave, Patrick Wymark and the cabaret artiste "Hutch" as well as Philip Harben the original TV chef, Dr. Y.D. Dadoo (First Chairman of the African National Congress) and Professor Jacob Bronowski, (scientist and TV personality) Other famous people are listed elsewhere on this site.

The Cemetery is a mix of grave stones, memorials, mausoleums (some up to 3 stories high) catacombs and architectural features some of which I am hoping to show here.

The Cemetery has a tangled past, is now owned by a Charity and is open to the public, and being restored, by the Friends of Highgate Cemetery who are mentioned in the Credits and Information section, together with a location map of the Cemetery.

A Short History
Highgate Cemetery - view1.jpg
Highgate Cemetery - view3.jpg
Highgate Cemetery - view2.jpg
At peace in the Cemetery, Spring 1998

Built in 1839, Highgate Cemetery has had a chequered past. By definition a Cemetery is a wasting asset and the owners "The London Cemetery Company" finally became part of a property group. In the early part of the century the funds which had been paid by graveowners for "maintenance in perpetuity" were lost and parts of the unconsecrated ground (including the masons yard) were sold for housing

In 1975 the then owners closed the Western Cemetery and Friends of Highgate Cemetery were formed to work in the cemetery and to give access to graves etc. Camden Council gave a grant to employ a gatekeeper and assistant and in return were given an option to acquire the Cemetery for 1 per acre (37). An option never exercised by them.

Between 1975 and 1981 FOHC continued, on a voluntary basis, to halt the decay of the Cemetery. In 1981, I (then a member of the FOHC committee) discovered that the Directors of the Cemetery were in Court facing many charges relating to the breaking of Company Law and, wih the blessing of FOHC, and within - for legal reasons - days, acquired with another member of the committee the Cemetery for 50. Subsequently (1988) ownership passed to a new charity The Highgate Cemetery Charity who then transferred it to The Official Custodian of Charities.

In 1983 the Cemetery was declared a place of outstanding historic and architectural interest. A number of schemes, including Bulldog Enterprises, funded by the Home Office and a restoration programme funded by the Manpower Service Commission were set up supervised by Highgate Cemetery Limited, formed by FOHC for this purpose.

For the next 5 years various restoration projects were completed. In 1988 the Manpower Services Commission support was withdrawn and FOHC became (via Highgate Cemetery Ltd.) entirely responsible for the Cemetery. Since 1985, English Heritage has assisted FOHC in a continuing programme of repairs to buildings and monuments. Although burials were resumed in the Cemetery since 1981, the costs of running and maintaing the Cemetery are now mainly from grants, donations and other fund raising activities of FOHC.

Karl Marx
Karl Marx , Grave in Highgate Cemetery marx.jpg

Tomb of Karl Marx

Born in Trier, Germany in 1818 and expelled from Prussia and France, Marx settled in England in 1849 where he wrote Das Kapital in 1867. He died in 1883 and was buried (along with other members of his family) in Highgate Cemetery.

The world famous statue is not, in fact, his original burial place. After theSecond World War funds were raised to buy the plot and build the monument and his remains were exhumed and reburied there. The rest of his family remain in the original plot.

It remains a place of pilgrimage for those who share his political views and in 1983, the centenary of his death, marchers came from Trier to the site to hold a ceremony (getting lost in the Cemetery on the way!!) There was talk by some in Trier for him to be exhumed and returned there but nothing materialised.

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