A Fitting Memorial

Famously described by John Betjeman as the largest pyramid tomb ‘beyond the banks of the Nile, this is the extraordinary Howard Mausoleum, County Wicklow. Clad in granite, the monument’s exterior has a square base six feet high after which it rises to a peak some thirty feet above the ground. The mausoleum was erected Ralph Howard of nearby Shelton (later Shelton Abbey) in 1785, the year in which he was created first Viscount Wicklow: his widow would later be made Countess of Wicklow, the couple’s descendants thereafter being Earls until the death of the ninth holder of the title without heirs. The design is attributed to English-born stonemason and sculptor Simon Vierpyl who had moved to Ireland almost thirty years earlier at the request of the Earl of Charlemont: Vierpyl was placed in charge of the building of Charlemont’s casino at Marino, Dublin designed by Sir William Chambers. Why a pyramid was chosen is unknown but even odder is another tomb to the immediate north and on lower ground. This was erected by another branch of the Howard family and takes the form of an entrance to an Egyptian temple.

In memory of Nicola Gordon Bowe who to the infinite regret of her family and many friends was yesterday buried in County Wicklow. Her scholarly work will serve as Nikki’s own fitting memorial. 



4 comments on “A Fitting Memorial

  1. F.A.Q. says:

    I was not aware of this monument so thank you to the Irish Aesthete for bringing it to my attention. Last year I visited the pyramid at Kinnitty, also a family burial tomb. It is a scale model of the great pyramid at Giza and sits on an elevated site adjacent to the Church of Ireland Church. The monument was surrounded by a flock of sheep, peacefully grazing. It is interesting to note that both these Irish families had a fascination with Ancient Egypt long before the ‘Egyptian craze’ of the later nineteenth century.

  2. Peter Davidson says:

    Cairness House, Aberdeenshire, by Playfair, has an Egyptian Room, a Masonic Temple, of 1791, possibly deriving some elements from publications by Kircher and Piranesi. Another example of the Egyptian Taste before Egyptomania.

  3. A connection to Freemasonry seems likely to me.

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