New controversy as Highgate Cemetery hikes up admissions charge
BY Susanna Wilkey HIGHGATE Cemetery has been accused of fleecing the public after introducing a 40 per cent price rise which comes into force next month. The cost of a tour of the western cemetery, which cannot be accessed without a guide, has jumped from
HIGHGATE Cemetery has been accused of "fleecing the public" after introducing a 40 per cent price rise which comes into force next month.
The cost of a tour of the western cemetery, which cannot be accessed without a guide, has jumped from �5 to �7 for adults and from �1 to �3 for those aged eight to 16. Admission to the east cemetery is unchanged at �3, but the cost of the optional monthly tour there increases from �5 to �7.
No other concessions are offered to visitors to the Western cemetery including the elderly, disabled or students - and visitors are often asked to make donations on top of the entrance fee.
A family of four on an outing to both parts of the cemetery will pay �26 - equivalent to the admission to Kew Gardens and more expensive than Keats House, the Freud Museum, the Henry VIII exhibition at the British Library and the David Byrne musical installation at the Roundhouse.
Critics have slammed cemetery bosses for being greedy and showing a lack of innovation in coming up with more acceptable ways to boost their finances.
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Sue Berdy, a member of the Friends of Highgate Cemetery, said: "This is fleecing the public. Charging at cemeteries should not mean the less well off are excluded and this new pricing is not fair and does not fit in with other cemeteries. Kensal Green charges �5 and you get a cup of tea and a biscuit. The tour is much longer and the grounds are larger.
"We are in a credit crunch and this increase has come in while disposable incomes are down.
"Had it been done alongside a longer tour, or if something else was offered with the tour, maybe it would be more acceptable but this just seems greedy.
"I would like to know if they are still going to ask people for donations on top of the �7 because if so, where does it stop?"
The price hike comes weeks before the release of a new novel Her Fearful Symmetry by American bestselling author Audrey Niffenegger, which is set in Highgate Cemetery and is expected to boost visitor numbers.
Another Friend, Caroline Coombes, said: "I was at the cemetery two weeks ago taking colleagues around and quite honestly I have never seen the western cemetery looking in such a mess. I do not know how they have got the nerve to charge �5 for a tour let alone �7."
Former chairwoman Jean Pateman said the price increases are necessary to keep the cemetery going. "The cemetery is a very costly operation and I have not yet seen the details for next year's budget but I think it is fairly frightening and bearing in mind we have no forward funding, this increase is needed.
"What we are doing here, even at �7, is still heavily subsidised. If it weren't for a huge number of volunteers the cemetery would not work," she said.
The leadership of the cemetery is still in flux at the moment with ongoing talks about a merger.
The Friends of Highgate Cemetery are still in talks with the Charity Commission and the two other charities responsible for the cemetery, the Highgate Cemetery Charity and the Highgate Cemetery Trust, about the upcoming merger which will see the creation of one over-arching organisation to manage the historic site.
per visitof Four
Highgate Cemetery (East & West) �10�26
Kensal Green Cemetery�5�18
The Tower of London�17�47
British Library exhibition�9�18
Roundhouse musical instrument