Highgate Cemetery West in Photographs

Highgate Cemetery sits atop Highgate Hill in London, and is the most acclaimed of the Magnificent Seven: a Victorian garden cemetery that fell to disrepair since the 60’s, and is now maintained by a volunteer organization — The Friends of Highgate Cemetery. Kept in a state of “managed neglect”, the tumbled gravestones and overgrowth shrouds its lush refuge and crumbling tombs with the sort of magic that has inspired the likes of Bram Stoker, Neil Gaiman, and Audrey Niffenegger.

I may have mentioned this a few times over, being a taphophile — a lover of cemeteries — but Highgate West is quite possibly one of my favourite places on earth. It’s a lush, verdurous refuge where stone angels peer from beneath thick twines of ivy and creeper. It’s the final resting place of Douglas Adams, Christina Rossetti, Malcolm Maclaren, and Michael Faraday among others. I’ve visited twice, making it a site of pilgrimage on my last two trips to London. You can see the first batch of photos I took of the cemetery from 2012, here.

This is what I can share with you today after having amassed a collection of books and articles and while doing research about the legends that surround the place:

Highgate, split into East and West sides and connected by a disused underground tunnel that would facilitate transport of bodies between them in order to keep them on consecrated ground, sprawls over seventeen acres of property. Like the other rural-style cemeteries, Highgate was equipped with Gothic revival tombs, Classical architectural features, and the lush foliage that characterizes the garden cemeteries of the 19th century.

At the cemetery’s centre, an enormous three hundred year old Cedar of Lebanon casts its shadow over a ring of Egyptian-inspired tombs. The tree remains one of the last legacies to the Ashurst estate, excepting the terrace catacombs that contain vaults fitting one coffin each in typical above-ground burials which stand nearby. Sprawling out from the cemetery’s heart, a maze of overgrown pathways, felled grave markers, and statuary peeking beneath the tangle of ivy and creeper draw any visitor into another world: a place of enchantment, a place of possibility.

This is the most recent batch of photos from my September 2014 trip to Highgate Cemetery West. I saw more of the cemetery’s hidden nooks than the previous trip in 2012 — finally visiting the Rossetti grave where Lizzie Siddal and Christina Rossetti are interred, and getting my first glimpse of Michael Faraday.

Enjoy.

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  • […] of notebooks with pens jabbed into them, are two very thin books I picked up the last time I was at Highgate Cemetery West on a tour. I’m in my writing chair, which doubles as a chaise lounge on my sectional sofa. […]

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