£1 million restoration budget for Argyll architectural gem – Kilmun’s Argyll Mausoleum

Kilmun church - St Muns David Kelly Creative Commons

In a major boost for heritage tourism in Argyll and for the Cowal peninsula, a £1M funding package has been put together to help restore a historic mausoleum in Kilmun.

The Argyll Mausoleum was built around 1790, one of the most significant heritage sites in Argyll. It sits at the north-east of St Munn’s church, was rebuilt in 1795-6.

Within it and under the adjacent church, are the burial places of many of the Earls and Dukes of Argyll from at least 1455 until 1949.

The mausoleum itself and houses two effigies. One is of Sir Duncan Campbell – who died in 1453 – in full armour. The other is of a female, probably Campbell’s second wife, Margaret, who was the daughter of Sir John Stewart of Ardgowan.

Since 1890, the condition of the building has deteriorated, leaving a substantial risk to both the structure and its unique artefacts.

Legal ownership of the building has been questioned for over 90 years but now Argyll and Bute Council has formally taken on the ownership and has leased it to Argyll Mausoleum Ltd, a charitable company taking on the restoration project.

Welcoming the announcement, Dinah McDonald, Chair of Argyll Mausoleum Ltd says: ‘We’re thrilled that, after years of campaigning, the Mausoleum has been given the recognition it deserves. We would like to thank everyone for their support and contributions.

‘The funding will go towards vital restoration of the building and artefacts. We also want to build new visitor facilities within the adjacent Church of Scotland and open the Mausoleum up to the community, to schools and to visitors’

Michael Russell, MSP for Argyll and Bute, says: ‘This is a tremendous achievement. In difficult times, Argyll Mausoleum Ltd, a community group, has secured the future of one of one of the most important local historic monuments which will now attract many more visitors and much more interest. I look forward to visiting the Mausoleum during and after its restoration.’

So how has this funding package been put together?

£310,000 has been awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and over £200,000 has been committed from each of Historic Scotland and Argyll & the Islands Leader. Argyll & Bute Council will fund £100,000 and over £70,000 will come from Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park Authority.

The rest of the funding package has been made up of contributions from the Church of Scotland, Argyll Estates, Shanks Argyll and Bute Ltd / Argyll and Bute Council [through the Landfill Communities Fund], together with local businesses and local fund raising efforts.

Colin McLean, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, says: ‘This little-known gem has a fascinating history associated with it and is held dear in the hearts of the local community. HLF is delighted to help turn its fortunes around so that it can be enjoyed by many more people and kept safe for future generations.’

Sheila Mclean, Argyll and the Islands LEADER says: ‘The level of community support for this project is inspiring and it is envisaged that it will bring significant economic benefit to the area.’

Fiona Logan, CEO of Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park Authority, which includes part of Cowal, says: ‘We’re happy to be able to help Argyll Mausoleum Ltd restore this important building. It’s steeped in history and ancient folklore and we hope the Mausoleum will fascinate visitors to the National Park and encourage schools to learn more about their local history.’

Local Councillor, Bruce Marshall, who was instrumental in the decision to ask Benmore & Kilmun Community Development Trust to take over the project in 2008, says: ‘I am delighted that Argyll Mausoleum Ltd have at last, after much hard work, gained the necessary funding to take forward this exciting project.

‘I anticipate this will put Kilmun on the tourist map and let a wider audience learn of the enormous historical past relating to this village on the Holy Loch. Well done the Trust Directors who have put what seems like a life’s work into bringing this project to near fruition. I also must thank our local politicians and the National Park for their support and also the commitment from Argyll and Bute Council.’

The current Mausoleum replaces an earlier private chapel built around 1660. It was last renovated in 1890 by the then Marquis of Lorne who installed the cast iron dome.

Local belief is that there is a curse on the building which prevents anyone who isn’t a member of the Argyll family entering its doors. Many more people are going to test, prove or disprove this one from now on.

Work is due to start on the restoration in the first part of 2013.

The photograph above, of St Munns church at Kilmun, at whose NE is the Argyll mausoleum, is by David Kelly and is reproduced here under the Creative Commons licence.

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