Sandstone headstone, c.1854
Reason for Listing
The monument to Stephen Geary is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic Interest: commemorates the founder and initial designer of Highgate Cemetery;
* Setting: it is located within the Grade I registered Highgate Cemetery and has group value with other listed tombs and structures nearby.
Stephen Geary (1797–1854) was an architect, engineer and entrepreneur, and the founding member of the triumvirate responsible for the design of Highgate Cemetery. In 1836 he established the London Cemetery Company, the commercial force behind both Highgate and Nunhead Cemeteries. Geary conducted the initial surveys for Highgate and probably designed the Circle of Lebanon, although in 1839 he was succeeded as the Company's architect by James Bunstone Bunning. His best-known work apart from Highgate was the so-called King's Cross, a sixty-foot monument to King George IV at the top of the Gray's Inn Road in London, from which the railway station later took its name. He is credited with the design of London's first gin palace, and also took out a number of patents for inventions ranging from artificial fuel to street paving.
Highgate Cemetery was the third of London's 'magnificent seven' burial grounds, a ring of suburban cemeteries established in the 1830s and 1840s to relieve pressure on overcrowded urban churchyards. A seventeen-acre site on Highgate Hill was acquired by the London Cemetery Company and laid out as a picturesque garden cemetery with a network of serpentine drives, culminating in a monumental catacomb complex at the top of the hill. Geary himself supplied the initial plans, with assistance from Bunning and from the landscape gardener David Ramsay. The cemetery, opened in 1839 and extended to the east of Swain's Lane in 1854, enjoyed great popularity and prestige during the second half of the C19 (famous occupants include George Eliot, Christina Rossetti and Karl Marx), but lack of money and maintenance led to a severe decline during the C20. Since 1975 it has been run on a charitable basis by the present Friends group.
The monument takes the form of a low headstone with a scalloped and rounded top. The inscription reads: ‘Sacred to the memory of Stephen Geary Esq. architect and founder of this cemetery who departed this life August 28th 1854 in the 57th year of his age’. A further inscription below commemorates his wife Sarah (d.1867).
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.