Marx makes Highgate Cemetery top spot for political pilgrims

MENTION Highgate Cemetery and inevitably the conversation will turn towards the grave of Karl Marx

MENTION Highgate Cemetery and inevitably the conversation will turn towards the grave of Karl Marx.

He is undoubtedly the most famous inhabitant at the burial place and his gravesite is visited by thousands every year.

But Richard Quirk, consultant for Friends of Highgate Cemetery, is baffled by the amount of attention and visitors it has attracted.

He said: "He was a historically important figure, but only one of many others buried in Highgate Cemetery who have achieved great things in their lifetime."

The site, however, has attracted attention since the first anniversary of Marx's death. On March 14 1884 between 5,000 and 6,000 people marched from Tottenham Court Road to the grave only to be halted by police who had closed the cemetery.

Mr Quirk said: "On that occasion the authorities imposed closure of the cemetery, fearful of civil disorder."

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The Marx Memorial Library still holds a commemorative ceremony at Marx's grave at 2.30pm every March 14 - the time he is believed to have died.

The library's Michael Hick said: "We congregate at Highgate Cemetery every year to celebrate the life and work of Marx.

"His work is growing in interest to the world now and we have a speaker every year. We've had leading trade unionists and political figures, all different types.

"A number of representatives from different countries like Cuba, South Africa, Vietnam and China turn up. This year the Danish are sending a delegation."

Marx moved to London in 1849 and lived in Grafton Terrace in Kentish Town. He died from bronchitis and pleurisy in 1883 and was buried at the cemetery.

The growing interest in Marx's grave site led to a new memorial being unveiled in the north-east corner of the cemetery 70 years later. Mr Quirk said: "The original burial space was moved about 100 metres south to a new space in a more prominent location.

"The new memorial was funded by an initiative set up by the British Communist party."

The monument was sculpted by Laurence Bradshaw, a former master of the artworkers' guild. A total of 200 people attended the unveiling on the 1956 anniversary of Marx's death.

Marx's head, cast in bronze, looms over a granite plinth with inscriptions written in gold leaf; "Workers of all lands unite" and "The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point however is to change it."

Other revolutionaries have since been buried nearby including Claudia Vera Jones, who founded the Notting Hill Carnival and campaigned against racism,

And the cemetery also provides the final resting place for Dr Yusef Mohamed Dadoo, chairman of the South African Communist party, Saad Saadi Adi, the Iraqi communist leader, and poet and advocate of democracy and human rights in Iraq, Buland al-Haidari.

Mr Quirk said: "I think it's important that people continue to visit Marx's grave, and the graves around it. The proximity of Karl Marx attracts people of a likeminded philosophy."

For information visit or phone 020-8340 1834.

Other famous people buried at Highgate Cemetery include:

o Alexander Litvinenko, former Russian spy

o Christina Rossetti, poet

o Michael Faraday, pioneering physicist and chemist

o Sir Ralph Richardson, actor

o George Eliot, writer

o Douglas Adams, writer

o Paul Foot, campaigning investigative journalist

o Charles Cruft, creator of the famous dog show

o Thomas Sayers, 19th century prizefighter

o Max Wall, comedian and actor