Posted by: lifeonislandtime | August 12, 2017


Highgate is a cemetery is a Victorian cemetery in London. It was begun when there wasn't space to be had in London for either the living or the dead. The cemetery sold spaces, and was designed to showcase the wealth and power of your family, even if you're dead.

Over the years, however, its fallen into ruin. In the 1970s, it was completely overgrown. What were once manicured avenues through ornate mausoleums with views toward a distant St. Paul's Cathedral, was now a jungle of trees and ivy-covered tombs. The Friends of Highgate organized themselves and began cleaning the cemetery up. They also started researching who was buried at the cemetery. It reads as a who's-who of middle to upper class London society, most of whom I (a resident American) don't recognize.

It was meant to mimic Pere laChaise cemetery in Paris. It fails spectacularly. It's built on a hill, and because of this, meanders in swooping arcs up and down the hill. The graves and mausoleums aren't laid out in specific patterns, but follow their own design. They emerge from ivy run amok, ash, fir and cedar trees (even a low-hanging Rowan tree) and are surrounded by shrub-sized versions of the flowering plants that were planted on the graves a hundred years ago. The overall effect is both peaceful and haunting. It is a place where you would expect to find ghosts, but it doesn't feel haunted.

The "new" side has more modern graves. Many of these are from the 1900s until more recently. My favorite was Douglass Adams's grave. He wrote "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy", one of my favorite science fiction books. Of course, one of the newest "residents" of Highgate is George Michael. He is buried on the "old" side with no headstone yet, only a wreath of white flowers. While looking at the memorial to the London Fire Brigade lost in the line of duty, we saw one of the non-permanent residents. A red fox. He jumped out of the underbrush and wound his way among the graves to a hollow in a tree, where he watched us. Eventually he moved on, and so did we. But we got a few pictures of him, and many of the cemetery itself.

They don't do it justice.

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