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‘A great garden of death’: Exhibition at Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre


Highgate Cemetery promised burial in a sepulchral garden, so attractive that it would be a good place for a day out. It was so popular that ways had to be found to limit the number of visitors on Sundays, and it was enormously successful as a burial ground. 
Drawing from the collections of the Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre and Highgate Cemetery’s own archive, and supplemented by images from other collections, this exhibition attempts to recapture how the Victorians would have seen Highgate Cemetery. 

Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre
Holborn Library, 32-38 Theobalds Road, London WC1X 8PA
Open: Monday and Tuesday 10-6, Thursday 10-7, Friday 10-5, 
Saturdays: 22 December; 5 January; 2, 16 February; 2, 16, 30 March; 11-5.

CENTRE CLOSED FOR STOCKTAKE: Monday 7 January to Saturday 19 January 2019

Admission free.

Download  A4 poster | A4 poster mono

Your opportunity to comment on our draft conservation plan… by 30 September

16 August 2018

The draft conservation plan for Highgate Cemetery is now available for you to read and comment on. The plan has been prepared by a leading multi-disciplinary consultancy, Alan Baxter Ltd, and so it benefits from their considerable knowledge and experience. We consulted members, volunteers and the public about what the plan might include in an exhibition at the cemetery and online last year and the draft plan responds to that consultation. The resulting document sets out the history and significance of this special place, and explains how we propose to look after it in the future.

There are three main strands to the proposals:

  • Trees, monuments and buildings will be better looked after
  • The cemetery will continue to function as an active burial ground
  • Visiting will be easier, and more rewarding.

All this can be done while preserving the essential character of the place. We believe that evolution rather than revolution is the way forward.

Once the conservation plan has been adopted, the next step will be to develop an implementation plan. This will set out how we intend to prioritise and deliver the actions set out in the conservation plan. This plan will be determined by
a number of factors, including our ability to secure the necessary funding. We anticipate that we may also need help from the Heritage Lottery Fund and private donors, as well as a new Act of Parliament if we are to manage our burial
space more effectively.

Before we start work on these projects, we would like to hear your thoughts on this draft conservation plan. If you would like to comment, please

It would help enormously if you could refer to specific pages. Please make sure your comments reach us by 30 September 2018.


As an interactive pdf, the plan is best experienced as an electronic document. You can download the draft conservation plan for Highgate Cemetery here. You might find it easier to right-click on the link, download the document to your device, and then read it with a pdf reader such as Acrobat Reader.

If you prefer to read it on paper, printed copies are available for consultation:

We look forward to hearing from you.

Working towards a conservation plan for Highgate Cemetery

25 April 2018

Highgate Cemetery has been in use as a cemetery for 179 years and has now reached a point where important decisions need to be made about its future. Burial space is running out and maturing trees are destroying graves and memorials. Doing nothing is not an option.

Towards a conservation plan

We have commissioned a conservation plan to guide the future of the cemetery. The purpose of a conservation plan is to make sure that when you make changes to a place, these changes should not only maintain but enhance what is special about it. The conservation plan should be completed by the end of this year and there will be a public consultation on the final draft plan before it is adopted. 

What has been done so far?

  • Alan Baxter Ltd, our consultants, produced a draft Initial baseline study in June 2017 to summarise their current understanding of Highgate Cemetery.  
  • In June-July 2017 we held an exhibition at the Cemetery and online entitled Highgate Cemetery at a crossroads.  
  • We invited visitors to complete a questionnaire either on paper or online. The numerical results are collated here
  • Then followed a draft Options Report which set out the main strategic issues facing Highgate Cemetery, as well as some options for each of the character areas identified. 

We have put these documents online so that you can see some of the process which has informed our thinking. But please do bear in mind that the drafts are just that.  There will be a formal opportunity to comment on the full conservation plan, but should you wish to make any comments on these documents, please email

What's next?

Our consultants are now working on the draft full conservation plan. It will contain the policies which will guide our management of the Cemetery into the future. 

We will post the draft on this website in June and invite comments on it. Once those comments have been reviewed and any required changes incorporated, the conservation plan will be adopted as policy by the trustees.

The next stage will be implementing the policies set out in the plan. 

George Michael (1963-2016) RIP

30 March 2017

George Michael's grave is in a private part of Highgate Cemetery which is not accessible to visitors. 

Friends should contact the family for access.

Tributes should not be left at the cemetery as there is no space to receive them. 

George Michael's grave will not be visited on tours of Highgate Cemetery.


Some fans have asked how to make a donation in memory of George Michael.  If you would like to donate to the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust, the charity which cares for Highgate Cemetery, please click the donate button. The Friends do not make a profit  because they reinvest their income to maintain and enhance the cemetery.

Meta bourneti at home in Highgate Cemetery

Rare spider find a first for London

16 January 2013

A large, rare spider has been recorded for the first time in London — deep in tombs at Highgate Cemetery. As part of the Wild London Inclusive London project, staff at London Wildlife Trust have been working with the staff and local community of Highgate Cemetery since last summer. During a bat survey in December, Trust staff came across a population of large spiders in the vaults of the Egyptian Avenue at the Cemetery.

First London record

Interestingly, these orb weavers are the species Meta bourneti, the rarer of two species of Meta (Britain’s largest orb weavers). The identity of the spider was confirmed by Edward Milner, Spider Recorder at the London Natural History Society — and it is the very first record of the species in London!

An unusual lifestyle

Meta bourneti is particularly fascinating because, due to its origins as a cave-dweller (also known as a cave spider), it requires total darkness. Even an outdoor night time environment is too bright for it, so the spiders never leave the tombs. A sealed vault, on the other hand, provides a perfect breeding ground. Most of these vaults - walk-in tombs designed to house around four coffins — have not been opened for several years. And, because the structures date from the late 1830s, it’s quite possible the spiders discovered have lived in the tombs for at least 150 years without being detected.

One of the largest spiders in Britain

The find is made even more exciting by the spider’s large size. Most new spider records are for tiny species, but Meta bourneti measures over 30mm in diameter with leg-span included. Meta spiders are amongst the largest spiders found in Britain. In addition, the size of the population at Highgate Cemetery is substantial: A very rough initial estimate puts the number of adults at as many as a hundred. More research will now be carried out.

Tony Canning, London Wildlife Trust Community Outreach Officer for Camden and lead on the project, commented: “The discovery of this important spider population in the heart of London shows just how valuable cemeteries such as Highgate can be in providing refuges for wildlife.”


During the various species surveys recently undertaken at Highgate Cemetery — and with the help of several expert specialists — London Wildlife Trust staff have discovered 227 species previously unrecorded at the site on London’s environmental records centre, Greenspace Information for Greater London (GiGL).

Meta spiders prey on small insects and woodlice. The females produce teardrop-shaped eggsacs, which hang suspended on a silk thread from the roof of their dwelling. When the spiderlings first emerge they are attracted to light, unlike the adults which are strongly repelled by light. This helps the spiderlings find new areas to colonise.

Meta bourneti also need constant temperatures and high levels of humidity. Elsewhere in the UK, these spiders can be found in sewers, old cellars and abandoned railway tunnels.

Thanks to the London Wildlife Trust.