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Exhibition: Highgate Cemetery at a crossroads

18 July 2017



Highgate Cemetery has been in use as a cemetery for 178 years and has now reached a point where important decisions need to be made about its future. Burial space is rapidly running out and maturing trees are destroying graves and memorials. Doing nothing is not an option. We would like you to help us find the right answers for the future of this amazing place.

What should we do? How can we continue to bury people in the Cemetery, manage the trees and improve facilities for grave owners and visitors? 

You can see the exhibition and respond to the questionnaire in the Chapel at Highgate Cemetery:

  • on Wednesdays 19 and 26 July 2017 from 6pm to 8pm
  • on Saturdays and Sundays from 22 July to 6 August 2017 from 11am to 4.30pm

You can also look at a pdf version of the exhibition until Monday 7 August 2017

The exhibition is now closed. We are not accepting further questionnaire responses. 

Many thanks

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. There is an informal memorial in Highgate Village. 

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.

Highgate Cemetery one of the Geological Society’s ‘100 Great Geosites’

13 October 2014

The Geological Society announced today that Highgate Cemetery has been included in its list of ‘100 Great Geosites’ in the UK and Ireland, particularly for the range of rocks and stones used as headstones, mausoleums and monuments.

From a public nomination phase which started in March, which resulted in more than 400 nominations, and a subsequent vote and selection process, Highgate Cemetery was selected for the final list. 

The '100 Great Geosites' list was launched today (the first day of Earth Science Week) and can be found on the Geological Society website, with our page here.

Donations sought for Highgate Cemetery collection at Highgate Library

17 July 2014

An appeal for books

Highgate Library in Chester Road, at the bottom of the East Cemetery, is about to be jointly managed by the Friends of Highgate Library with the London Borough of Camden. To show our support, we plan to create a Highgate Cemetery collection there which can be used by Friends, volunteers and the general public. If you have any relevant books which you no longer require which you think would suit such a collection, please donate them to the cemetery. If we are given duplicates or other items we do not require we will either sell them for the benefit of the cemetery or donate them to another charity. 

We don't plan to acquire biographies about the people buried in the Cemetery, as that would be beyond the scale of the collection. Instead, we are looking for books, contemporary and historical, about cemeteries, death and commemoration as well as fiction inspired by the Cemetery. 

You can see our wants list here. If you would like to contribute or to suggest other items for our list, please get in touch

Ian Kelly elected new Chairman of Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust

30 May 2014

The Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust is delighted to announce that Ian Kelly has been elected Chairman. 

Ian has been a member of the Friends for almost 40 years and is a regular volunteer. His long perspective and deep knowledge of the Cemetery will be valuable in tackling the many challenges which lie ahead.  He is also Master of the Worshipful Company of Butchers, a liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars and Church Warden of St Bartholomew the Great Smithfield.

Ian paid tribute to his predecessor John Shepperd, who steps down after three years in office. “Under John’s leadership the Cemetery has gone from strength to strength, with the recruitment of a new chief executive, new opening arrangements for visitors and a fantastic new guidebook among his many achievements. We are very pleased that John will continue as a trustee and as a tour guide, and the Friends are enormously grateful for all his hard work as Chairman.”

Today is the 175th birthday of Highgate Cemetery!

20 May 2014

Today we celebrate the 175th anniversary of the consecration of Highgate Cemetery. However, getting to that point in 1839 was not smooth sailing. Ian Dungavell tells the story of the unseemly events leading up to the consecration of the cemetery.

Printable version

What took the London Cemetery Company (LCC) so long to get Highgate Cemetery open? West Norwood took half the time and, had Highgate been as speedy, it might have been consecrated in December 1837 rather than on 20 May 1839.

It did take them a while to get going as building the walls didn’t start until after March 1837 although the site had been purchased in May the previous year. But physically everything was in place by at least August 1838 (and probably three months earlier): Terrace Catacombs, Lebanon Circle, Egyptian Avenue, and the Chapels. The site had been laid out as a ‘beautiful landscape garden’ and was open to visitors.

Getting to that stage had been difficult. An unusual clause in the founding Act of Parliament required the consent of the owner of any house within three hundred yards ‘having a plantation or ornamental garden or pleasure ground’. Their objections could easily have derailed the building of the cemetery; indeed, the first site for the southern cemetery near Peckham had already had to be abandoned because of this clause.

By June 1838 the LCC was ready to apply for consecration, yet three neighbours still withheld their consent. The most active of these was Harry Chester who claimed a right of way across the cemetery and objected too that his garden was overlooked from the terrace over the catacombs. He wanted the terrace closed as well as the road alongside St Michael’s Church which was the cemetery’s northern entrance.

The LCC called in the eminent surveyor and architect Philip Hardwick (who that year completed the magnificent ‘Euston Arch’) to see if an agreement could be reached but Hardwick concluded the objectors asked for too much. So instead the board decided to ask for a ‘partial consecration’ of the cemetery. And this was the spark of an internal dispute which proceeded to tear the company apart.

A special general meeting of proprietors was called which expressed its ‘unqualified disapproval’ of the Board’s conduct and its certainty that an agreement would be reached once the Company was ‘represented by Gentlemen as Directors’. This was a slap in the face for the managing director, Richard Cuttill, a stalwart of the LCC who had led it through incorporation and had even advanced his own funds to enable the purchase of the land at Highgate.

