Skip to content Skip to navigation

Here we are being led into "Egyptian Avenue" past the obelisks and lotus columns at its entrance and one of the crypts within. It's long since collapsed, but when this was new the avenue had a roof, making the inside very dark, designed to have the vibe of an ancient Egyptian tomb. All things ancient Egypt being all the rage in 19th century Britain following the British defeat of the French in 1801 (which started with admiral Horatio Nelson wiping out the French fleet in the Battle of the Nile. I'll be coming back to Nelson when I visit Trafalgar Square and again at St. Paul's Cathedral.) There was a pretty steady flow of artifacts from Egypt pouring into Britain (mostly to the British Museum, which I visited and will also be coming back to) throughout the 19th and well into the 20th century. But despite this popularity, the gloomy vibe of Egyptian Avenue wound up being a bit much and the crypts inside proved to be a bit hard to sell. They did all sell eventually, just not as fast and not at the sort of prices the London Cemetery Company planned. Worth noting, and in keeping with the gloom, the metal doors of the crypts all feature bas-relief images of down-turned torches, symbolising life snuffed out.
on Instagram

This is the guide for my west cemetery tour at Highgate. This is just inside the entrance to the west cemetery at the grave of James Selby. He was a famous coachman who died at the age of 45, three days after winning a 1,000 pound prize for driving a coach from London to Brighton and back within 8 hours. In 1888, 50 would have been a decent *annual* wage, equivalent, in really round numbers, to about 50,000 per year now, making the 1,000 equivalent to about a million pounds today. So Mr. Selby managed to catch the flu and die winning the prize. At least it got him a swank grave. Among other symbolism on the grave, the horseshoes are open-end down to signify that his luck had run out. I appreciate the cheekiness of that.
on Instagram

Just inside the entrance to the west cemetery burial grounds. I can't get over the depth of monuments compared to Fraserview here in Vancouver. When Highgate opened in 1839 it was all open, manicured lawn with a few strategically located copses of trees. When the graveyard was filled and abandoned every thing was left to get overgrown, which is undeniably beautiful. The Friends of Highgate work hard to strike a balance between the wild overgrowth and preventing damage to the tombs, monuments and markers.
on Instagram

My jerk-resistant keyboard setup and the jerk in question demonstrating its functionality. #catsarejerks
on Instagram

This is chapel that is the entrance to the older, west side of Highgate Cemetery as seen from the inside of the cemetery. The paved area I'm looking across is the enormous turning circle for Victorian horse-drawn hearses which could be pulled by as many as four pairs of horses for the sake of show. The chapel, of course, dates from the opening of the cemetery in 1839 and another example of 19th century Gothic Revival architecture. There are two chapels, one on either side of the gate in the centre. The larger one on the right is for Anglicans who would be allowed to be buried in the consecrated parts of the cemetery. The smaller chapel is for dissenters/non-conformists (i.e. not Anglicans). The borough of Highgate, when it was a separate town before the amalgamation of Greater London, was a hotspot for non-conformist churches. It used to be that clergy booted from the Church of England were barred from preaching within 5 miles of the city or parish they were kicked out of. Highgate Town was a nice place that was just far enough away from the City. The building used to have some wooden spires that are gone now, lost to lack of maintenance between when the London Cemetery Company became unprofitable and folded and when the non-profit Friends of Highgate that run things now rescued the cemetery from complete neglect. Space for burial is a finite resource and there inevitably came a point where there weren't enough grave spaces left to sell to pay for groundskeeping and building maintenance.
on Instagram

Pages

Subscribe to Front page feed Subscribe to Front page feed