Highgate Cemetery, London


Highgate Cemetery in London, England is a PHANTASTIC treasure of Victorian sculptural sepulchres. A recent visit confirmed my hopes and expectations, although I must say that the overly engineered tour was a bit heavy-handed and I wish it had been possible to just wander around freely. Since black and white photos of Highgate seem to do it the most justice, here is a visual tour of it as nineteenth century photographs might have depicted it.

George Wombwell Monument

George Wombwell Monument

The Angels of Highgate

The Angels of Highgate

Highgate Cemetery Path

Highgate Cemetery Path

The biggest regret was that the tour group was not taken to see the grave of Elizabeth Siddal, the Pre-Raphaelite muse of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, which we were looking forward to with excitement. Rossetti is rumoured to have painted thousands of paintings of Siddal, whom he later married, including the sensual Beata Beatrix, and his sister Christina once described his obsession with this muse in verse. When she died in 1862, Rossetti buried his sole surviving copies of his poems with her, an act which he later regretted. Another regret that haunted him for the rest of his life was the fact that he had her exhumed so he could reclaim the poetry and publish it. It is said that her flowing red hair had somehow continued to grow after her death, and that the coffin was overflowing with it….

Beata Beatrix by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Beata Beatrix by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

“One face looks out from all his canvases,
One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans:
We found her hidden just behind those screens,
That mirror gave back all her loveliness.
A queen in opal or in ruby dress,
A nameless girl in freshest summer-greens,
A saint, an angel — every canvas means
The same one meaning, neither more nor less.
He feeds upon her face by day and night,
And she with true kind eyes looks back on him,
Fair as the moon and joyful as the light:
Not wan with waiting, not with sorrow dim;
Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright;
Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.”

Christina Rossetti, In An Artist’s Studio, 1856

Categories: Cemeteries, Exploration, Literature | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

St. Sepulchre’s Cemetery – A Hidden Victorian Gem in Oxford

St. Sepulchre's Cemetery - A Hidden Victorian Gem in Oxford

Two of us ramblers recently took a walk up Jericho way looking for a hidden cemetery called St. Sepulchre’s, a Victorian graveyard on the site of an old farm. Despite containing still more examples of vandalism and neglect amongst Oxford cemeteries, as well as a great many graves completely overgrown with grass and briers, it was a beautiful spring day and we were able to take some charming photographs of the scene and setting. Quite a few leading Oxonians, masters of colleges, and mayors are interred at St. Sepulchre’s, the most famous probably being Benjamin Jowett, Master of Balliol College and arguably the most famous translator of Plato’s dialogues and other classical works into English.

Grave of Benjamin Jowett

Grave of Benjamin Jowett

Additionally, a highly interesting group of stones mark the places where the Sisters of the Society of the Holy and Undivided Trinity (commonly called Sisters of Mercy) were laid to rest. These Anglican nuns had deep-rooted connections to the Reverend Dr. E. B. Pusey and the Oxford Movement, and were led by Mother Superior Marian Rebecca Hughes – the first woman to take vows as an Anglican nun since Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries during the English Reformation. Interestingly, Mother Marian was also the sister of Thomas Hughes, the author of the classic Victorian school boy novel Tom Brown’s School Days.

Grave of Eight Year Old John Henry Silliman

Grave of Eight Year Old John Henry Silliman

Ah – the gems of largely forgotten places and memorials to our predecessors that exist in “this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England!”

St. Sepulchre's Cemetery

“…either death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or, as men say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another. Now if you suppose that there is no consciousness, but a sleep like the sleep of him who is undisturbed even by the sight of dreams, death will be an unspeakable gain….Now if death is like this, I say that to die is gain; for eternity is then only a single night. But if death is the journey to another place, and there, as men say, all the dead are, what good, O my friends and judges, can be greater than this?…What would not a man give if he might converse with Orpheus and Musaeus and Hesiod and Homer? Nay, if this be true, let me die again and again.”

Plato, Apology, Socrates’ Last Words, ca. 399 B.C.

Translated by Benjamin Jowett, 1871

Categories: Cemeteries, Exploration, Literature | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wolvercote Cemetery, Oxford, UK

Wolvercote Cemetery, March 2013 114

Exploring cemeteries has long been a favorite pasttime.  Recently I chose a blustery wintry day in early Spring to walk to Wolvercote Cemetery, north of Oxford, to visit the grave of one of the greatest imaginative storytellers of the 20th century – J. R. R. Tolkien.  I savour these moments so much, however, that I only went to his grave after exploring the rest of the cemetery for over an hour, building up the suspense!  Seeing the graves of children along the way, decorated with their toys and cards from their parents, is always so touching.  I cannot fathom the sadness those families must have felt and will always feel.  Oxford scholars, priests, rabbis, mothers, and fathers – all are represented at Wolvercote.  Even a minister from Kentucky with a Cherokee motto on his tombstone!  The grave of Tolkien and his wife was worth the wait – especially because of the copies of his books and notes and tokens left by his readers.  Such an ordinary British grave in an ordinary British cemetery.  That speaks volumes.

Another thing has struck me about Oxford’s cemeteries, and it is not at all positive.  There are far too many vandalized graves here for such an affluent community.  Rose Hill Cemetery, just east of Oxford, is no different.  What possesses the living to destroy the houses of the dead?  I have long been a believer that the callousness of those who would destroy graves for no reason is not far removed from the hatred and reckless destruction that causes others to take the lives of of living human beings for no reason.

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

“Not all those who wander are lost.”

“It’s a dangerous business…going out your door….You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, 1954

Categories: Cemeteries, Exploration, Literature | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

Manufactured Bodies

The Impact of Industrialisation on Health in London

Ontario Camper

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Klint Janulis: Stone Age Student

Wild Food, Photography and Stone Age Archaeology

The human past

archaeology, history, humans, science


Psychiatry, Child Psychiatry, Parental Alienation

Public Lies

Parental Alienation Blog, supported by Parental Rights Preservation NJ

Southeast Native Food

Sharing Traditional Knowledge of Southeast Native American Food


Recipes for food, lake-life, and fun -with love, from Wisconsin

One Man's Meat

Multi-award winning food blog, written in Dublin, Ireland.

Ruination Scotland

Derelict Mansions from the Borders to the Highlands

Bespoke Traveler

Immersive Tales for the Curious Traveler


Adventures in natural history collections

Better Know A Child Ballad

A 305 part series


Exploring Late Glacial Archaeology

Adventures in Cemetery Hopping

A blog by Traci Rylands

Bones Don't Lie

Current News in Mortuary Archaeology and Bioarchaeology


Death & Memory - Past & Present

The Byron Herbert Reece Society

Devoted to the legacy of the Appalachian poet Byron Herbert Reece

Visions Of The Past

Irish history, Irish ruins, Ireland history, Ireland ruins, Abandoned Ireland

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: