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.

Highgate Cemetery
Highgate (East) Cemetery (2010)
Coordinates51°34′01″N 0°08′49″W
Owned byFriends of Highgate Cemetery Trust
Size15 hectares (37 acres)
No. of graves53,000+
No. of interments170,000
Find a GraveEast, West


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

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.

Because of the Karl Marx association a variety of socialist leaders and thinkers are buried within the cemetery grounds.

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

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

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.

East Cemetery interments

Fireman’s corner

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

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 on August 2019) feature tombs, vaults and winding paths dug into hillsides. The Egyptian Avenue and the Columbarium are Grade I listed buildings.

West Cemetery interments

War graves

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.[10]


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.

Notable gravesites


  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. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  5. A Brief History of Highgate Cemetery
  6. News, Google
  7. "Tomb raiders' failed attack on Marx grave", Camden New Journal, UK
  8. GRO Register of Deaths: JUN qtr 1861 1a 174 St Geo Han Sq – Henry Gray
    • "DServe Archive Persons Show". .royalsociety.org. Archived from the original on 15 April 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2013.
    • "Cemetery Details: Highgate Cemetery". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
    • "The Bullet Machine" via www.imdb.com.
    • Niffenegger, Audrey (3 October 2009). "Audrey Niffenegger on Highgate Cemetery". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 October 2009.
    • Davis, Angela (20 June 2019). "Angela Davis praises CPUSA for its history "of militant struggle"". PeoplesWorld.org. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
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