Friends of Highgate Cemetery calls attack a ‘particularly inarticulate form of political comment’
Matthew Weaver – The Guardian
The tomb of Karl Marx at London’s Highgate cemetery has been vandalised in a targeted attack that means the Grade I-listed monument will “never be the same again”.
The suspected vandal damaged a marble plaque which was taken from Marx’s original 1883 gravestone and incorporated into the 1954 monument.
Images of the defaced memorial, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year, show what appears to be damage done by a hammer to the lettering of Marx’s name and the marble on which it is mounted.
Ian Dungavell, the chief executive of the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust, condemned the attack as “an appalling thing to do” and a “particularly inarticulate form of political comment”, warning that the tomb would be permanently scarred.
Highgate Cemetery (@HighgateCemeter)
Karl Marx’s memorial has been vandalised! It looks like someone has had a go at it with a hammer. It’s a Grade I-listed monument; this is no way to treat our heritage. @MarxLibrary @HeritageCrime We will repair as far as possible. pic.twitter.com/6nY2TJOjw7
The police were called to the scene on Monday afternoon.
Dungavell said no other graves at the cemetery had been damaged in the attack.
Speaking to the Guardian he said: “We think it was deliberately targeted against Karl Marx. It was not random. You can see from the photograph that the person has really done their best to obliterate Karl Marx’s name.”
Dungavell condemned the attack as a “particularly selfish act”.
He said: “Regardless of what anyone thinks about Marx’s philosophy I just think it is an appalling thing to do. On a human level this is a grave of his wife, his own grave and other members of his family.”
He added: “This is no way to treat a Grade I-listed monument and it’s a particularly inarticulate form of political protest.
“If it is someone who is rabidly anti-Marxist they could do a lot better trying to change people’s opinion rather than just smashing up the monument. That is not going to win any sympathy to the anti-Marxist cause.”
The “deliberate and sustained attack” on the monument was “very upsetting”, he said. “It will never be the same again, and will bear those battle scars for the future.”
In a statement the Metropolitan Police said: “Initial enquiries have been completed and at this stage the investigation has been closed. If any further information comes to light, this will be investigated accordingly.”
Dungavell speculated that the suspect attacker damaged the memorial with a hammer wielded in the left hand.
“I think they are left-handed because of the angle of the marks left on the memorial move down from left to right. If they were were right-handed they’d be moving from right to left.
“I would guess it has been done with a relatively blunt metal instrument. There are rust marks, and the cuts seem to be broad rather than deep, so I would say it was probably a hammer.”
It is unclear when the incident occurred. The damage was first noticed on Monday afternoon, but Dungavell said images posted on social media suggest it could have occurred early last week or before.
“Just looking at social media posts from people who have visited, if you squint you can see that the damage was visible in some of those photographs,” he said.
‘Staycation’ day two was spent exploring quiet green spaces in North London. Saw Karl Marx’s grave, went up Parliament Hill, found a pergola. Now I will eat left over risotto and watch 30 Rock having just discovered it’s all on 4OD. pic.twitter.com/iRUGEB5ELg
Mayuresh Konnur (@kmayuresh)
This is where Karl Marx is resting. 19th century Highgate cemetery in #London . He was buried here in 1883.
Tomb reads his words: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point however, is to change it.” pic.twitter.com/m4Mzyj6sM9
The cost of the damage has yet to be estimated. Dungavell said: “I’m hoping we will be able to get a specialist stone conservator to consolidate the white marble and then if we can get the lead lettering back it might be that you don’t notice it.”
The children’s author and poet, Michael Rosen, suggested launching an appeal for the cost of repair.
Michael Rosen (@MichaelRosenYes)
@Bookmarks_books I’ve asked the Cemetery if they are doing an appeal. If they do, perhaps that’s something you might be interested in??? I would!
The cemetery will be discussing repairing the uninsured memorial with its owners the Marx Grave Trust. It will also talk to the trust about the possibility of installing CCTV around the monument.
Dungavell said: “We might do a security review with the Marx Grave Trust and speak to the police about what should happen about any recommendations they may have.”
He pointed out that the Marx memorial has been repeatedly damaged since it was installed.
Dungavell said: “It has attracted great controversy over the years. It has had paint daubed all over it. It has had people chanting at it, the bronze bust on the top has been dragged off with ropes, and there was even a pipe bomb set off in January 1970 that damaged the front face of it.”
He added: “That’s the only consolation – he hasn’t been forgotten about.”