Competitions launched to conserve world-famous Highgate Cemetery

A search is being launched for designers and architects to help conserve the world-famous Highgate Cemetery in London in the face of climate change.

Monuments in the burial ground, the resting place of well known people including Karl Marx and Lucian Freud, are under threat from long-term decay and maturing self-seeded trees, Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust said.

The trees, such as ash, are increasingly stressed by climate change and afflicted by new pests and diseases.

And more extreme weather brought by a changing climate is eroding the cemetery’s gravel paths and overwhelming its historic drainage systems.

Highgate Cemetery's historic monuments are at risk of decay and overgrown trees (Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust/PA)
Highgate Cemetery’s historic monuments are at risk of decay and overgrown trees (Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust/PA)

The trust, which owns and cares for the cemetery, said these impacts were undermining the historic landscape design and reducing the wildlife in the Grade I-listed north London site.

Conservation action is needed to maintain the enchanting atmosphere of the cemetery, preserve its heritage, improve facilities for staff and volunteers and provide it with a sustainable future as a green, wildlife-rich oasis in the city.

The Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust are launching two open competitions, the first of which is to find the best landscape designers to draw up a masterplan for the site.

The second competition is to find an architect-led design team to investigate projects to preserve and enhance historic structures and improve facilities for staff and visitors.

The competitions aim to give Highgate Cemetery a sustainable future (Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust/PA)
The competitions aim to give Highgate Cemetery a sustainable future (Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust/PA)

Martin Adeney, chairman of the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust, said: “We will be working with the local community, cemetery volunteers and experts so that the trees, paths, monuments and buildings will be better looked after, the cemetery will continue to function as an active burial ground and visiting will be easier and more rewarding.

“Having saved the cemetery from dereliction in the 1970s, and secured the major monuments, the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust is now looking at how this world-famous resting place of so many distinguished people can be conserved and enhanced for future generations.

“We will ensure that the cemetery remains the place of enchantment which so many people value, whose carefully-tended natural environment provides sanctuary for those buried here and their loved ones, as well as the thousands who visit.”

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