My Highgate: Dr Ian Dungavell

The Gospel Oak resident has been chief executive of the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust since September. He talks missing signs, Victorian architecture and snoozing on a bench in Waterlow Park.

What brought you to Highgate?

The opportunity to get to know the most impressive and evocative of England’s Victorian cemeteries and to help with the work of the friends who look after it.

What is your favourite thing about the area?

Highgate Cemetery. It’s true. It’s an amazing place.


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What is the area’s best-kept secret?

The little bit of Baroness Burdett-Coutts’s garden at the top of the Holly Lodge Estate. A little bit of Victorian landscape has miraculously survived into the 21st century.

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What is missing from the area?

Signage to the cemetery. Even at weekends, I’m directing lost tourists.

What makes you smile on your way home?

Holly Village, at the corner of Swain’s Lane and Chester Road. It goes to show how much fun Victorian architects could have when they weren’t being archaeological.

If you were mayor for a day, what would you change?

I would spare Highgate Library from Camden Council’s swingeing cuts.

How would you spend your perfect Sunday?

A walk on Hampstead Heath followed by brunch at Al Parco at the bottom of Highgate West Hill. A snooze on a bench in Waterlow Park and a reviving cake from the Highgate Pantry. Another wander around before a cheap meal at Côte and a good show at the Gatehouse!

What tips would you give to somebody moving to the area?

Join in! There’s an impressive sense of community spirit – make sure you join some of the many local organisations such as the Highgate Society or the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution, or the one of the many friends groups – of Waterlow Park, Highgate Library, or even Highgate Cemetery.

Where in the world would you twin with Highgate?

Gambetta, in east Paris. It has the same village feel as Highgate, but with more bustle, and another fabulous cemetery just next door.

Dr Ian Dungavell was in conversation with Amie Keeley

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