As imposing structures go, the Monteath Mausoleum ranks among the Scottish Borders best.
Its presence, just off the A68 past Lilliardsedge Holiday Park, deservedly puts it on nodding terms with the Eildon Hills to the north and its near neighbour to the east, the Peniel Heugh Waterloo Monument.
But size is no guarantor of fame and the Monteath Mausoleum is more likely to prompt the question “what’s that” from those in passing cars than it is a knowledgeable answer.
For the record this magnificent mausoleum was constructed for General Sir Thomas Monteath Douglas (1788 – 1868) an army officer in the Bengal Infantry. Born in Jamaica to a Scottish father and English mother, he rose progressively through the ranks, becoming increasingly senior as he distinguished himself in campaigns in India. In 1865 he was awarded the KCB for long service to the Empire.
In 1864, Thomas Monteath Douglas commissioned his mausoleum to be built on land overlooking the site of the battle of Ancrum Moor (1545) during Henry VIII’s ‘rough wooing’ campaigns. He died in 1868, and his resting place secured a solitary and commanding position over the surrounding landscape: one that future generations still look upon with awe.
The entrance is guarded by two life-sized stone lions, one awake and one, curiously, asleep. Inside the crypt two huge sculpted angels stand guard by the tomb. Above them, a star-studded, domed roof filters pale green light into the chamber.
After falling into serious decline and disrepair a group of local people, now officially the Friends of Monteath Mausoleum, decided to turn the clock back. They secured funding for a restoration programme in 2018 and work began in October of that year. By the Spring of 2019 the building had been fully restored with new glazed stars in the roof, new oak doors and the whole building made fully watertight. Volunteers then took over to tidy the site, restore the lawns and install new pathways to improve public access.
During the long lockdown, Friends of the Monteath Mausoleum have produced an Audio Guide for visitors to the monument which can be streamed live or downloaded onto mobile phones.
The spectacular Victorian mausoleum on Lilliards Edge near Ancrum has remained accessible for walkers and cyclists during lockdown, although the crypt is currently unavailable.
Photographs with thanks to Phil Wilkinson and Border Aerial Photography.