The "magnificent seven" cemeteries
The "Magnificent Seven" is an informal term applied to seven large cemeteries in London that were established in the 19th century to alleviate overcrowding in existing parish burial grounds.
- Kensal Green Cemetery (1832)
- West Norwood Cemetery (1837) — read my review
- Highgate Cemetery (1839)
- Abney Park Cemetery (1840)
- Nunhead Cemetery (1840)
- Brompton Cemetery (1840) — read my review
- Tower Hamlets Cemetery (1841)
History of Highgate cemetery
The first of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries in London that I visited recently was Highgate Cemetery. It is designated Grade I on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England. It is divided into two parts named the East and West cemetery. The East cemetery (which I visited), which contains a mix of Victorian and modern statuary, can be toured unescorted; however, you need a guide to visit the West cemetery and you need to book a month or so in advance (for a weekday tour) or queue for a tour on Saturday or Sunday.
The 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's grounds are full of trees, shrubbery and wild flowers, most of which have been planted and grown without human influence. The grounds are a haven for birds and small animals such as foxes. The Egyptian Avenue and the Circle of Lebanon (topped by a huge Cedar of Lebanon) feature tombs, vaults and winding paths dug into hillsides. For its protection, the oldest section, which holds an impressive collection of Victorian mausoleums and gravestones, plus elaborately carved tombs, allows admission only in tour groups.
Notable figures buried in Highgate Cemetery
The most famous person buried in the East cemetery is Karl Marx and his tomb is Grade 1 listed. There are many other prominent figures, Victorian and otherwise, buried there. Most of the historically notable figures lie in the East cemetery:
- Douglas Adams - author of 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'
- Patrick Caulfield - pop artist (photo below)
- Christina Rossetti - poet
- George Elliot - author (the name on the grave is Mary Ann Cross)
- Malcolm McLaren - impresario and rock artist
- Anna Mahler - sculptress and daughter of composer Gustav Mahler
- Corin Redgrave - actor and political activist
- Sheila Gish - actress
- Diane Cilento - Australian actress and author
- Ralph Miliband - left wing political theorist (father of David and Ed Miliband)
- Sir Ralph Richardson - actor
- Anatoly Kuznetsov - Soviet writer
- Edward Richard Woodham - survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade
- Lucien Stryk - American poet, teacher and translator of Zen poetry
- Sir George Thalben-Ball - English organist and choirmaster
Take a virtual tour of the East Highgate Cemetery
This cemetery is absolutely stunning and more beautiful than the other two that I visited. I highly recommend that you visit it when in London.