Unfortunately, it’s not that straightforward to just pop along any time you like. Access, at least to the West side is restricted to being part of a tour (with fee) only, and you have to pay to enter the East side as well, which put me off for a while. But, both sides, I think, are worth the money, and doing the West side as part of a tour is probably a lot more informative and entertaining than wandering around on your own trying to make sense of it.
No more so than when we went into the catacombs. It was cold and dim in there and while some of the catacombs had concrete over their fronts with inscriptions about who lay within, some of them had had only glass fronts, long since broken, and the slightly decaying coffins were clearly visible. It definitely gave you a creepy thrill.
The tour is supposed to last an hour, but it actually spilled quite a lot over that, and even then our guide had to reel off a bunch of graves we didn’t have time to get to or were inaccessible at the moment. All the places on the tour were booked – you must book ahead if you go in the week and woe betide you if you don’t! Two people had turned up, traveled all the way from Kent to get a spot, but we were full and there was no changing anyone’s mind about it! On the weekends, you just have to turn up and hope you get on a tour without waiting around for too long. They're clearly popular.
Photos are allowed in the main, but there were some instances when it’s not permitted – sometimes families request that photos not be taken, as in the case of Litvinenko who is buried there, or the grand mausoleum that we peeked in which ‘houses’ Julius Beer and his descendants. Julius Beer was a Jew who technically shouldn’t be buried in consecrated ground but who allegedly converted on his death bed. He owned the Observer and had a lot of money so I imagine not too many people objected, even when his mausoleum, which is the biggest in the cemetery, blocked the sightline over the other graves. This has recently been restored and is quite incredible inside. Its ceiling wouldn’t look out of place in a grand house or church.
|Karl Marx's grave|
|Douglas Adams's grave|
|Richard 'Stoney' Smith's grave - inventor of Hovis|
|George Eliot's grave|
|I liked this grave but though I assumed he was a partner |
at Penguin, I can find no evidence supporting that