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At Highgate Cemetery

September 6, 2023
by the gentle author


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If you seek to lose yourself in London and escape the scorching summer heat, Highgate Cemetery is the ideal destination. You step through the gothic-inspired gatehouse and take the winding path up the hill among the trees, with gracious architectural monuments, tombs and statues on either side. Foliage and shadow enclose the cemetery, shielding it from the city.

At the top of the hill you arrive at a grand entrance with exotically carved stone pillars and iron gates, hung with dense growth of ivy and creepers. You encounter deep shadows at the portal and, unavoidably, confront your own mortality. As you ascend the shady path alone towards the light, lined with doors, it is as if you are entering the ancient metropolis of a lost civilisation. But the residents have not fled, they are all still here under the permanent lockdown of death.

You wonder what you will find at the other end of this passageway. Yet you emerge again into the light to discover a narrow street of doorways leading to the left and the right, open to the sky and lined with flowers. As you pace around, you recognise that each one is subtly distinct from the others, with names to enable the holy postman. Within minutes, you discover this street is circular. You have arrived at the heart of the necropolis and you can walk for eternity around this street. You can change direction, but you can only travel in a circle.

Thank goodness there are stairs that permit you to escape and return to the world of the living, where you can stand and impassively observe this curious architectural feature at the heart of the cemetery. If you seek the soul of London, you will find it here in the rotunda at Highgate Cemetery.


Highgate Cemetery, Swain’s Lane, London N6 6PJ

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2 Responses leave one →
  1. Sally permalink
    September 6, 2023

    That was a treat. It is beautifully written.

  2. Saba permalink
    September 6, 2023

    The cemetery just exudes personality. The lion looks passed out — aren’t we all by the end of a hot summer? Maidens invariably weep. But, best of all, the village of crypts with carefully recorded names on the doors “to enable the holy postman.” I will remember this humorous phrase forever.

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