Argyll Mausoleum Ltd was set up in a bid to secure funding for the restoration of the ancient Mausoleum next to St Munn’s Church in Kilmun.
The company has now announced that - with the support of grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), LEADER and Argyll and Bute Council - the first contract for work on the project has been signed and work is now underway.
The valuable artefacts in the Mausoleum have been removed from the building for the first time in over a century and have been transported to the premises of Nicolas Boyes Stone Conservation (NBSC) in Edinburgh, the first part of the journey to conserve these fascinating objects.
Local support to the removal of the artefacts was provided by George H Currie (Blacksmiths) of Sandbank, who opened both massive cast iron doors for the first time since the burial of the 10th Duke of Argyll in 1949.
Argyll Mausoleum Ltd is a company limited by guarantee which has been set up by the Benmore & Kilmun Community Development Trust with involvement of the Church of Scotland, Argyll and Bute Council, Argyll Estates and the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park.
The Argyll Mausoleum is one of the least known but most significant historic sites in Argyll and potentially in Scotland. The site is the burial place of the Earls and Dukes of Argyll from 1455 or earlier until 1949. The Mausoleum was built in 1790 and houses some of the remains of earlier Earls and Dukes and their families as well as most of those from 1790 until 1949. The current Mausoleum replaces an earlier private chapel built around 1660; prior to that, burials were below the floor of the Church.
The Mausoleum was last renovated in 1890 by the then Marquis of Lorne, subsequently the 9th Duke, when the amazing cast iron dome was installed. Since then, the condition of the building has deteriorated and there is now a substantial risk to both the building and the unique artefacts it contains unless major renovation works are urgently carried out.
The renovation plans include not only the restoration of the building and artefacts, but also the building of a visitor facility and the opening up of the Mausoleum to visits by the community, schools and tourists.
The project also involves archaeological and historical research on the site, which may well date back to the 6th century and have links to both the early Celtic church and to the Viking period.
Commenting on the award, Dinah McDonald, Chair of Argyll Mausoleum Ltd, said “We have been working on this project for more than two years and it gives the whole team a great deal of satisfaction to see this first step in the restoration process being accomplished.”
The news was also welcomed by Councillor Bruce Marshall, Chair of the Bute and Cowal Area Committee and a long-standing campaigner for the Mausoleum’s restoration.
“This is an exciting development for a unique project which has been in preparation for several years and it looks like the hard work so far involved is finally beginning to reap reward," he said.
"The issues are complex and unusual but the partnership of organisations and local community determination has succeeded in enabling Argyll Mausoleum Limited to make great progress in addressing these. After years of discussion, assessment and investigation it is excellent to see tangible progress and things actually starting to happen at the Mausoleum.”