Visiting Marx's Tomb in Highgate Cemetery

Updated on July 22, 2019
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I last visited Karl Marx's tomb in Highgate Cemetery in 2017. There is a small admission fee, but group rates can be negotiated.

This bronze bust of Karl Marx sits on top of his memorial tomb in Highgate Cemetery.
This bronze bust of Karl Marx sits on top of his memorial tomb in Highgate Cemetery.

A Brief History of Karl Marx's Tomb in Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery is a vast Victorian necropolis in the heart of north London, where the memorial tomb of the world-famous German philosopher and founding father of Communism—Karl Marx—is situated. Opened in 1839, Highgate is a truly fascinating place to visit. The imposing ornate monuments and mausoleums of the Victorian bourgeoisie, dedicated largely to themselves, are abundant. Their choice of architecture made a final posthumous statement that they were just as ostentatious in death as they were in life.

The cemetery staff members are very helpful and know the layout of the massive necropolis better than most. On entering the main gate of the east cemetery, there is a small cover charge, though it may very well be possible to negotiate a reduced group rate. If you can prove and/or insist that you have relatives buried in the cemetery, then there is no fee.

The world-famous tomb of the founder of modern Communism lies, not unsurprisingly, to the left of the main entrance in the East Highgate cemetery. It is a massive structure with the bust of Karl Marx atop a plinth in vast dimensions. The tomb goes some way to reflect the massive impact that Marxian ideology has had on the world to date. The great philosopher's contemporary tomb was not his original grave marker, the original tombstone was a much less grand affair but still exists in another corner of Highgate.

The famous tomb dedicated to the founding father of modern Communism was erected in 1956, created by the sculptor, Laurence Bradshaw. The cost of the new monument was met by the Communist Party of Britain's Marx Memorial Fund, set up in 1955. The tomb is classed as a Grade 1 Listed Building (protected) because of it's architectural and global significance.

In recent times, Marx's tomb has been vandalized several times by fascists and neo-Nazis, although to date, the damage has been relatively superficial. There was an unsuccessful attempt by British fascists to bomb the massive structure in 1965 and again in 1970, but it is kept in excellent repair with many bouquets of flowers arranged around the plinth of the tomb by its many daily visitors. The upkeep of the last resting place of Marx is today paid for, at least partly, by the Peoples Republic of China via its embassy in London. The upkeep of both east and west sections of the necropolis is the responsibility of the Friends of Highgate Cemetery.

Prominent on Marx's tomb are the inscriptions 'Workers of all lands unite' from the Communist Manifesto and 'The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it", from the philosopher's Theses on Feuerbach. Considering the high level of visitors that the monument attracts, these words have never lost their resonance.

Karl Marx's Memorial Tomb
Karl Marx's Memorial Tomb

Notable "Residents" in Highgate Cemetery

The imposing north London cemetery was used as a regular film set for many of the old Hammer Horror movies. Highgate is also the final resting place for many other revolutionaries, famous and infamous notables from all walks of life, including:

  • Claudia Jones, black Communist, and fighter for social justice
  • Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and other novels
  • Farzad Bazoft, the journalist, executed by Saddam Hussein's regime
  • Robert Caesar Childers, oriental scholar, and writer
  • Lucy Clifford, British novelist, and journalist, the wife of William Kingdon Clifford
  • John Dickens and Elizabeth Dickens, parents of Charles and models for Micawber and Mrs. Nickleby
  • Michael Faraday, physicist
  • Copeland Family, prestigious family, and Romanian royal lineage
  • Paul Foot, campaigning journalist and revolutionary socialist
  • William Friese-Greene, cinema pioneer. The memorial is credited to Edwin Lutyens
  • Lou Gish, actress, daughter of Sheila Gish
  • Sheila Gish, actress
  • Craft Copeland
  • Radclyffe Hall, author of The Well of Loneliness and other novels
  • Mansoor Hekmat, Communist leader and founder of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran and Worker-Communist Party of Iraq
  • James Holman, sightless 19th-century adventurer known as "the Blind Traveller"
  • Alexander Litvinenko, Russian dissident turned critic, allegedly poisoned in London
  • Ralph Miliband, left-wing political theorist, father of reformist British Labour Party personalities David Miliband and Ed Miliband.

Those interred close to Marx's tomb would make for an interesting cross-section of neighbors in life. However, those listed above are only a tiny sample of the 170,000 people buried in Highgate Cemetery. In modern times Karl Marx's memorial tomb attracts the most visitors, by far. In recent times both the east and west cemeteries have become a haven for inner-city wildlife, including foxes, rabbits and a variety of smaller animals.

Visitors From The Red Fleet

Soviet Navy Sailors in London in 1956 Visiting the Karl Marx Memorial
Soviet Navy Sailors in London in 1956 Visiting the Karl Marx Memorial

Location of Karl Marx's tomb in Highgate Cemetery, London

London N6 6PJ:
Swain's Ln, Highgate, London N6 6PJ, UK

get directions

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Liam A Ryan


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