Saved from the brink - the restoration story

Scaffolding in the mausoleum chapel provides a working platform for conservators

During the 20th-century the Earls of Darnley struggled to maintain the Cobham estate, with the mausoleum’s declining state highlighted in Country Life magazine 1939.

Moving out of Cobham Hall in the 1950s, the family sold off most of the estate, although the Darnley Mausoleum and surrounding woodland remained in the family’s hands.

Cobham Hall (not National Trust) was once the home of the Darnley family
Cobham Hall (not National Trust) the seat of the Darnley family

A vandals playground

Without anyone to watch over the mausoleum, it became the main attraction for vandals, with graffiti, and over 90 wrecked cars damaging the site. 
 
After an arson attack in the crypt on 5 November 1980, the floor of the chapel collapsed, and the elegant outer staircase was destroyed. With much of the interior blackened, damaged and destroyed, the future looked bleak for the mausoleum.  
Vandalised and unloved - this is how the Mausoleum looked prior to conservation
The damaged interior of the mausoleum with fire damage, graffiti and smashed walls

Let battle commence

The 11th Earl of Darnley renewed attempts to find a long-term solution. After a public inquiry, developers was granted permission to convert the mausoleum into a palatial residence, but they went bankrupt before the scheme could be realised
 
With the mausoleum and surrounding woodland open to further decay and vandalism, the Cobham Ashenbank Management Scheme (CAMS) was formed in 2001. This partnership involved Gravesham Borough Council, Kent County Council, English Nature, The Woodland Trust, English Heritage and the National Trust.

 

From the ashes

The plight of the mausoleum was highlighted in the first series of BBC televisions ‘Restoration’ in 2003, which publicised severely neglected buildings of heritage importance. 
 
Although not being chosen by the nation as the ‘winner’, CAMS were eventually able to provide the funding for Gravesham Borough Council to buy the mausoleum and the surrounding woodland for £150,000. 
 
CAMS also secured £5m from the Heritage Lottery Fund and later £746,000 from the Office of The Deputy Prime Minister and Union Railways, to fund the restoration. 

 

Grand prize winner

In 2010, the Darnley Mausoleum won the ‘Conservation and Craftsmanship’ category in the Kent Design Awards, as well as their ‘Project of the Year’.
Look around at the decorative features inside the Mausoleum chapel
The interior chapel at the Mausoleum with marble columns and stained glass windows

For ever, for every one

A condition of the Heritage Lottery Fund was that ownership and maintenance of the property would transfer to the National Trust. In April 2014, the Mausoleum opened its doors to visitors, and it continues to welcome visitors on special days from April - September.