COINCIDENCE:- A chance occurrence of events remarkable either for being simultaneous or for apparently being connected.

2nd Earl Of Kilmorey

When two similar or linked events occur at the same time it is a coincidence. When three similar or linked events occur at the same time it is unusual and strange. When three similar or linked events occur at the same time within an environment that already has a lurking reputation for weirdness then you had better start thinking of calling Ghostbusters… and so it was on Sunday 18th September.

Sunday 18th September was London Open House Day when hundreds of inspiring, historic or just plain quirky buildings around the City opened their doors to the public. They ranged from air raid shelters to police stations, from exciting new builds to Victorian sewage works… and joining the list once again was our own Kilmorey Mausoleum on the St Margarets Road opposite the Ailsa Tavern.

Ra cartouche

This burial chamber, built in 1854, houses the coffins of Francis ‘Black Jack’ Needham, 2nd Earl of Kilmorey who died in 1880 and his mistress, the young Priscilla Hoste, who died in 1854. Black Jack was so devastated by the death of his beloved Priscilla that he sought ways of connecting with her beyond the grave. A fellow occultist and Egyptologist Joseph Bonomi suggested placing her body in an Egyptian style mausoleum dedicated to the god Osirus, the spirit of resurrection. Black Jack knew that Osirus was magically visited after death by his wife Isis. Bonomi told Jack that the mausoleum would serve as a portal to the underworld and a machine for travel through time and space. To complete the mystery a tunnel was dug between the mausoleum and Gordon House where Jack was living. When Jack was ‘in the mood’ he would dress in ‘white garb’ and be wheeled by his servants through the tunnel to the mausoleum, where he would lie in his coffin next to Priscilla, symbolically recreating the daily journey of the sun god Ra as he regenerated from death back to life again with the rising sun. A cartouche to Ra is carved over the bronze doors.

250 people visited the mausoleum on Sunday 18th, enjoying the peaceful garden setting, the strange story of the ‘Twickenham Time Machine’ and the tranquility of the interior, with Black Jack and Priscilla resting in their coffins in a wash of golden light from the ‘star’ lights above.

Richard Needham

It was during the afternoon of Sunday 18th September that a tall, slim Australian stepped forward and identified himself as Richard Francis Needham Bell, the great, great grandson of ‘Black Jack’ Needham – the man in the mausoleum. Richard had travelled from Brisbane along with his wife, his son Tom and his daughter-in-law to see how great, great granddaddy was doing in his marbled accommodation. Just then, as we recovered from this surprise, a woman introduced herself and said that she had travelled from Derbyshire to visit the mausoleum on behalf of her close friend who happened to be – a relative of Priscilla Hoste, the mistress in the mausoleum. By then people were looking round to see where they had parked the Tardis!

Both of these people were kind enough to introduce themselves to the other visitors, sparking the thought in my fanciful mind that perhaps the Time Machine was doing its stuff and Black Jack and Priscilla had been regenerated in modern guise!

This coincidence moved to another level when I invited our Australian ’Black Jack" to visit the pub over the road and try a pint of English beer. Having first firmly defended his own local “Castlemain XXXX beer he agreed to go.

“What is the name of this pub?” he asked.

“The Ailsa” I replied.

‘Black Jack’ paused for a moment….

“Ailsa is the name of my daughter back home in Australia!”

Ailsa plaque

On the outside wall of the Ailsa is a plaque suggesting that the pub got its name from a former landlady. She had caught the eye and the attentions of “a local dignitary” who lived nearby. Aware of the difference in their class and social status he had a tunnel dug to the pub allowing them to meet without being seen. One tunnel and two stories!

The Kilmorey Mausoleum will be open to the public again on Sunday 11th December between 12.00 and 3.00pm Admission is free.

Check out the story of ‘Black Jack’ and his mistress Priscilla and their Egyptian Time Machine on stmargarets.london/archives/2016/07/kilmorey-time-machine.html

You can watch a short documentary about the Mausoleum made in 2015 before extensive restoration work was completed – youtu.be/MmQDVlxmu6Q

— from Martyn Day