This is one example of the human desire to artistically celebrate life and
death in a maze of stoneworks and statues which, after around a hundred years,
found themselves moulded into nature with the fungus and vines of time. The
designs and creations in the guarded West Cemetery are, if not seductively
spooky, then are a stunning showcase for grave victoriana.
Angelic death statuettes are on every wooded path of this overgrown forest, as you meander slowly and deeper into the thicket. Suddenly, a grand gate appears, taking up along a street of tombs, up and towards what is possibly the most amazing horror setting - The main circular catacombs structure. Here you will find a creepy little path winding around the tomb entrances. All is quiet, and only the gravel under you feet reminds you that you are still alive. What will jump out at you from beyond the grave?
The keepers of Highgate are rather protective of photographical rights, and therefore I present a selection of stock prints found for me from the early eighties, just before the management decided to clear the cemetery of its fantastic creeping vines and cobwebs. It was a terrible mistake, as the place looks different now - all cleared, washed, and scraped away of its dust and foilage, it now looks as if it was built yesterday. They have destroyed the charm of highgate, but at least the architecture is still there. No doubt it's important that this place be visited before the idiots completely destroy its natural charm.
Its quite sad really that this place is being wrecked by its own success, as vandalism and popularity have induced its carers into a profitteering mentality. It an effort to become self sustaining, money is the object. Also, there are more and more restrictions by the year, mostly on photography. It's all enforced under the fake veil of having respect for the dead, but if only they did. This has led them into the idea of cleaning up the architecture, making it shiny and new. They have absolutely no idea what they are dealing with.
Otherwise, the cemetery looks like the ultimate hammmer horror film setting. It was the perfect location for that genre, and the opening sequence of Tales From the Crypt was actually filmed there, back in the seventies. There is no denying that there is an eerie atmosphere in old Highgate, even though it's been cleared up. You have been warned...
Charles (of London Town)