Highgate Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery (East) (c. 2010)
Established1839; 185 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.[1] There are approximately 170,000 people buried in around 53,000 graves across the West and East sides.[2] 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.[3]


The cemetery is in Highgate N6, next to Waterlow Park, in the London Borough of Camden. It comprises two sides, 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 Highgate Cemetery West, 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[4] by the Right Reverend Charles James Blomfield, Lord Bishop of London. 15 acres (6.1 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 extension; 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.[citation needed][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 sides by 1981. In 1984 it published Highgate Cemetery: Victorian Valhalla by John Gay.[5]


West Side

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

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 Side interments

East Side

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[8] and in 1970.[9] 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 side 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 side 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 sides, 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 side.[12]

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".



  1. ^ "Now More Than Ever, London Needs a 'Death Pyramid'". Bloomberg News. 9 March 2015. Retrieved 13 June 2023. Why the city should revive a 19th-century plan for an uptown necropolis, population 5 million.
  2. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Highgate Cemetery. Archived from the original on 16 February 2013. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  3. ^ Historic England. "Highgate Cemetery (1000810)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  4. ^ "History". Highgate Cemetery. Archived from the original on 24 January 2017. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  5. ^ "A Brief History of Highgate Cemetery", www.highgate-cemetery.org
  6. ^ GRO Register of Deaths: JUN qtr 1861 1a 174 St Geo Han Sq – Henry Gray
  7. ^ "DServe Archive Persons Show". .royalsociety.org. Archived from the original on 15 April 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2013.
  8. ^ News
  9. ^ "Tomb raiders' failed attack on Marx grave", Camden New Journal, UK, archived from the original on 11 June 2019, retrieved 30 April 2008
  10. ^ "Farewell to YPG's Mehmet Aksoy in London". ANF. 11 November 2017.
  11. ^ Davis, Angela (20 June 2019). "Angela Davis praises CPUSA for its history "of militant struggle"". PeoplesWorld.org. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
  12. ^ "Cemetery Details: Highgate Cemetery". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  13. ^ Niffenegger, Audrey (3 October 2009). "Audrey Niffenegger on Highgate Cemetery". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 October 2009.

Media related to Highgate Cemetery at Wikimedia Commons