Here are some ways you can help to ensure the survival of an endangered mausoleum, together with some guidance on the care of mausolea and how to go about rescuing one.
First Steps If the mausoleum is in a churchyard, make contact with the churchwardens, and find out what is known about its ownership. Many mausolea are still legally the responsibility of the families who erected them; is it known who this is? Has anyone tried to tacke the issue before? Is the building listed? If it is not listed, you might wish to pursue this with English Heritage's Heritage Protection Department.
Safety First Old buildings in poor condition are potentially dangerous places, so never take risks. Be wary of concealed rusty railings, dislodged paving, trip hazards and loose masonry.
Sources of Advice A first point of contact should always be the conservation officer at your local planning authority. Some churchyards are also the responsibility of local authorities, so they may have a double role to play. English Heritage or the equivalent bodies can become involved, especially if the mausoleum has a high listing. EH publishes practical advice for churchyard maintenance. General advice on building conservation is also available from the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. The quinquennial architect responsible for the church will be a good source of information on conservation approaches and contacts, but do not expect to be able to draw endlessly on their advice! The Association of Building Preservation Trusts is an important umbrella group, connecting such trusts from across the country. There may already be a relevant group in your area which should be contacted; they will know the local scene.
Professional Advice Enlisting the advice of a properly qualified architect or surveyor with experience on historic buildings is essential; grant aid is unlikely to be forthcoming unless you can demonstrate that you have such a professional involved. Such advisers can point you towards suitable firms for carrying out the work; by no means are all construction firms suitable. If listed, Listed Building Consent will be required for anything other than like-for-like repair. If there is sculpture or stained glass involved, specialist conservators may well be needed.
Faculties If the mausoleum is located within consecrated ground, a faculty will be needed for any works to be carried out. These are issued by the diocese, which is in turn advised by a diocesan Advisory Committee, made up of volunteer members from a range of bodies.
Sources of Grant Aid The Architectural Heritage Fund is a source of much useful information. The Heritage Lottery Fund is the nation's biggest provider of grants towards the conservation of historic structures, whereas grants offered by English Heritage tend to be targetted towards certain priority areas. The Church of England's advisory body on churches and churchyards is the Church Buildings Council; this has a Conservation Grant Enquiries section. Other useful sources of possible grant aid include the Pilgrim Trust and the Georgian Group which has small grants available from its Cleary Fund for pre-Victorian examples.
Find out More The more you can discover about the mausoleum, the stronger your case will be in securing grant aid, and the more interest others will take in the building. Is there a relevant family history society? Were faculties granted? Does the local sltudies library hold any material?
Demonstrable Care A structure that looks abandoned and unloved will attract vandalism. Even superficial tending (cutting down rank weeds) can make a difference, but rash removal of ivy can cause more damage than it prevents.
Stitch in Time Approach The best approach towards maintenance is little, and often. Little problems, if left alone, soon become bigger ones. Roofed structures need to have their gutters cleared - especially important in churchyards, which are often surrounded by trees. Keep padlocks strong and in working order. Nothing destroys buildings more quickly than ivy and other plants growing on walls, roofs and in gutters. Roots and suckers creep into crevices and then expand, forcing cracks to open up and let in water. In no time roof tiles begin to lift, mortar is dislodged and chunks of stone fall from the walls.
Take a mausoleum into guardianship If you are concerned about a fine but deteriorating mausoleum you, and a group of like-minded people, might consider setting up a trust and taking it into care. Then, as guardians of the building, you will be in a position to raise funds and seek grant aid for its restoration. The processes involved are not without difficulty but they are ones of which the MMT has some experience. We would be glad to share our knowledge with anyone who wishes to go down that route.
Become a member of the MMT By supporting our organization and taking part in our activities, you will help us to look after the mausolea we have in care, raise awareness of the threat facing many others, and explain the unique fascination of this type of building to the wider public.