Memorial fund set up in memory of saviours of Highgate Cemetery

Future generations will be able to explore a little more of Highgate Cemetery thanks to a new memorial fund paying tribute to the dedication of the couple credited with saving the historic graveyard.

The Pateman Memorial Fund will acknowledge the hard work that husband and wife John and Jean Pateman put into Highgate Cemetery by embracing their passions.

Mr Pateman’s particular interest was in the preservation of the cemetery archives, while Mrs Pateman’s was in the plants and animals which make their home in the cemetery in Swain’s Lane.

Peter Knight, a trustee of the Friends of Highgate Cemetery, is the man behind the fund and he hopes it will be a way of ensuring the couple will not be forgotten by those who visit the cemetery in future years.

Mr and Mrs Pateman spent 30 years working together to transform the overgrown graveyard into its present day state, after Mrs Pateman had what she would later describe as “a pang of conscious”.

She died a year ago this month having led her “active mob” of volunteers as chairman of the Friends of Highgate Cemetery for many years. Her husband passed away in 2005.

Mr Knight paid tribute to their achievements and said: “It took 10 years just to get the paths on the west side walk-able again - it is just extraordinary. Jean worked tirelessly.”

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The fund, which has the backing of the Pateman’s children, will have two separate strands - the archives and soft landscaping.

It is hoped a memorial library will also be created on the top floor of the main building to house the archives which Mr Pateman was so enthusiastic about.

This will allow future generations to peruse and study the burial registers.

The Friends of Highgate Cemetery are looking to employ “an appropriate person” to examine and categorise the collection.

“The registers are something we would like people to look at in 500 years time,” said Mr Knight.

However, the project comes at a price and the collection of 40 registers will cost in the region of £5,000 each to restore.

Mr Knight knows this is a project which will take years to complete - but he hopes the launch of the fund will provide a springboard to start it off, if not complete it.

“We are seeing how far it goes,” he said.

Meanwhile, gardeners from outside the cemetery will start on the soft landscaping by improving the approaches to the more popular graves, with sympathetic, low level planting.

So far, it has been well received by those who knew the Patemans - and those who know the cemetery.

“I have already had some delightful letters back from friends who knew her well,” said Mr Knight.

- For more information, or to donate to the Pateman Memorial Fund, contact Mr Knight on 07770 632 401 or email