Tomb of Karl Marx
Tomb of Karl Marx
ArtistLaurence Bradshaw
Completion date1956
SubjectKarl Marx
Dimensions3.7 m (12 ft)
LocationHighgate Cemetery
London, N6
Coordinates51°33′58″N 0°08′38″W / 51.5662°N 0.1439°W / 51.5662; -0.1439Coordinates: 51°33′58″N 0°08′38″W / 51.5662°N 0.1439°W / 51.5662; -0.1439
Listed Building – Grade I
Official nameTomb of Karl Marx and family
Designated14 May 1974
Reference no.1378872

The Tomb of Karl Marx stands in the Eastern cemetery of Highgate Cemetery, North London, England. It commemorates the burial sites of Marx, of his wife, Jenny von Westphalen, and other members of his family. Originally buried in a different part of the Eastern cemetery, the bodies were disinterred and reburied at their present location in 1954. The tomb was designed by Laurence Bradshaw and was unveiled in 1956, in a ceremony led by Harry Pollitt, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain, which funded the memorial.

The tomb consists of a large bust of Marx in bronze set on a marble pedestal. The pedestal is inscribed with quotes from Marx's works including, on the front, the final words of The Communist Manifesto, "Workers of all lands unite". Since its construction, the tomb has become a place of pilgrimage for followers of Marxist theory. It has also been a target for Marx's opponents, suffering vandalism, and two bomb attacks in the 1970s. It is a Grade I listed structure, the highest listing reserved for buildings and structures of "exceptional interest".


Karl Marx
Karl Marx

Marx moved to London as a political exile in June 1849.[1] Living originally in Soho, he moved in 1875 to Maitland Park Road, in the north London area of Belsize Park, and this remained his home until his death in 1883.[2] During this period, Marx wrote some of his most notable works, including The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon[3] and Das Kapital.[4] Throughout his time in London, Marx lived in financially straitened circumstances and was heavily reliant on the support of his friend and collaborator Friedrich Engels.[5] Marx died on the afternoon of 14 March 1883 from a combination of bronchitis and pleurisy, exacerbated by an abscess on his lung.[6] He was buried on the following Saturday, at Highgate Cemetery,[7] in the grave prepared for his wife who had died eighteen months previously. Engels spoke the eulogy at the funeral.[8]

At least thirteen named individuals attended the funeral. They were, apart from Engels, Eleanor Marx, Edward Aveling, Paul Lafargue, Charles Longuet, Helene Demuth, Wilhelm Liebknecht, Gottlieb Lemke, Frederich Lessner, Georg Lochner, Sir Ray Lankester, Carl Schorlemmer and Ernest Radford.[9][10] A contemporary newspaper account claims that 25 to 30 relatives and friends attended the funeral.[11] A writer in The Graphic noted that, 'By a strange blunder ...his death was not announced for two days, and then as having taken place at Paris. Next day the correction came from Paris; and when his friends and followers hastened to his house in Haverstock Hill, to learn the time and place of burial, they learned that he was already in the cold ground. But for this secresy [sic] and haste, a great popular demonstration would undoubtedly have been held over his grave'.[12]

In 1954, the Marx Memorial Committee, with the agreement of Frederick and Robert-Jean Longuet, Marx's great-grandsons, applied to the Home Office for an exhumation licence allowing the bodies of Marx, his wife, other family members and the Marxs’ housekeeper Helene Demuth to be disinterred and reburied at a new site, some 100 yards from the original graves.[13] The reburials took place during the night of 26/27 November 1954.[14] The reburials were the precursor to the construction of the Karl Marx tomb, designed by Laurence Bradshaw[15] and funded by the Communist Party of Great Britain.[16] The unveiling ceremony on 15 March 1956 was led by the Party's General Secretary, Harry Pollit.[13]

Since its construction, the tomb has become a place of veneration for Marx's followers,[17] including some, such as the anti-apartheid activist Yusuf Dadoo and the founder of the Notting Hill Carnival Claudia Jones, who have been buried nearby.[18]

The tomb is owned by the Marx Grave Trust.[19][a] The Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust, which owns the cemetery, charges an entrance fee to the cemetery to cover the costs of upkeep and maintenance; this has generated some controversy.[22][23] Marx's grave is among the most visited sites at Highgate and has been described as "one of the most recognisable graves in the world".[24]


In 1960, a pair of yellow swastikas were painted on the tomb, as well as slogans in German supporting Nazi SS officer Adolf Eichmann, who was then in custody in Israel.[25] The tomb was the subject of two bombing attempts in the 1970s.[26] The tomb was daubed in blue paint in 2011, but no lasting damage was done.[27] In February 2019, it was discovered that the marble plaque from the original grave was damaged in an attack "seemingly with a hammer".[28][29] A few days later, the monument was vandalised again, the attacker daubing it with the words "doctrine of hate" and "architect of genocide" in red paint.[30] As a result, the Marx Grave Trust decided to install 24-hour video surveillance around the grave to deter further vandalism.[19]

Architecture and description

The tomb of Karl Marx: detailed view of the central panel which formed the original gravestone
The tomb of Karl Marx: detailed view of the central panel which formed the original gravestone

