News Gothic Literature Trip to Highgate Cemetery 09.11.2023

On an early November Monday morning our Year 9 students set off to North London to visit the beautiful Highgate Cemetery, a place of reflection and enchantment for writers, artists, walkers and mourners alike. Since the start of term, the students had been reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula in their English lessons alongside a contextual study of the fin se siècle Gothic in 19th century Britain. As well as incorporating complex concepts and contextual ideas alongside their analysis of Stoker’s language choices, the students had also been working on their descriptive writing skills. This included a description of a Gothic and sublime landscape and the students went to Highgate not only to realise for themselves the strong sense of setting in Stoker’s narrative (which includes tombs, sepulchres, ruined abbeys, mediaeval castles, and graveyards) but also to gather stimuli for a second descriptive piece, focusing on atmosphere and place.

The students spent the afternoon roaming the winding paths of the hilly, wooded cemetery, making notes on their impressions of both the atmosphere and specific elements of the interactions between the natural, secluded environment and the many man-made monuments and tombstones. They also enjoyed a tour with one of the cemetery’s guides in Highgate’s catacombs.

They were lucky to enjoy the perfect weather – crisp November sunshine – and the students fully embraced both the spontaneous on-location free writing, as well as the careful planning for a future piece, and also archived some wonderful photos to use for their writing in class.