Highgate Cemetery in north London is one of London’s “Magnificent Seven” Victorian garden cemeteries. It is a hillside burial ground of 15 hectares (37 acres), mainly now covered by secondary woodland. It is in two parts divided by a road. The older West Cemetery covers 7 hectares (17 acres) and the newer East Cemetery, which is still an active burial ground, cover 8 hectares (20 acres). The site is managed by the Friends of Highgate Cemetery (FoHC), which maintains it in a state of “managed neglect”. It has the status of a Grade I listed park.

Address: Highgate Cemetery, Swains Lane, Highgate, London N6 6PJ (Map:; OS grid reference TQ285869)

History Edit

Highgate Cemetery (western section) was created in 1839 and was landscaped with winding pathways, parterres, bedding plants and its own nurseries. It quickly became one of the most popular burial sites in England. As a result of its rapid popularity, its owner, the London Cemetery Company, purchased the eastern section in 1854, with landscaping in keeping with the western half.

By the 1930s, the cemetery was passing into a long, slow, terminal decline. Many graves became abandoned and maintenance became minimal. The chapels closed in 1956. In 1960 the London Cemetery Company, facing bankruptcy, was absorbed into the larger United Cemetery Company, which struggled to keep the cemetery afloat until funds ran out in 1975. In the same year a charity, the Friends of Highgate Cemetery, was launched to secure continuing access to the cemetery. The FoHC acquired ownership of the site with the help of government funding and has since carried out much restoration and conservation work.

Habitat Edit

Secondary woodland of ash and sycamore has become established among the tombs and mausolea, and the stonework supports a diversity of lichens, ferns and mosses. A rich assemblage of plants occurs in the woodland and glades, including species unusual for a suburban location such as great horsetail, prickly sedge and the nationally scarce ivy broomrape. A nationally scarce liverwort, Luisier’s tufa-moss, has recently been found here, at its most eastely site in the UK. The cemetery is now maintained under a policy of “managed neglect”, with emphasis on supplementing woodland growth with a sturdy understorey and a multitude of native woodland plants.

Species Edit


According to the FoHC website more than 40 species of bird frequent the cemetery, but the only species named are Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Tawny Owl. The London Wildweb website mentions Spotted Flycatcher and Willow Warbler, but this may not be up-to-date information.

Anyone have any further information?

Other vertebrates

The FoHC website says that Foxes and Hedgehogs are resident in the cemetery. It adds that “bats may be seen” but names no individual species.

Anyone have any further information?


The FoHC website says that some 20 species of butterfly are regularly recorded in the cemetery. Holly Blue is a site speciality but has been suffering because of attacks from wasp larvae. Recent rare visitors include Clouded Yellow.

Anyone have any further information?

Practicalities Edit


If intending to arrive by car, note that part of Swains Lane is one way heading north (uphill) so you should avoid turning into it from Highgate Village. There is no parking at the cemetery other than for Blue Badge holders, and parking on local streets can be difficult, with most of the surrounding area covered by controlled parking zones. There are some “pay and display” bays on Swains Lane and in Highgate Village. Check the parking regulations carefully because Camden’s parking restrictions can be draconian and the area is regularly patrolled by parking wardens.

To reach the cemetery by London Underground, take the Northern Line (High Barnet branch) to Archway. On leaving the station, you can catch a bus (143, 210, 271) for the short ride up to Highgate village, from which the cemetery is a six-minute downhill walk. Alternatively, walk up Highgate Hill (past the Whittington Hospital) to St Joseph’s Church (“Holy Joe’s”), with its large green copper dome. Just beyond the church, turn left into Waterlow Park and go downhill across the park, past the duck ponds, to the Swains Lane exit (below the tennis courts). The walk takes about 20 minutes. Slightly farther away are two other Northern Line stations, Tufnell Park and Highgate (also Northern Line). Also within walking distance are two London Overground stations — Gospel Oak and Upper Holloway. Both are on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line (“Goblin Line”), while Gospel Oak can also be reached on the North London Line (Richmond to Stratford).

A number of bus routes pass close to the cemetery. They include routes 271 (Liverpool Street to Highgate Village via Holloway and Archway), 214 (Liverpool Street to Highgate Village via Islington, Kings Cross and Camden Town), C2 (Victoria Station to Parliament Hill Fields, at the bottom end of Swains Lane, via Green Park, Oxford Circus and Camden Town), 210 (Finsbury Park to Brent Cross via Highgate Village and Golders Green).


The East Cemetery is open daily (except 25 and 26 December) from 10am weekdays, 11am weekends. It closes at 5pm from March to October and 4pm from November to February. Last admission is half an hour before closing. Tickets cost £3 (£2 for students; no charge for children under 16 accompanied by an adult). The West Cemetery is normally accessible only by one-hour guided tour. At weekends these start hourly from 11am to 3pm (November to February) or 4pm (March to October). Weekday tours occur only on afternoons from March to November and must be prebooked (tel 020 8340 1834). Tickets cost £7 per adult, £3 for children aged 8 to 16. (Younger children are not allowed on the tours.)

Ticket prices for either cemetery include permission to take photographs for personal use. Video cameras and tripods are not permitted.

Surfaces are uneven and some paths climb steeply. In wet conditions, it is advisable to wear walking shoes or boots.


The cemetery has toilet facilities. Cafés can be found in Waterlow Park and at Lauderdale House (across the park and near St Joseph’s Church). Highgate High Street has coffee shops, pubs and restaurants. There are also shops, cafés and restaurants at the bottom of Swains Lane, near Parliament Hill Fields.

‘’This information has been cobbled together from various internet sources by someone who has not visited the site in years but thinks that it deserves a page on the London Bird Club Wiki. If you are familiar with the site, please correct, expand and/or update this information. Please!‘’

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