Thursday, 18 February 2010

Highgate Cemetry

I initially visited Highgate cemetry for two reasons, firstly as I was focusing my dissertation on Mourning jewellery and I thought visiting a few Victorian cemetries would give me a further understanding of their expression of death. Secondly because one of my ancestors is buried there and I was keen to see the family plot. It turned out to be such an amazing experience and has inspired so many parts of my work since.

This is the Hill family tomb, it is really beautiful and commemmorates my (i think 5 times) Grandad and his family..Sir Rowland Hill, he created the postage stamp don't you know!

Highgate was created in 1839 by the General Cemetry Company and insantly became a popular and fashionable place to be buried amoungst the wealthy and upper classes.
It has the most incredible Dickensian Atmosphere that takes you right back to time when you would have seen black carriages and horses drawing up into the main court and forlorn visitors slowly waltzing around huddled together in blakc crepe.
John Betjeman referred to Highgate as the Victorian cemetary "par excellence, the Victorian Valhalla". It really is so lavish and dramatic, featuring an Egyptian archway with tudor turrets leading in large avenue of vaults..

It the centre is this huge Ceder tree standing tall on a mound of earth. This is called the Circle of Lebanon, built in the same style. This circle was created by earth being excavated around an ancient Cedar of Lebanon, a legacy of the Ashurst Estate and used to great effect by the cemetery’s designers.

This is one of the doors to a vault holding a family mausoleum. They are such eery spaces, you can see inside as you are walking around and they seem so unusually large for holding a few coffins. They remind me of big old empty houses with wind blowing through them, untouched for years but holding secrets that have been buried with the owners.