Highgate Cemetery – 28th September 2022

Today Karen had arranged for us to do a tour through Highgate Cemetery which is located at Highgate Hill which is in north London.

Originally, they opened up the cemetery in 1839 to cope with the overcrowded church yards where bodies were being dug up by wild animals.

There are approximately 170,000 people buried in around 53,000 graves across the West and East Cemeteries. 

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 is designated Grade I on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. It is one of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries in London.

You too can purchase a mausoleum for a princely sum – there were some empty crypts in this very old Egyptian style mausoleum.

The cemetery’s grounds are full of trees, shrubbery and wildflowers, most of which have been planted and grown without human influence.

To visit the cemetery, you must pay an entrance fee which goes towards maintaining it as it does not receive any funding as previously it was a private burial ground.

We went on a guided tour with a volunteer by the name of Nicola. She was most informative and with humour in all the right places.

She unlocked one of the mausoleums and took the group inside which started to freak some of us out. One of the surprising things once we were inside was that it was very dry and there was no smell which was most welcoming.

Any person who is put to rest in a crypt or a mausoleum must be put in a lead lined coffin. Today the interior of the coffin would be zinc as lead is too dangerous – not for the dead person though. In this mausoleum, the outer wood coffins had disintegrated, and you could see that just the lead coffins were left – we all felt just that little bit uncomfortable.

There are a number of well-known people who are buried in the graveyard including Alexander Valterovich “Sasha” Litvinenko who was a British-naturalised Russian defector and former officer of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) who specialised in tackling organised crime. A prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, he advised British intelligence and coined the term “mafia state” and for the he was poisoned with polonium-210.

One of the other well-known residents besides Karl Marx is George Michael. The cemetery is still open for burials, but it is extremely expensive.

After our nearly two-hour walking tour around the cemetery, we headed off to the Flask pub in Highgate Hill for a leisurely bite to eat.

This is our last full day in the UK before we head back to Canada tomorrow. It has been four and a half months since we made landfall here in the UK and in that time, we have seen, done and experienced many fun and exciting things. If asked what was our favourite thing, we would not want to single one thing out in particular but we will say that taking a narrowboat up the Thames River was probably one of our more crazy ideas.

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