The Mausolea and Monuments Trust is a charitable trust for the protection and preservation of mausolea and funerary monuments situated in Great Britain and Ireland. It was founded in 1997 by the late Jill Allibone.
Why do mausolea need protection?
Because, exposed to the ravages of plants and vandals, they are all too often abandoned and friendless. In law they belong to those that built them, but in many cases the families have died out or lost interest. Parish councils, local authorities and cemetery companies must ensure the buildings do not become dangerous, but are not responsible for their upkeep. So, as private monuments in the public domain, they fall outside the normal patterns of care. But why preserve such buildings? There are many answers to this question. Some mausolea are major historic buildings while others are important as monuments to the famous. But this is by no means all, these buildings have much to say about the human condition; some make grandiose statements about family pride, others tell poignant stories of love and loss, a number were built in the occupant’s favourite spot (often commanding a magnificent view) and some, built by eccentrics, are simply bizarre. There is no other type of building quite so personal or so diverse.
What is the MMT doing to help?
It has taken six ‘friendless’ mausolea into guardianship. These are:
- The Bateman Mausoleum, Morley, Derbyshire
- The Heathcote Mausoleum, Hursley, Hampshire
- The Wynne Ellis Mausoleum, Whitstable, Kent
- The Nash Mausoleum, Farningham, Kent
- The Guise Mausoleum, Elmore, Gloucestershire
- The Boileau Mausoleum, Ketteringham, Norfolk
Two of these, the Bateman Mausoleum and the Heathcote Mausoleum, were in poor condition. We have now fully restored the Bateman and Heathcote Mausolea. We have replaced the oak doors of the Wynn Ellis Mausoleum in replica, incorporating the original grilles, and carried out minor works to the rest of the building. The Nash Mausoleum was handed over to us in good condition so it did not need repair, while the Guise Mausoleum is, and will remain, a maintained ruin. We have also compiled and continue to add to a gazetteer of mausolea from across Great Britain and Ireland. Besides brief histories of the buildings, it contains information on their condition when last visited. By raising awareness of mausolea and, in many cases, their parlous condition, we hope to encourage people to visit them and even, where feasible, help to maintain and restore them. The work of the MMT has been supported by generous grants from The Pilgrim Trust, English Heritage and other charitable bodies, as well as donations from members of the public.
What is a mausoleum?
What is a mausoleum?
A mausoleum is a house of the dead. Larger than tombs, these buildings are free-standing roofed structures erected to receive coffins. They take their name from one of the Wonders of the Ancient World, the vast tomb of King Mausolus of Halicarnassus in Asia Minor. Most British mausolea date from the 18th and 19th centuries. Symbols of dynastic pride, pious respect and love, they stand in their hundreds in churchyards, cemeteries and parks. Many of Britain’s finest architects were involved in their design. Neo-classical, Egyptian or Gothic, they form a varied, emotionally charged, and irreplaceable part of the built heritage.
When is a mausoleum not a mausoleum?
This is a ticklish question. The MMT has defined mausolea as 'house[s] for the dead...freestandinding roofed structures erected to receive coffins'. But despite this we have included some funerary chapels attached to churches in our gazetteer. Furthermore, the gazetteer also contains a number of buildings that are really no more than porches, small above-ground structures, sheltering steps leading down to a vault below. The reason for our catholicism is that one type of mausoleum shades into another. In many cases a freestanding mausoleum, built in the form of a chapel with a vault below, differs little from a funerary chapel attached to a church. All that has happened is that, as the church crypt has become too crowded for further burials, the chapel has moved away from the church. With regard to vaults in churchyards or cemeteries, the deciding factor with regard to inclusion in the gazetteer has been the existence of an above-ground structure with a door; we have excluded those which are merely sealed with a slab.
The Mausolea & Monuments Trust is run entirely by volunteers, so offers of help are most welcome - in all cases, please be in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Some examples:-
Updating the Gazetteer
We welcome information about mausolea not covered in our gazetteer as well as additional or more accurate details and sources. Don't forget your camera if you are out and about; please send us your high quality digital photographs!
We'd welcome offers of help to identify grid references and postcodes for mausolea where the information is lacking at the moment. Grid refs locate the buildings on Google maps, and postcodes are useful for satnavs.