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Grave Care And Grave Maintenance At London's Highgate Cemetery - The Resting Place of Karl Marx
By Francis G. Murphy

One of the best known cemeteries in the world has to be Highate Cemetery in north London. This amazing place was created in 1839 as part of the Magnificent Seven which was the name given to seven new major cemeteries to be built in a ring around the outskirts of the city. The fact was that land for burials within the city was becoming more and more scarce and society had become to understand that it was not healthy to have mass graves within such populated areas. With most graveyards attached to churches full to capacity an alternative had to be found.

Grave maintenance at Highgate cemetery was originally carried out in the main by the local councils of Camden, Highgate and Islington. They ensured that the graveyard was properly looked after and kept in pristine condition. Grave care services were also carried out by families of the deceased. Once the word started to get around about the new graveyard in Highgate it began to become very popular not just for burials but also as a place to visit.

The Victorian society in London appreciated the open spaces of the capital and Highgate was not exception. As more and more people of note were buried there the Victorians began to compete with each other to see who could build the most lavish burial places and memorials for their lately deceased relatives. The Gothic style was very much favoured and most of the original buildings are still standing today.

Situated next to Waterlow park the graveyard is just a short distance down Highgate Hill and is in the main south facing. When looking to extend the cemetery the local council went eastwards, this area was open forest lands with masses of overgrowth and trees. This natural style was maintained and even today the land has masses of trees and shrubs which add both to its mystique and charm. Wildlife abounds with masses of birds, foxes and untold species of wildflowers. With no great care taken with a view to planning people were able to build tombs in almost any shape and not necessarily free standing with many of the built into the hillside itself.

As a necessary precaution the area that holds some the most impressive Victorian memorials is no longer open every day to the general public however guided tours are offered and are extremely popular. One to the most popular areas is the Circle of Lebanon and the Egyptian Avenue in which paths wind and wend their way haphazardly past some amazing tombs, vaults and gravestones.

There is no doubt the most visited grave in the cemetery is that of Karl Marx who died in 1883. Marx had a massive influence over the subject of social science and the Marxist movement was named after him. More recent additions to the cemetery include Farzad Bazoft who was so cruelly killed by the evil regime of Sadam Hussein. Actors and entertainers such as Max Wall and Sir Ralph Richardson are also laid to rest within this remarkable graveyard.

Grave maintenance is now the responsibility of the Friends of Highgate cemetery and it is thanks to their efforts and grave tending services that this remarkable area exists in such good condition today. Grave care services in so many graveyards are now so poor that they are falling badly into disrepair. Thankfully this seems not to be the case with Highgate.


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