Are there any pyramids in Scotland? The answer is surprisingly yes. The Wemyss Mausoleum is a very curious Grade A listed building, built circa 1795 for the 7th Earl of Wemyss who bought Gosford Estate in 1781. He was the Grand Master Mason of Scotland so perhaps it is no surprise to see a pyramid. On his instructions he was the only member of the family ever to be interred there.
The mausoleum stands at the centre of a circular enclosure and within it 16 yews trees were planted (15 survive) and are the only trees in the enclosure. Of 13 yews with straight trunks, their girths range from 172 – 248 cm measured at 100 cm high (SYTHI 2018) and the other two are forked beneath this height. He we can see a considerable difference in girth sizes of 64 cm between the lowest and highest measurements demonstrating how varied growth rates can be in juvenile yews which were all planted at the same time circa 220 years ago.
What is extraordinarily compelling about the number of yews planted is that they fit into a numerical factor built into the mausoleum. The ground plan is square and has 4 sides; the courses of the pyramid number 24; the interior is octagonal having 8 sides and is lined with 64 niches. All these are multiples of 4 – 1 x 4, 6 x 4, 2 x 4 and 16 x 4 respectively. The number of yews is 4 x 4 showing that they are a deliberate design feature of this creation.
The fact that an 18th century Grand Master Mason of Scotland had such a place created, intrinsically involving yews trees in such a harmonic relationship with the building meant for him alone, is a mystery in itself. However, it does confirm that, for whatever reason, yew trees were important to him as a living presence surrounding his final resting place.
There are quite extensive yew plantings on Gosford Estate, particularly near the house and along the driveway. Girth sizes of e.g. 325 and 309 cm (SYTHI 2018) confirm these are older yews than those in the mausoleum enclosure and belong to the period when the Wedderburn family were in ownership, which was from 1659 – 1781. One yew, growing near the lake and icehouse, may be older than that as it was 475 cm in girth just above the root crown.