Further special general meetings were called and the legality of each of them was disputed in turn by Cuttill. In October 1838 all his fellow directors resigned, with one exception, leaving him rather isolated, and his office door was padlocked. A new board of directors was elected which sacked him and demanded that he hand over all company property in his possession.

When he refused they broke in to his office, picking or forcing three locks to gain entrance and, crucially, getting their hands on the minute book, ‘Proceedings of Proprietary Meetings’. Once properly recorded in this book the minutes had legal force without the need to demonstrate that the meetings which they recorded had been legally constituted.

But still they hadn’t managed to get their hands on the company seal. So that November one of the new directors obtained, through rather dubious means, a facsimile from the firm which had made the original, and which differed from it only by the addition of the year ‘1838’ in the design.

Finally, at the annual general meeting on 13 February 1839, a resolution was passed adopting this new seal. It was then fixed to the petition for the consecration of the cemetery which, dated 22 February 1839, was finally submitted to the Bishop of London. The consecration duly took place on Monday 20 May 1839. 

Malcolm McLaren’s memorial unveiled

18 April 2013

According to The Guardian, Malcolm McLaren was 'one of the pivotal, yet most divisive influences on the styles and sounds of late 20th-century popular culture. Julie Burchill claimed that 'we are all children of Thatcher and McLaren'. 

So it's not surprising that McLaren's memorial at Highgate Cemetery, which has just been installed this week, is no ordinary memorial. It takes the form of a shield, above a base on which McLaren's name and dates are inscribed, and into which is set a bronze death mask. The mask  was cast in bronze by sculptor and Alabama 3 member Nick Reynolds.

The shield was used above the doorway to McLaren's mansion in the punk film The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle (1980) in which McLaren had cast himself as the embezzler, apparently a provocative reference to the money he took from record companies to allow them to break the contracts they had with the Sex Pistols. 

The inscription reads "Malcolm Robert Andrew McLaren 1946-2010. / Better a spectacular failure, than a benign success".

See Malcolm McLaren's obituary or this article on Nick Reynolds.

Coverage of this news in Camden New Journal | Evening Standard | The Guardian | Guardian Picture Desk

Margaret Thatcher and Highgate Cemetery

12 April 2013

We're well known as the final resting place of Karl Marx, but our new website has been getting lots of visitors who've been reading an article on the BBC news website about Right-to-buy: Margaret Thatcher's controversial gift. (No, Margaret Thatcher is not coming here). 

It's about the attractive 1970s council estate which borders the East Cemetery and was designed as a visual continuation of the wild space of cemetery; one third of the flats there are now privately owned. It's an interesting reminder of the quality of architecture south of the East Cemetery: the grade II*-listed Holly Village (1865) and grade II-listed Highgate Library (1906); there's also the Brookfield Estate (1922-30), laid out to garden suburb principles by Albert J Thomas, principal assistant to Edwin Lutyens.

And, closer to the office, south of the West Cemetery, we also have John Winter's modernist house of 1967, grade II*-listed and now on the market for £2.95m. Your chance to buy a piece of Highgate history with a view of the Cemetery... or just lots to look at when you're next here.

Abraham Lincoln’s chiropodist found at Highgate Cemetery

26 February 2013

Abraham Lincoln’s chiropodist  is one of the unlikely new discoveries at Highgate Cemetery made in the course of preparing a new map for visitors.

Celebrity chiropodist Dr Issachar Zacharie (1827-1900) was said to be the most favoured family visitor at the White House, valued by Lincoln not only for his feet-soothing but as a sounding board for the opinions of his Jewish constituency.  Zacharie also became a trusted associate during the American Civil War.

Dr Ian Dungavell, Chief Executive of Highgate Cemetery, said: “Zacharie’s connection with Lincoln is fascinating, and especially topical just now. We’re always keen to celebrate the exceptional achievements of people buried here at Highgate Cemetery.  People know us for Karl Marx, but this is a place to reflect on all those who have gone before us, famous or not.”

Other people marked on the new map of the East Cemetery include the TV presenter Jeremy Beadle (1948-2008), musician and entrepreneur Malcolm McLaren (1946-2010) and the actor Corin Redgrave (1939-2010).

The map has been produced to coincide with the introduction of new entrance prices from 1 March 2013.

“We don’t expect to see Daniel Day-Lewis round here,” said Dr Dungavell, “but you never know.”

For more information on Dr Issachar Zacaharie, see the Jewish Virtual Library  or Fascinating Jewish History

New entrance charges from 1 March 2013

1 February 2013

New entrance charges and tour prices will take effect from 1 March 2013 when we will switch to summer opening hours. 


East Cemetery admission (includes free map)
Adults (18 and over) £4
Children (under 18, when accompanied by an adult) free
Friends and grave-owners free
Tour (Saturdays at 2pm): Adults £8; Children £4.

West Cemetery tours (includes East Cemetery admission and free map)
Adults (18 and over) £12
Children (8 to 17 inclusive) £6


Concessions: As a registered charity completely independent of government, we cannot afford to offer concessions on admission fees. There will now just be prices for adults and children.

Free access to East Cemetery with a West Cemetery tour ticket: The price of the West tour will now include entrance to the East Cemetery.

East Cemetery map now free: Every East Cemetery visitor will get a copy of the map free.

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.