- Highgate Cemetery is Awarded English Heritage Grant to Save Grade II listed Catacombs -
English Heritage has awarded Highgate Cemetery a grant of up to £124,000 towards the conservation of the
Cutting Catacombs, the final major structure in need of essential repairs. The grade II listed catacombs lie in the Western
Cemetery and comprise 15 individual mausoleums dating back to the opening of the cemetery in 1839.
Highgate is considered to be the finest of London's 'Magnificent Seven' cemeteries and became the most fashionable
place of rest for Victorian society. The cemetery cover 37 acres and more than 168,000 names are buried there, including famous
figures such as Karl Marx, George Eliot and Michael Faraday.
The catacombs have become overgrown with plants, roots and creepers, and need considerable repairs to the
roofs. Much of the stonework needs realigning and the iron gates need repairing; in some cases they need replacing.
Tracey Craig, from English Heritage's north London team said: "We have worked closely with the Friends of
Highgate Cemetery during the last 20 years and are very pleased to be able to help on the last of their major projects. The
Cemetery is an outstanding piece of Victorian history and it has been lovingly restored by a very dedicated team."
The Cuttings Catacombs were sold to private buyers for up to £140 each and perhaps the most notable owner
was Sir Benjamin Hawes, buried there in 1862. Sir Benjamin was the MP for Lambeth between 1832 and 1847, and went on to represent
Kinsale between 1848 and 1862. He married Sophia Macnamara Brunel, sister to the great engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The
alliance led Sir Benjamin to become Chairman and Director of Brunel's Thames Tunnel project. The tunnel is now part of the
London Underground network.
Jean Pateman, Chair of the Friends of Highgate Cemetery said: "The Friends have taken on copious projects
over two decades and we are hugely relieved that English Heritage has once again offered us a lifeline. The Cemetery has been
listed for its outstanding architectural value and we are very pleased to be able to complete this final substantial project."
After the Cemetery fell into financial decline, the graves and landscape became dilapidated. Restoration
work began in earnest in 1986; the landscape is now a Grade II* Park and registered by English Heritage as of "outstanding
historical and architectural interest". In 1998 Europa Nostra recognised the unique conservation techniques used by the Cemetery
with an award for work in the Lebanon Circle, which was judged as being among the best in Europe.
In keeping with previous conservation done at the Cemetery, all original materials in the Cuttings Catacombs
will be re-used where possible. The total cost of the project is expected to be £226,000 and it is hoped that work will start