If you follow my blog for long enough, you’ll eventually come to realize I have a thing for cemeteries. Not the new modern ones, but the old ones, over 100 years old, the abandoned, falling apart cemeteries. Essentially, just like the old, abandoned farm houses I used to explore in the Midwest. I don’t find them creepy or scary. To me they are peaceful, relaxing places. I enjoy photographing them, on one occasion I even laid out a blanket while taking long exposure shots. Awhile back I discovered there’s actually a term for this, “taphophilia.” I’m a taphophile and proud of it! Anyways, my point is, my birthday came around after being here for about 2 weeks, and some friends took me to London. My choice of what to see for my birthday in London??? Highgate Cemetery!
Highgate Cemetery was opened in 1839 as a private business. Plots were sold to families, and it was upon the family to maintain the plots over the years, rather than the cemetery. Over the years, families died out, moved away, or simply no longer cared. Once the graves were no longer looked after, nature took its course. Plants grew wild and rampant and took over most of the cemetery. Ivy covers huge portions of the cemetery. Its downright magical, especially with all the beautiful, ornate, Victorian graves, mausoleums, and angels.
The cemetery is divided into two sections, eastern and western. The eastern portion was purchased at a later date and is still used for burials. You are able to tour this cemetery on your own, for a small price. The western section is the oldest and contains the Egyptian Avenue, and the Circle of Lebanon. Unfortunately, in order to protect this part of the cemetery, you can only go on a guided tour. We did this, and I must say, as far as guided tours go, this was excellent. The volunteer giving the tour knew what she was talking about and very informative about the various graves of interest. She was also more than accommodating for photographers. There was plenty of the western part that I would have loved to have seen, but the tour does cover the best.
The lion statue lies upon the grave of George Wombwell, who was a travelling menagerist. According to the guide, he had several lions, one of which was Nero, a lion who was reportedly so docile, children were able to ride him. Nero is the lion atop his grave.