Cemeteries can often provide a fascinating insight into past lives and among the most prominent in London is Highgate Cemetery, located in the city’s north.

With the population of London growing rapidly in the early 1800s, the 17 acre Highgate cemetery was first opened in 1839 with the first burial taking place in May that year.

The cemetery quickly became one of London’s most fashionable and was extended by 20 acres before the opening in 1856 of a new cemetery to the east. These days both are open to tourists although the West Cemetery can only be explored on a guided tour, thanks at least partly to vandalism.

The atmospheric East Cemetery is primarily known for being the resting place of Karl Marx but also features the graves of authors George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) and Douglas Adams, Australian painter Sidney Nolan and co-founder of Foyles – London’s famous Charing Cross bookstore – William Foyle.

Features at the West cemetery, meanwhile, include an avenue of Egyptian-style vaults and the vaults in an inner ring known as the Circle of Lebanon. Among those buried there are physicist Michael Faraday and the parents and brother of Charles Dickens.

The cemetery is now operated by a non-profit charity, the Friends of Highgate Cemetery.

WHERE: Swain’s Lane. Nearest tube is Archway; WHEN: Eastern Cemetery – daily from 10am (11am weekends) to 5pm (4pm between November and February), Western Cemetery – guided tours only (weekdays at 2pm with phone bookings required, weekends hourly from 11am to 4pm (3pm between November and February); COST: Eastern Cemetery – £3 adults/£2 students, Western Cemetery tours – £7 adults/£3 children aged 8-16; WEBSITE: www.highgate-cemetery.org

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