Friday, 22 July 2016

The Kilmorey Mausoleum

Yesterday (Thursday) marked the anniversary of the 1798 Battle of the Pyramids, which features in Burke and the Bedouin.

Napoleon's invasion of Egypt was unusual in that, besides a substantial military force, Napoleon took leading academics to study the monuments of ancient Egypt. Famously, the French plundered the country for relics, many of which ended up back in France.

The Obelisk of Luxor, now in the Place de La Concorde

Although the campaign was ultimately a military failure,  the French efforts generated a lot of interest in Ancient Egypt – interest that eventually extended to the UK. One little known example of this is the Kilmorey Mausoleum, near where we live in southwest London. It is the last resting place of the Second Earl of Kilmorey and his mistress Priscilla Hoste. It was built in 1854, well after the initial passion for all things Egyptian, but the design is thought to have been based on a plate in a French book, Description de l’Egypte, published in 1809.

The idea for the mausoleum is supposed to have been that of a friend of the Earl's, the Egyptologist Joseph Bonomi. Like Kilmorey, he was an occultist. The mausoleum, covered with hieroglyphs and dedicated to Osiris, the god of resurrection, would serve as a portal to the underworld.

Joseph Bonomi
The building was designed by a noted Victorian architect of his time, Henry Edward Kendall, and originally erected in Brompton Cemetery on Priscilla's death. It was moved to Woburn Park in 1862, and then, in 1868 it was moved again, to Gordon House in St Margarets. The Earl had made his home there and wanted his beloved nearby so that he could visit her. He was even supposed to have had a tunnel built to enable him to access the Mausoleum secretly at night.

The Earl died in 1880 and was finally laid to rest alongside his mistress.

The Kilmorey Mausoleum

The mausoleum was neglected until recently, when restoration work was undertaken and the grounds surrounding it were tidied. It is now very occasionally open to the public and you will have a chance to see it on Sunday 24th July from 1.00pm to 5.00pm. It will be open again on Sunday 18th September at the same time. Admission is free. 

The mausoleum is an interesting piece of architecture, although I was more interested in the idea of building a private burial place in your back garden, which is essentially what the Earl did. It was a curious coincidence, though, to find that I live so close to something that would not exist were it not for the military adventure that I had just finished writing about when I first saw it a couple of years ago

How to get there

The mausoleum is on St Margarets Drive, TW1 1QN – opposite the Ailsa Tavern. It's through an anonymous black wooden gate in a high brick wall. The nearest station is St Margarets.


I first wrote about the mausoleum on this blog in 2014, but it seemed worth mentioning again, as it is going to be open this weekend. My thanks to the St Margarets Community Website for drawing that to my attention and for some of the information in this blog post. The Kilmorey Mausoleum has its own website at

The photo of Obelisk of Luxor is by Christophe Meneboeuf.

The painting of Joseph Bonomi by Matilda Sharpe (1868) is in the National Portrait Gallery and is used with permission.

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Burke and the Bedouin is the second of my stories about the spy, James Burke, who worked for the British during the Napoleonic wars. According to 'The Review Group' ( it's "an entertaining light read", which is pretty much what I intended to write. It's a painless way to learn about one of Napoleon's less well-known adventures. You can buy it on Kindle for £2.99/$3.99 at

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed the post, Tom. You don't think of mausoleums being moved about but that one is well-travelled. It's a striking piece of architecture. The portrait of Joseph Bonomi is one of the most life-like I have ever seen. 'Burke and the Bedouin' is on my Kindle and this post was a timely nudge to read it.