More often than not, any historic London location is going to bring with it an interesting history. After all, part of the allure of visiting such an old city is being able to learn of the events that shaped it, and cemeteries are no exception. While most cemeteries don't have a history that goes past when and why they were created, Highgate Cemetery differs entirely. Not only does this cemetery date all the way back to 1839, but it also comes with lore and legend that entice many a visitor and keeps it popular with the locals.
Just walking into this final resting place, with its high memorial towers and Gothic statues, makes one feel as though they've entered a place that's frozen in time and neither here nor there. It's eerie and beautiful at the same time, and even more intriguing once one knows all the things that once took place within its wrought-iron gates.
It Was Once A Highly-Demanded Burial Ground
As far as cemetery popularity goes, Highgate was once in high demand by many people. It sounds strange to have such a strong preference and desire to be buried in such a place but at one point, this was once highly sought-after by many as their final resting place.
The popularity behind the cemetery is entirely evident due to the sheer number of famed people who were buried behind its walls. Many of them, such as Karl Marx, had easily recognizable burial places thanks to the ornateness of their headstones. Marx, for example, had a stone that was carved entirely from his facial likeness. Another well-known historical figure was Adam Worth, who was said to have been the inspiration for Professor Moriarity in the Sherlock Holmes novels.
Highgate is part of what's known as the Magnificent Seven, a grouping of cemeteries that served a need during the 19th century when local parish cemeteries began experiencing overflow. With a rapidly expanding population, the goal of these cemeteries was to push burial locations just outside of the city - with Highgate quickly becoming the most desirable.
The Highgate Vampire Sensation Of The 1970s
During the 1970s, horror films were in their prime. Urban legends were sensationalized to a point where fans became somewhat obsessed with their nature, including the original lore that started it all. In London, specifically, one film studio by the name of Hammer noticed the then-decrepit, forgotten Victorian-era cemetery known as Highgate and decided to give it new life - metaphorically. Many of the film company's movies were filmed at the cemetery, thus getting fans curious about where this mysterious location could be. When it was discovered that the setting of the creepy movies was none other than Highgate, a new movement was started: The Highgate Vampire Sensation.
As with anything, too much of a good thing isn't always, well... good. The sudden overwhelming interest in the cemetery drew national attention and suddenly, police departments were inundated with reports of grave robbings and desecration. People flocked to Highgate to see what all of the buzz was about and, as is human nature, rumors began circulating - including one that detailed strange apparitions floating just above the graves within the cemetery. One thing led to another and self-proclaimed 'vampire hunters' took to the cemetery to rid it of what was once believed to be one of the biggest threats to the general public.
This vampire hunt - of which, of course, there was no actual vampire - finally came to an end when two self-proclaimed magicians by the names of Farrant and Manchester promised to rid the cemetery of the creature. The 'duel' that was meant to settle the matter never happened, as police apprehended Farrant - with a wooden stake in hand - and brought to an end the hysteria and occult surge that surrounded Highgate and its grounds.
Visiting Highgate Today
To this day, the history surrounding Highgate's more than 100 years of existence still draws intrigued visitors onto its grounds. While much of it is overgrown and signs of the terror that ran through it during the 1970s are still evident, so are its traditional Gothic and Egyptian-inspired tombs, headstones, and statues. Highgate is also speculated as being the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula, as well, and the tomb of Lucy is said to be somewhere in the cemetery.
Important Things To Know
- West Highgate: Must be explored with a guided tour.
- East Highgate: Can be explored with a self-guided tour.
- Entrance Fee, East Highgate: £4.00 Adults / 18 and under free
- East Self-Guided Tour: £8.00 Adults / £4.00 Children
- Entrance Fee, West Highgate Tour: £12.00 Adults / £6.00 Children above 8 / Under 8 not allowed
- Hours: West Cemetery - Monday to Friday 11 AM & 1:45 PM, Saturday & Sunday on the 30-minute mark from 11 AM - 3 PM / East Cemetery - March to October 10 AM - 5 PM, November to February 10 AM - 4 PM