Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery
Highgate (East) Cemetery (c. 2010)
Established1839; 184 years ago (1839)
Swain's Lane, London, N6 6PJ
Coordinates51°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

Highgate Cemetery is a place of burial in north London, England, designed by architect Stephen Geary. There are approximately 170,000 people buried in around 53,000 graves across the West and East Cemeteries. 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.


The cemetery is in Highgate N6, next to Waterlow Park, in the London Borough of Camden. It comprises two sites, on either side of Swains Lane. The main gate is on Swains Lane, just north of Oakshott Avenue. There is another, disused, gate on Chester Road. The nearest public transport (Transport for London) is the C11 bus, Brookfield Park stop, and Archway tube station.

History and setting

Tombs near the Circle of Lebanon crypts at the West Cemetery, Highgate, London.

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 by the Right Reverend Charles James Blomfield, Lord Bishop of London. Fifteen acres (6 ha) were consecrated for the use of the Church of England, and two acres were set aside for Dissenters. Rights of burial were sold either for a 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[clarification needed] 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 Highgate hill, next to Waterlow Park. In 1854 a further 19 acres (8 ha) to the south east of the original area, across Swains Lane, was bought to form the eastern part of the cemetery; this opened in 1860. Both sides of the Cemetery are still used today for burials.

The cemetery's grounds are full of trees, shrubbery and wildflowers, most of which have been planted and grown without human influence.[clarification needed] The grounds are a haven for birds and small animals such as foxes. The Cemetery is now owned and maintained by a charitable trust, the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust, which was set up in 1975 and acquired the freehold of both East and West Cemeteries by 1981. In 1984 it published Highgate Cemetery: Victorian Valhalla by John Gay.


West Cemetery

Entrance to the Egyptian Avenue, West Cemetery
Circle of Lebanon, West Cemetery

The Egyptian Avenue and the Circle of Lebanon (previously surmounted by a huge, 280 years old Cedar of Lebanon, which had to be cut down and replaced in August 2019) are both Grade I listed buildings. The west side of the Cemetery is characterised by elaborate feature tombs, vaults and winding paths dug into hillsides. At the highest point, the Terrace Catacombs and the Tomb of Julius Beer are both Grade II* listed.

Notable West Cemetery interments

East Cemetery

Tomb of Karl Marx, East Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery East (2010)
The grave of Caroline Tucker, Highgate Cemetery East
Highgate Cemetery East (2023)

Many famous or prominent people are buried on this side of Highgate cemetery; the most famous of which is arguably that of Karl Marx, whose tomb was the site of attempted bombings on 2 September 1965 and in 1970. The tomb of Karl Marx is also a Grade I listed building for reasons of historical importance. Fireman's corner is 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.

Notable East 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.

In popular culture

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".


This page was last updated at 2024-01-01 03:22 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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