Wemyss Mausoleum, Gosford Estate, East Lothian

It may seem a strange question to ask, are there pyramids in Scotland? The answer is yes – but not quite what we would typically expect a pyramid to be, especially in scale. Nevertheless, at Gosford Mausoleum there is a pyramid, albeit small. It is associated with people who have Egyptian architecture embedded as a core and celebrated element in their beliefs – Scottish Rite Freemasons.

Entrance to Gosford Mausoleum
Entrance to Wemyss Mausoleum at Gosford

There are many historic sites associated with Scottish Rite Freemasonry in Scotland which possess significant yews e.g. Roslyn Chapel and Roslin Castle perhaps being the prime examples. These sites also involve particular families most associated with Scottish Rite Freemasonry since the creation of the first lodge in the 12th century – known as the Lodge Mother at Kilwinning in Ayrshire. One particularly unique and hugely significant site shows compelling, clearly esoteric links between places influenced by Freemasonry and featuring yew trees – Gosford Mausoleum.

Built in 1795 to house the remains of the Earl of Wemyss it is a:

Free-standing mausoleum built on a square ground plan capped with a plain pyramid of 24 courses. Ashlar walls having advanced tetrastyle porticos of the Doric order to all four elevations. The principal entrance is located to the west elevation….The interior comprises of an octagonal chamber having a stone floor and a vaulted ceiling rising into the apex of the pyramid. The walls are lined with 64 niches grouped in arched recesses….The 7th Earl of Wemyss, Francis Charteris (1723-1808) bought the Gosford estate in 1781 and having built a grand house to designs by Robert Adam he later set about constructing a family burial vault at a cost of £1,073. The mausoleum was built in the form of pyramid reflecting the Earl’s connection with Freemasonry and in particular his position as Grand Master Mason of Scotland. The 7th Earl is the only member of the family to be buried within the mausoleum.” (1)

One of the remaining 15 heritage yews within the mausoleum enclosure
One of the remaining 15 heritage yews within the mausoleum enclosure

Gosford Mausoleum (also known as Wemyss Mausoleum) is enclosed by a circular wall. Within the enclosure 16 yew trees were planted in 1795. One has been removed since then leaving a stump cut to ground level. In 2018 girths of these yews ranged from 172 – 248 cm in single trunk trees as some are forked from ground level. Despite all the yews here being around 225 years old there is quite a percentage of difference in girth between the smallest and largest despite all existing in essentially the same habitat. This example is yet one more showing how girth measurements taken as the primary indicator of an accurate age for a yew can be misleading – even in yews just over two centuries old.

The arrangement of the yews in the ground plan of the enclosure seems to be random. Of course the possibility exists they were planted in a deliberate design with relevance to Freemasonry’s use of sacred geometry and astrology. Not only to place buildings at a precise spot on Earth, as evidence suggests this is to utilise beneficial telluric forces associated with volcanic plugs and fault lines, but also to align it to certain celestial events. It is fairly safe to assume that the Mausoleum’s precise location was constructed along one, or all, of these principles. But what Freemasonic principle would mean that the site of the mausoleum would also require living trees within the circular enclosure. Moreover, that the only trees utilised for this purpose are yew trees so was the intention to create a sacred grove of yews.

The sixteen yews factor into the numerological aspects of this site. The above description of the Mausoleum’s architecture includes a factor involving the number 4, as in a square ground plan (1 x 4), octagonal chamber (2 x 4), 24 courses of the pyramid (6 x 4) and 64 niches in the chamber (18 x 4). Hence planting 16 yews (4 x 4) surely cannot be a mere numerical coincidence. It is clearly intentional to factor the living yews into the architectural harmonies based on the 4 sided figure of the ‘square’, as esoterically referred to in Scottish Freemasonry rather than merely the literal meaning of it as the shape. The yews were as much a planned part of this creation as the stones.

The Grand Master Mason of Scotland would not create such a place on an arbitrary basis – every aspect was planned to the finest detail. Hence the mystery is – what function do these yews perform as the living element of this burial site. Is it merely they reflect an age old belief found throughout Eurasia for thousands of years that yew trees somehow spiritually protect or guide the deceased in their journey to an Afterlife?  If that is the case then one yew would do that, 16 are not necessary. But as there were originally 16 they surely have a function known to a Grand Master of Freemasonry or their presence here would not seemingly be so precise and necessary. However, that function is something the Earl of Wemyss kept all to himself by insisting on being the only family member buried there.

If these yews are performing some spiritual function known to esoteric circles, or not, one thing about them remains certain. These yews may be juvenile yews and a long way from reaching maturity, but this is secondary to the fact that they were planted with purpose in a specifically constructed enclosure meant to be a sacred place, i.e. a burial site. These yews so important to Scotland’s cultural heritage are not yews intended to look pretty in some parkland – they are sacred yews by intent and hence by definition and hopefully will be respected and protected as such.

Click here to go to yew site listing


(1) http://www.mmtrust.org.uk/mausolea/view/506/Wemyss_Mausoleum