The tomb was designed by Laurence Bradshaw, an artist, sculptor and a member of the Communist Party since the 1930s. On obtaining the commission, Bradshaw wrote that the challenge was to create, "not a monument to a man only but to a great mind and a great philosopher".[31] The tomb comprises a large bronze bust of Marx's head and shoulders, set on a marble plinth.[15] Bradshaw was responsible for the entire design, including the choice of inscribed texts, and their calligraphy. The texts on the front of the memorial are the closing words of "The Communist Manifesto", "Workers of all lands unite", and those which conclude the Theses on Feuerbach, "The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways • the point however is to change it". The sides of the memorial each have three projecting lugs, the top two of which support sculpted wreaths.[15] A central panel records the dates of the births and deaths of Marx, of his wife, of their daughter Eleanor, of their grandson Harry Longuet and of their housekeeper Helene Demuth.[32]

Pevsner, which records the pedestal as being constructed "of granite", describes the head as "colossal".[33] Bradshaw wrote that he wanted the bust to convey the "dynamic force of [Marx's] intellect" and for it to appear at eye-level rather than "towering over the people".[32] The architectural writer Clive Aslet considers the tomb "overwheening" and "the least aesthetically pleasing" monument in Highgate Cemetery.[16] The tomb was listed by Historic England in 1974, and its designation raised to the highest grade, Grade I, in 1999.[15]


  1. ^ The Trust is represented by the Marx Memorial Library, based in Clerkenwell, East London.[20] The Library holds the collection of Laurence Bradshaw papers, including preparatory sketches for the tomb.[21]


  1. ^ "Marx, Karl (1818–1883) – English Heritage". Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  2. ^ "Karl Marx – NW3". London Remembers. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  3. ^ Noble, Barnes &. "18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte". Barnes & Noble. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  4. ^ "Das Kapital – Description & Facts". Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  5. ^ "Friedrich Engels – German philosopher". Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  6. ^ "Karl Marx – Biography, Books, Theory, & Facts – Last years". Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  7. ^ "BBC – History – Historic Figures: Karl Marx (1818–1883)". Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  8. ^ "Karl Marx – Died in London on 14 March 1883". Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  9. ^ Shepperd 2018, pp. 10–11.
  10. ^ Gemkow 1983, p. 9.
  11. ^ 'Dr Karl Marx', in The People, 25 March 1883, p.3.
  12. ^ 'Dr Karl Marx' in The Graphic, 31 March 1883, pp. 319, 322
  13. ^ a b "Marx monument unveiled in Highgate cemetery – archive, 15 March 1956". The Guardian. 15 March 2016. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  14. ^ "Secret Re-burial Of Karl Marx In London". Sydney Morning Herald. 27 November 1954. p. 1 – via Trove.
  15. ^ a b c d Historic England, "Tomb of Karl Marx and family in Highgate (Eastern) Cemetery (Grade I) (1378872)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 2 March 2020
  16. ^ a b Aslet 2005, pp. 150–151.
  17. ^ "London Journal; In Highgate Cemetery, Marx Is Safe on a Pedestal". The New York Times. 14 March 1990.
  18. ^ "East Cemetery – Highgate Cemetery". Highgate Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  19. ^ a b Peltier, Elian (9 February 2020). "With Cameras Monitoring His Grave, Karl Marx Still Can't Escape Surveillance (Published 2020)". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 March 2021.
  20. ^ O’Mahony, T. P. (9 May 2019). "They can never bury Karl Marx's great ideas". Irish Examiner.
  21. ^ "Papers of Laurence Henderson Bradshaw". Marx Memorial Library. Retrieved 14 March 2021.
  22. ^ Udland, Myles (26 October 2015). "It costs $6 to visit Karl Marx's grave". Business Insider.
  23. ^ Pinsker, Joe (26 October 2016). "Somehow, Karl Marx's Resting Place Has an Entry Fee". The Atlantic.
  24. ^ King, Jon (15 August 2017). "BBC Radio 3 to broadcast programme about Highgate Cemetery's 'most recognisable grave'". Ham&High.
  25. ^ Miller, Sam (6 June 2019). "Karl Marx Isn't Buried". Jacobin. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  26. ^ Wittenberg, Daniel (6 October 2014). "Shining a light on the history of Highgate cemetery's Karl Marx memorial". Ham&High.
  27. ^ Ferguson, Kate (29 September 2011). "Labour grandee Tony Benn 'saddened' as vandals attack Marx's Highgate grave". Ham&High.
  28. ^ "Karl Marx monument 'mindlessly' attacked". BBC News. 5 February 2019.
  29. ^ "Karl Marx's London grave vandalised in suspected hammer attack". The Guardian. 5 February 2019. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  30. ^ Quinn, Ruth (16 February 2019). "Karl Marx's London memorial vandalised for second time". The Guardian.
  31. ^ Stevenson, Graham. "Laurence Bradshaw". Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  32. ^ a b "Karl Marx's Grave, Highgate Cemetery, London". 1 August 2013. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  33. ^ Cherry & Pevsner 2002, p. 354.