Work begins to restore a hidden Scottish landmark

The £128,894 restoration of one of the Borders’ most fascinating landmarks is underway.

Work on the Monteath Douglas Mausoleum, near Ancrum, is being done thanks to the efforts of a group of local volunteers and a six figure funding package.

Grants from the Fallago Environment Fund (£59,444), WREN’s FCC Scottish Action Fund (£59,450) and BCCF Environmental (£10,000) have enabled the Friends of Monteath Mausoleum to embark on a project to restore the 19th century building to its former glory and improve public access to the site for walkers, families and tourists.

The building is the tomb of General Sir Thomas Monteath Douglas (1788-1868), whose daughter was married to Sir William Monteath Scott of Ancrum.

General Monteath Douglas had spent most of his life serving with the 35th Bengal Infantry in India and chose the solitary and commanding position at the top of Gersit Law on his son-in-law’s lands to build his tomb.

Built in 1864 by local craftsmen, to a design by Edinburgh architects, Peddie & Kinnear, the Mausoleum is a hidden gem of Victorian architecture. It is flanked by two life-sized stone lions, one awake and one sleeping, and features a beautiful domed roof pierced with 48 glass stars. Inside, impressive carvings of two tall guardian angels can be found.

The Mausoleum was abandoned in 1964 after the death of the last family member and broken roof windows and door panels have since led to internal damage by wind, rain, birds and other wildlife.

The exterior stonework has also fallen into disrepair, with walls overgrown with ivy and weeds. The Mausoleum is currently on the Buildings at Risk Scotland Register and is Listed Grade B by Historic Environment Scotland.

It is unclear who now owns the building, but the Friends of Monteath Mausoleum haven taken on the mantle of saving this beautiful piece of historic Borders architecture for future generations.

Formed in 2014, this dedicated group of volunteers has secured £128,894 in funding to replace broken glass stars in the domed roof, render the building wind and watertight, renew the impressive oak doors using original ironware, repoint the fine stonework, repair the railings surrounding the mausoleum and improve footpath access and interpretation for visitors.

The members have also donated much of their own time to remove ivy and weeds from the surrounding area to enable the building to be appreciated by passing walkers from the Borders and beyond.

David Freeman of The Friends of the Monteath Mausoleum believes the work will greatly benefit people living in the area and those visiting from further afield.

He said: ‘This fine monument was deteriorating through neglect. It is in the same area as Peniel Heugh, Fatlips Castle and St Cuthberts Way long distance path, but poor access and the general state of the building meant that hundreds of people passed by on the A68 every day without knowing of its existence.

‘Generous funding from Fallago, WREN and BCCF Environmental will ensure that visitors to this wonderful place can appreciate its history, fine design and stunning views long into this century and beyond.’

Gareth Baird, chairman, Fallago Environment Fund, added: ‘The Monteath Douglas Mausoleum is a beautiful piece of historic architecture and we’re delighted that the Fallago Environment Fund is able to help to restore and preserve such a fascinating Borders landmark for local people and visitors to enjoy.’

WREN grant manager Sophie Cade said: ‘WREN is always delighted to fund unique heritage restoration projects, particularly when they are rooted in the local community like Monteath Mausoleum.’

A BCCF Environmental spokesperson concluded: ‘This project is one the company is pleased to support and wishes the volunteers every success.’

The restoration is set to be complete by late 2019 and while the Mausoleum will be closed to the public for heath and safety reasons during that time, it is hoped that local pathways will be kept open to allow visitors to enjoy the views from Gersit Law.