At the request of several readers yours truly is embarking on a short series of blogs featuring the ‘Landmarks of Wycombe’. This is my first blog in the series, I hope you enjoy it….
It’s impossible to travel to or from West Wycombe along the A40 without seeing the Dashwood Mausoleum sitting high above the valley on top of West Wycombe hill.
The mausoleum is constructed close to, but not joined to, St Lawrence’s Church. The two are completely separate structures. The mausoleum has been so positioned that it is visible from the main house at West Wycombe Park.
Built in 1765, by a builder named John Bastard, the mausoleum cost £495 5s 3d to construct. The architect is believed to be Nicholas Revett whom Sir Francis Dashwood employed from about 1765 until his death in 1781.
The money to construct the structure we see today came from a close friend of Sir Francis Dashwood called George Bubb Dodington, Lord Melcombe Regis who left £500 in his will so Sir Francis Dashwood could “build an arch, temple, column or additional room to such of his seats where it is likely to remain the longest“.
Initial drawings proposed a building based on San Micheles’ fortified gateway in Verona however these plans were dropped in favour of the structure we see today.
Hexagonal in shape with flint faced walls each side of the mausoleum features an arch flanked with Tuscan columns and triumphal arches. Inside the arches are various recesses and niches where busts, urns and memorial slabs can be placed.
Capping the structure are several Coade stone vases located at the intersections of the mausoleums side walls. The vases are arranged in threes with two smaller vases flanking a central vase of larger proportion.
The Dashwood Mausoleum is dedicated to George Dodington, Baron of Melcombe Regis, John, Earl of Westmorland, Baron le Despencer & Burghersh. He was the uncle and guardian of Sir Francis, and to Francis, Baron le Despence.
The internal area of the un-roofed mausoleum is covered in grass while a cenotaph consisting of four columns supporting a roof and covering a marble urn on a pedestal lies at the centre.
The centrepiece monument was erected in memory of the wife of Sir Francis,Sarah, Baroness le Despencer, who died in 1769.
Over the years the mausoleum has been repaired many times including in the 19th Century, in 1956 and at the time of writing further repairs are currently being made to the historic structure.
In the 18th Century a member of the Hell Fire Club and good friend of Sir Francis Dashwood called Paul Whitehead left his heart to Sir Francis Dashwood.
After Paul Whitehead’s funeral, which included canons being shot outside the mausoleum, the heart was placed in an urn in the Mausoleum. The urn used to be passed around tour groups in 18th Century until a soldier from Australian stole it. It has never been recovered.
It is said that the ghost of Paul Whitehead has been seen in many spots in the village and caves lower down the hill where the originally empty urn is now kept.
What do you think?
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