Sunday, 22 February 2009

Angels of Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery in London was described by the poet John Betjeman as "Victorian Valhalla". There are many graves of famous artistic and literary people, most notably the Pre Raphaelites. I found this grave of Frederick Warne, publisher of Beatrix Potter. As can be soon from the photo, the graves are very overgrown and some almost in perpetual shade.

However what impressed me most about Highgate was the melancholy beauty of its angels. I am going back there at some point to explore the monuments more thoroughly. Many are protected by English Heritage for their artistic and architectural merit.

The cemetery was rich in flora and fauna. We saw squirrels, a robin perched on a headstone, and I was delighted by the display of snowdrops which carpet the ground and grow through the cracks in some of the older stones. I find this reassuring as it seems to represent rebirth or growth and the signs of early spring.


  1. I love the angels. When you say the cemetery is overgrown, but still part of the heritage, how is it maintained? My experience with overgrown cemeteries is that you hardly know they are there until you hit your toe on a stone. From your photos it doesn't appear to be that severe. It looks like a lovely, quiet place to walk, think, and read.

  2. It is a lovely place with many open spaces. The cemetery is very overgrown but cared for by a charity called Friends of Highgate Cemetery, with help from English Heritage, and they are still removing much of the shrubbery. If I lived closer to London I would probably become one of the volunteers to help maintain it. I think it was left to fall into disrepair because there were so few relatives left who were able to help maintain the graves financially. In recent years it has been realised that this is part of our heritage and efforts have been made to protect it. It did suffer vandalism in the 1970s and is now guided tour only, partly for safety reasons. I posted more photos on my other blog if you want to read more about the English heritage aspect.