Monday, 16 November 2015

Highgate Cemetery: Part One (East)

Writing my top 5 London Monsters post inspired my girlfriend and me to go and check out Highgate Cemetery, the scene of the 1970 vampire scare, for ourselves.
Choosing to exit from Archway underground meant that we had a pleasant, if slightly tiring climb up Highgate Hill (it's called Highgate for a reason!). If you choose this route you can take in features such as the charming little statue of Dick Whittington's Cat, as well as numerous churches. Also be advised that about half way up the hill you can swing a left through Waterlow Park, a sweet little patch of green space complete with duck ponds. To the west and south of the park is Highgate Cemetery, in fact to the south is Highgate East Cemetery which we will concentrate on today.
This cemetery, which is the more modern of the two, is £4 per adult and free to roam. The other, Highgate West, is only accessible by guided tour, costing £12 per adult. This one we will return to investigate at its most eeire in mid winter, so stay tuned..
The volunteer manning the East Cemetery ticket office was a vampiric goth girl who had quite clearly scored her dream job! No offence intended to her, it just made us smile that she should be on meet and greet juty with tourists. 
The East Cemetery, which was created as an expansion to the slightly older West Cemetery in the 1850s, is the final resting place of many significant figures. Such individuals include leading Victorian novelist Mary Ann Evans, better known by her pen name, George Eliot, Hitchhiker's Guide author Douglas Adams, and of course philosopher and revolutionary socialist Karl Marx.

Douglas Adams' grave, (on the left) featuring a stone box filled with pens

By Karl Marx's grave

However, Highgate East Cemetery is much more than just a place to spot celebrity tombstones, it is a strangely aesthetic and beautifully gothic little patch of solemn calm. Just take a look at the images I snapped and tell me that it doesn't look more like an impressively detailed film set than an ordinary graveyard. You can easily see why people were so willing to believe that creatures of the night stalked the sinuous rows of Victorian stone. Looking like something from a Hammer Horror movie, I imagine that Highgate East would especially capture the imagination of our North American friends who I'm sure are fairly unused to seeing a cemetery appearing quite so primordial.
The atmosphere within the graveyard is however one of peace and tranquility. I felt incredibly at ease walking amongst the dead; there were no heavy vibes or eerie feelings from my part. I found the whole experience a very pleasant one, and was interested to take in the vast array of different gothic tombs, many of them crumbling and partially collapsed as they are steadily reclaimed by nature through sheer passage of time.

   Near the enterance of Highgate East Cemetery

Celtic-style crosses

Beautiful statue

Graves in a state of near collapse

Graves noticeably tilting due to interference from tree roots

Tombstones being reclaimed by nature

Heavily ivy-covered tombs

Beautifully gothic headstones

Tilting crosses

I would recommend Highgate East Cemetery to anyone interested in slightly morbid tourism or just something a little bit different to experience on a clear afternoon in London.

As mentioned, we will be checking out the guided tour of Highgate West Cemetery later on this winter, so I'll be sure to give you all my thoughts on that at some point. Please do let me know if you have also visited either cemetery and what you thought, I'd love to hear from you.