£128,000 revamp of Victorian mausoleum near Ancrum now complete

The £128,000 restoration of a landmark hilltop monument is now complete, thanks largely to the efforts of a group of 30 volunteers.

Thursday, 11th July 2019, 5:21 pm
ictured at the reopening of the Monteath Douglas Mausoleum are BCCFs Wendy Reid, David Freeman, the 13th Marquess of Lothian, Debbie Playfair, Gareth Baird and Nicky Toneri. Photo: Borders Aerial Photography

The Monteath Douglas Mausoleum, near Ancrum, is now open to the public after over a year’s work.

Grants of £59,000 from the Fallago Environment Fund, £59,450 from the FCC Communities Foundation and £10,000 from BCCF Environmental enabled the Friends of Monteath Mausoleum to restore the Victorian architectural gem to its former glory and improve public access to the site.

The building, at the top of Gersit Law, is the tomb of army general Thomas Monteath Douglas, alive from 1788 to 1868, father-in-law to Ancrum landowner William Monteath Scott of Ancrum.

Jamaica-born Sir Thomas spent much of his life serving with the East India Company’s 35th Bengal Native Infantry in India but returned to Scotland in 1845, settling at the Douglas Support estate in North Lanarkshire in 1851.

Built in 1864 to a design by Edinburgh architecture firm Peddie and Kinnear, the mausoleum was abandoned in 1964 after the death of the last family member and subsequently fell into disrepair.

Broken roof windows and door panels led to internal damage by wind, rain, birds and other wildlife.

Its exterior stonework also fell into disrepair, with walls becoming overgrown with ivy and weeds, leading to the grade-B listed structure being put on Scotland’s buildings at risk register.

Restoration work began last June, with Duns stonemasons Sandy McLean and Co of Duns being recruited to repoint the mausoleum’s stone dome and repair its curved flank wall, featuring two life-sized stone lions, one awake and one sleeping.

The roof’s 48 glazed stars were replaced, and new doors were made from green oak, re-using the original ironware.

The site’s boundary walls were repaired, and a new level pathway from a car park was created to facilitate disabled access.

Friends’ group member David Freeman said: “We are thrilled with the successful completion of this project and would like to thank the Fallago Environment Fund, FCC Communities Foundation and BCCF Environmental for their generous funding package. We look forward to sharing the joy of this spectacular building for years to come.”

Environment fund chairman Gareth Baird said: “The fund aims to enhance the cultural, natural and built heritage of the Scottish Borders, and our support of this very special project fulfils all of those objectives.

“The Monteath Douglas Mausoleum is a beautiful piece of historic architecture in a stunning location with fabulous views over the countrysid,e and we’re delighted that we have been able to able to support the restoration and preservation of such a fascinating Borders landmark for local people and visitors to enjoy.”

FCC Communities Foundation grant manager Sophie Cade said: “We are delighted to have been part of this unique project.

“Huge congratulations to the friends’ group for achieving a remarkable restoration and breathing life back into this magnificent building.”

A BCCF Environmental spokesperson added: “We are pleased to have been able to provide financial support to the endeavours of the friends and hope the restored monument will prove to be a well-visited attraction.”

Walkers, cyclists and horse-riders will have access to the mausoleum throughout the year, and vehicle access will be enabled during six open weekends annually, with a guide available to assist less-abled visitors.

Visitors wishing to see the angel sculptures and star chamber inside the crypt can obtain a key from the Lothian Estates office in Bonjedward for a fee.

For details, go to www.friendsofthemonteathmausoleum.org.uk