Published: 00:00, 07 April 2014
| Updated: 13:17, 07 April 2014
A magnificent folly which – by all rights – should never have survived has opened to the public.
Darnley Mausoleum at Cobham finally opened to visitors for the first time on Sunday.
It is in Cobham Heritage Park and was built in 1783 as a burial chamber for the Earls of Darnley, who owned the Cobham Estate and lived in Cobham Hall. It was never used.
It is now owned by the National Trust. It was restored after years of neglect.
Marble pillars that were lost when a massive tyre pyre burned the heart out of the two storey building on Bonfire Night in 1980 have been restored. The original source in Italy could not provide the orange-red stone, so the National Trust got the final quarrying from a source in Spain.
The mausoleum sits high on a hill in Cobham Woods.
Former Messenger reporter Alan Watkins, now retired, and his wife Syliva were, by chance, the first visitors to the restored structure.
They walked up with some of the volunteers who will now man the building each Sunday through to September from noon to 4pm.
They will help visitors to understand the thinking, the expenditure and the value to north Kent of restoring the building.
Meanwhile, for Mrs Watkins it was a long-dreamed-of visit with a special surprise on reaching the pyramidal-topped turret: she was invited by the chief warden of the park, Jonathon Ireland, to unlock the doors to the funerary chapel, and become the first of what could be millions of future visitors.
Admission is £2 per adult, £1 per child, National Trust members free, donations for the upkeep welcome.
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