|The entrance to the West Cemetery|
"The Victorians had created Highgate Cemetery as a theatre of mourning, a stage set of eternal repose."From the beginning fifteen acres were consecrated for the use of the Church of England, and two acres for Dissenters. Burial rights were sold for a limited period or in perpetuity. One of the most magnificent tombs, or mausoleums more like it, was built by Julius Beer. He was a German Jew who came to England to make his fortune. He was a businessman (made his money on the London Stock Exchange), banker and newspaper baron, and owned The Observer from 1870-1880. Since he was not a member of the English church he converted before his death, just so he could be buried here. The mausoleum was initially built for his daughter who died young, and inside it is decorated with statues made from the most famous sculptures and artists of the time. It is a magnificent building.
Our guide, Neil, took us around part of the cemetery. It is huge so it is not possible to see it all during the one hour fifteen minutes the tour lasted. Unfortunately for me, the two graves that I really wanted to see, Christina Rossetti's and Lizzy Siddal's (due to my latest fling on the Pre-Raphaelites) was too far away to be included in this tour. There were a lot of other graves to see though.
It also takes me back to the book by Audrey Niffenegger. She certainly took this tour, and most likely, had private viewings as well (since she obviously saw both Siddal's and Rossetti's gravs!). One of her main characters, Robert, is a scholar, writing about the people buried here. He also acts as a guide and having read these passages again before going to London, I recognised a lot of what Neil told us.
"Tonight he stood by the Rossettis and thought about Elizabeth Siddal."The tour started with a man of the people, James William Selby, who was a coachman. He became famous for making the stretch London-Brighton in less than eight hours in 1888.
|Our guide Neil in front of the grave|
of James William Selby
"He led them to the tomb of Sir Loftus Otway an enormous family mausoleum which had once featured large panels of glass."
|Sir Lofthus Otway tomb|
"Robert led them further uphill, stopping at the entrance to the Egyptian Avenue."
|The Egyptian Avenue|
Standing on top of a circle, shadowing these buildings, is a Lebanon Cedar, said to be 300 years old. You get really transferred to another place.
"...climbed up to the grass in the centre of the Circle of Lebanon (Cedar of Lebanon) 300 years old."
|The Cedar of Lebanon|
|Faithful lion Nero, guarding the grave|
|Mabel Veronica Batten tomb|
"Robert had whiled away a whole night watching as falling snow covered Lion, the stone dog that kept watch over Thomas Sayers, the last of the bare fisted prizefighters."
We also passed by Michael Faraday, a famous scientist. He was also mentioned in an exhibition at the Naval Maritime Museum in Greenwich, which we visited the day after.
"He often sat with Michael Faraday, the famous scientist."On the way back we also passed by some newer graves, which shows that the cemetery is still used. Among others, for a person interested in books, I saw the grave of Beryl Bainbridge, which obviously died in 2010.
|An image that shows that this is a very old place!|
"Robert led them along paths, past the Dissenters’ section; he showed them Thomas Sayer’s grave where the Lion stone dog kept patient vigil; skipped Sir Rowland Hill, inventor of the Uniform Penny Post; then past the Noblin family mausoleum without comments. Robert parked the group in front of Thomas Charles Druce and jogged back to the twins. …He fumbled through Thomas Charles Cruce’s exhumation, skipped murder victim Eliza Barrow and also Charles Cruft of dog-show fame. He somewhat regained his form while talking about Elizabeth Jackson and Stephan Geary, then fairly hushed the group down the Cutting Path."