It’s been a while since I went, but I can pinpoint the day, the time, and where I went for breakfast. It’s 10:06 on the 31st July 2011, I’m sitting in the beer garden of The Gatehouse in Highgate, having just eaten breakfast, and sent this email to my friend Nick (forgive the typo, I had no doubt over-nourished myself on hash browns):
At the risk of treading on the toes of the London Review of Breakfasts, luxuriate in the knowledge of what comprised a Wetherspoons veggie breakfast back in 2011:
The walk from The Gatehouse down to Highgate Cemetery, on Swain’s Lane, involves passing the Swain’s Lane communications tower. Although I couldn’t possibly go on about work-related things (this blog isn’t the place for that, after all, this blog not representing my employer or its views) I could suggest, for those so inclined, a visit to this page of the fantastically anoraky mb21 transmitter gallery website. Then get ready for a slightly uncomfortable gear-change in the next paragraph.
This is a cemetery of two halves. The east half, where famous folk like Karl Marx, Paul Foot and Jeremy Beadle are interred, along with literary agent Pat Kavanagh who, as her headstone explains, was wife of Julian Fellowes. There are some incredibly moving monuments, such as the London Fire Brigade’s. One of the many casualties remembered is Colin James Townsley, a Station Officer who died in the King’s Cross fire of November 1987. It is thought he was killed by the ticket hall flashover when attempting to assist a passenger. Spending some time on a summer’s morning, just sitting and thinking by the LFB monument, is a humbling experience. There’s a bench right there for you.
Over in the west, meanwhile, you’ll find the graves of Alexander Litvinenko and Michael Faraday, in a grade 1 listed site, replete with gothic catacombes, Egyptian Avenue, the Circle of Lebanon and the Columbarium. Speaking as someone who knows little-to-nothing about architecture, much of it is architecturally stunning, its impact often aided by over a hundred years of decay. Access to the west is only possible as part of a tour, the details of which are available, along with plenty of history and other interesting articles about the cemetery, from the Friends of Highgate Cemetery website.
And, just in case you want to see a photo of London’s most-visited headstone…
A couple more photos are, as you might expect, over on flickr.