What is Highgate Cemetery?
Highgate Cemetery is one of the largest cemeteries in London and burial spot of many famous Londoners and globally renowned writers, artists, scientists and philanthropists, which was opened in 1839.
Who’s buried at Highgate Cemetery?
Highgate is the final resting place for scores of the city’s most notable inhabitants. The grave of Karl Marx, revolutionary theorist of socio-economics and the author of The Communist Manifesto, is the main attraction for visitors to the cemetery. Though Marx is the headline (or headstone) act, there is no shortage of other interesting characters buried at Highgate.
George Eliot, considered one of the greatest authors of the Victorian era, is buried under her birth name, Mary Ann Evans. She chose her pen-name in order not only to elude the expectations of novels by women, but also to prevent onlookers prying into her personal relationship with the man buried next to her. Evans and George Henry Lewes lived together as life partners, never marrying each other, though Lewes remained married to another woman. They lived and travelled together, barely concealing their romance. They refused to comply with the social expectations of Victorian society, and were buried together in Highgate in 1880, and 1878 respectively.
Ernestine Rose, known either as ‘the first Jewish feminist’ or as ‘a thousand times below a prostitute’, depending on the primness of the source, was a leading figure in the Suffragette movement in the USA. She fought tirelessly against widespread and commonplace sexism and anti-Semitism until her death, in 1892.
Michael Faraday’s portrait hung above Albert Einstein’s desk, alongside Isaac Newton’s, to serve as an inspiration to the man who became the greatest scientist of his generation. Despite having few easy opportunities and little formal education, Faraday became one of the most prolific and influential figures in the history of chemistry and physics. He was experimental, exploring avenues of thought that did not occur to those with more traditional training or status – and more conventional mathematical skills. Though he was laid to rest at Highgate Cemetery in 1867, you can see his statue outside London’s Institute of Engineering and Technology in the Strand.
Not all of the graves you will pass are those of celebrated figures. Bruce Reynolds, the criminal mastermind behind the Great Train Robbery of 1963 was buried here in 2013. His heist, at the time the biggest sum stolen in Britain, netted him the equivalent of £55 million. Also buried at Highgate is Adam Worth, an American criminal so notorious he was dubbed ‘the Napoleon of the criminal world’. He is thought to have served as the inspiration for James Moriarty, the nefarious nemesis of Sherlock Holmes. Despite the wealth he accumulated from his international agency of thieves, Worth was buried in a mass paupers’ grave at Highgate, under the name Henry J. Raymond, in 1902.
Communist activists from around the world are buried in Highgate, having sought out the grave of Karl Marx. In his wake socialists, radicals and political dissidents from across the world found refuge here, and eventually a resting place: Claudia Jones, the radical feminist, activist, black nationalist, and founder of the Notting Hill Carnival; Mansoor Hekmat, founder of the communist parties of Iran and Iraq; and South African anti-apartheid activist Yusuf Dadoo.
Interspersing these revolutionary figures are a bewildering variety of people: the fallen of the London Fire Brigade, Wham singer George Michael, poets, painters, politicians, activists, scientists, philosophers, and philanthropists. Highgate Cemetery is the final place of thousands who have shaped the history of London and the world.
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