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Egyptian Avenue - Highgate Cemetery - London

Artizen HDR Lock05


The most imaginative and thrilling structure within Highgate Cemetery is the Egyptian Avenue. The gateway of which is a large Pharoanic arch, flanked either side by two columns with closed lotus buds as capitals. The whole is then guarded by two oblisks, with one still reaching its full heights whilst the other is missing its top half.


The cemetery in its original form — the western part — opened in 1839, part of a plan to provide seven large, modern cemeteries (known as the "Magnificent Seven") around the outside of London. The inner-city cemeteries, mostly the graveyards attached to individual churches, had long been unable to cope with the number of burials and were seen as a hazard to health and an undignified way to treat the dead. The initial design was by architect and entrepreneur Stephen Geary.


Highgate, like the others, soon became a fashionable place for burials and was much admired and visited. The Victorian attitude to death and its presentation led to the creation of a wealth of Gothic tombs and buildings. It occupies a spectacular south-facing hillside site slightly downhill from the top of the hill of Highgate itself, next to Waterlow Park, both of which were part of the former Dartmouth Park which covered the area.


In 1854, the area to the east of the original area across Swains Lane was bought to form the eastern part of the cemetery. This part is still used today for burials, as is the western part.


The cemetery's grounds are full of old-growth trees, shrubbery and wild flowers that are a haven for birds and small animals such as foxes. The Egyptian Avenue and the Circle of Lebanon (topped by a huge Cedar of Lebanon) feature tombs, vaults and winding paths dug into hillsides. For its protection, the oldest section, which holds an impressive collection of Victorian mausoleums and gravestones, plus elaborately carved tombs, allows admission only in tour groups. The newer eastern section, which contains a mix of Victorian and modern statuary, can be toured unescorted.


The tomb of Karl Marx, the Egyptian Avenue and the Columbarium are Grade I listed buildings.

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Uploaded on April 8, 2008