Ian Dungavell 2016

Chief Executive, Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust, London, UK

The cemetery guidebook and the cemetery visitor

Many people today imagine that cemetery tourism is a new phenomenon, part of the ‘heritage industry’. But some nineteenth-century cemeteries were intended as tourist attractions right from their earliest days, not just as places for the bereaved to mourn. Visitors would be improved by reading epitaphs, admiring the art of the memorials, and escaping the noise and pollution of the metropolis. Guidebooks were published and some cemeteries became so popular that ways had to be found to keep visitors out. This talk will be a case study of guidebooks to some of the London cemeteries which opened in the 1830s and 1840s.  How did guidebooks present the cemeteries? Who wrote them, who published them, and who bought them? Are they useful historical sources for understanding the appearance and operation of a cemetery at a distant point in time?  And what can they tell us about the visitors themselves, and their experience? Although this talk is focussed on London, perhaps there are conclusions to be drawn relating to other UK cities and towns.


The Cemetery Research Group runs two events a year: in May and in November. Follow the links and send in an abstract