Highgate Cemetery holds party for great and good of Highgate to celebrate 175th birthday

It is the final resting place of Karl Marx, George Eliot and Douglas Adams and their graves attract tens of thousands of tourists every year.

But this week, visitors flocked to Highgate Cemetery to celebrate its 175-year history at a grand birthday party in the cemetery grounds.

“The party was a chance to look back at all our wonderful achievements,” said Dr Ian Dungavell, chief executive of the Friends of Highgate Cemetery.

“It is the best Victorian cemetery in London because of its being beautifully located, beautifully laid out and being a burial place for lots of prominent people.

“But we are also looking to the future and it was a good opportunity to discuss with people what we are going to look like when we turn 200.”


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The great and good of Highgate were among the guests at the celebrations on Tuesday night, including Highgate councillors and representatives from the Highgate Society, Lauderdale House, the Highgate Scientific and Literary Institution and the area’s schools.

The cemetery’s stonemason Neil Luxton was on hand to teach guests how to carve their own epitaph, while the Highgate Choral Society and the North London Brass Band played for the crowd of more than 150 people.

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Old met new as undertakers T. Cribb & Sons showed off a Victorian hearse, pulled by two black horses, next to the UK’s first electric “eco-hearse” developed by Camden-based funeral directors Leverton & Sons.

Small groups were also given tours around both Highgate West and East Cemeteries in the fading light.

The evening was brought to a climax as three cakes covered in an edible version of the ivy growing on many of the cemetery’s graves were cut by Dr Dungavell, Friends of Highgate Cemetery chairman John Shepperd and vice-president Ian Kelly.

“It was lovely to get everyone involved in the cemetery together as well as everyone who has been involved with the Friends over quite a long time,” said Dr Dungavell.

“There is a wonderful community here, but it was also good to reach out to the wider community.

“There were a lot of ideas from people. One of the big areas for development is education which will bring us closer to the local schools, and possibly longer opening hours.”

The party was held exactly 175 years after the cemetery was consecrated by the Anglican Bishop of London on May 20, 1839.

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