Highgate Cemetery was one of the earliest private cemeteries in England. London’s huge population growth in the early 19th century meant that most churchyards were full and there was a growing concern about the need to bury the dead. Between 1801 and 1841 the population of London doubled from 1 to 2 million and during this time the capital was also hit with unprecedented health crises including typhoid cholera. The solution to this problem would be solved by entrepreneurial Victorian businessmen. In 1836 an Act of Parliament established the London Cemetery Company, led by Stephen Geary. There were plans to build a North, South, and East cemetery, with Highgate being the flagship project.
Highgate Cemetery soon became a fashionable place for burials and was much admired and visited. The Victorian romantic attitude to death and its presentation led to the creation of a labyrinth of Egyptian sepulchers and a wealth of Gothic tombs and buildings. The rows of silent stone angels have born witness to pomp and ceremony as well as to some dreadful exhumations.
These avenues of death entomb poets, painters, princes, and paupers. There are at least 850 notable people buried at Highgate including 18 Royal Academicians, 6 Lord Mayors of London, and 48 Fellows of the Royal Society. Although perhaps its most famous occupant is Karl Marx, several other people worthy of mention are also buried here including:
-Edward Hodges Baily – sculptor
-Rowland Hill – originator of modern postal service
-John Singleton Copley – artist
-George Eliot, (Mary Ann Evans) – novelist
-Michael Faraday – electrical engineer
-William Friese-Greene – inventor of cinematography
-Henry Moore – painter
-Karl Heinrich Marx – father of Communism
-Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal – model of the PreRaphaelite Brotherhood