Yes, there are catacombs in Highgate cemetery - and these are one of the very few catacombs in Britain that are open to the public. This is the 'West' cemetery - the older part. The catacombs date from the original lay-out of in the late 1830s. They are on just about the highest spot - the terrace above them backs on to St Michael's, Highgate's parish church.
The catacombs are airy and fairly well lit. They are not subterranean so are neither musty nor excessively spooky. But it is a little unnerving to see coffins on display. These would be three-ply: a hardwood initial lining, in turn sealed in a lead coffin, with the decorated wood outer layer that can be glimpsed here.
A little downhill from the catacombs is the Egyptian avenue leading to the Circle of Lebanon, a full circle of burial vaults with - until last year - a Lebanese cedar in the middle. The tree had to be removed last year - it was decaying and posing a threat to both the vaults and visitors. A new cedar has been planted - but it will be some decades before it gains anything like the girth and splendour of the original.
One of the vaults is the burial place of the novelist Radclyffe Hall, author of The Well of Loneliness. She shares the vault with her lover, Mabel Batten.
The west cemetery is still occasionally used for interments. George Michael is buried here - though that grave is off-limits to visitors - and so too is Alexander Litvinenko, the Russian defector who was killed by radiation poisoning in 2006.
Highgate's west cemetery is open only for booked and guided tours - it's well worth it!
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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