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Cemetery Archives: Highgate Cemetery East
Amongst the random ephemera I've picked up on eBay is this 1902 booklet of the Rules, Orders and Regulations of the London Cemetery Company, relating to their two cemeteries at Highgate and Nunhead. You can download a PDF of the complete booklet here.
I'm devastated to see that
All ... cameras ... must be left with the Gatekeeper during the time that the owners thereof remain in the Cemetery.
We also see the price changes over the first sixty years of Highgate's opening: in 1842, interment in a common grave was £1/5/- (one pound, five shillings); in 1902, £1/10/-. Ground for a grave 6 foot 6 by 2 foot 6 was £3/3/- in 1842; by 1902, it's £3/8/-. 5 shillings seems a very small increase, but in fact, it's not: according to the Bank of England, inflation over that period averaged -0.1% per annum: prices fell. So the expensive burials are getting even more expensive.
Mostly ones that are new since last time I visited, and the inevitable Karl Marx. Douglas Adams' grave has pencils stuck into the grass beside it too, which I thought rather nice.
Faces from the eastern half of Highgate Cemetery.
My boss, J., may be the nicest person in the world. "I'm knackered, find me some work to do that doesn't need my brain," I said this morning. "Oh, have the afternoon off and go play in the sun," he said. So I went to Highgate Cemetery.
I don't mind admitting, I went with a little trepidation. I've been told off in Highgate more often than I care to remember: for wearing a vest top deemed "unsuitable", for wanting to take photos on many occasions... frankly, it feels like I've been told off for wanting to visit at all. An innocent question about what the Friends might need help with, 7 or 8 years ago, met with a chilly "no thank you". But things have changed quite dramatically: I got smiled at when I arrived. By the formidable Mrs P. (I think) as well: good for her.
A change in management in the cemetery may have had something to do with this. Maybe they've just realised that they're primarily a tourist attraction and secondarily a cemetery (or will have to be, if they want to raise the £1,000 a day it takes to support the place). On a sunny Friday afternoon, the eastern half of the cemetery was full of tourists, with no one I could identify as a mourner at all. Perhaps the days of guide books voting Highgate Cemetery the UK's most unfriendly tourist destination are over.
Visiting: Highgate is still a pain in the backside to get to. On the tube, Archway is just about walkable and nearer than Highgate station. The C11 bus will drop you almost outside the gates, but will drag you on a tour of north London back streets first: pick it up at Archway station. Otherwise get the 210 or the 143 bus to Highgate Hill and walk through Waterlow Park. Driving is strongly not recommended; there is no parking at the cemetery.
Mobility-impaired visitors should be aware that Swain's Lane is a very steep hill, and that only the very main paths in the east part of the cemetery are tarmacked.
The eastern half of the Highgate Cemetery is the newer half, and visitors are free to wander unguided at will. The giant statue of Karl Marx is here, but there are plenty of other beautiful late-Victorian monmuments to be seen, as well as the atmospherically overgrown section further down the hill.
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