Hidden away in some woods on the boundary of the M25 motorway near the southwest edge of London can be found a grand monument to an industrialist and politician – but it’s not where he was originally buried.
The mausoleum is in memory of Sir Bernard Samuelson, who died in 1905, but he was buried in an impressive memorial in his beloved Torquay, alongside his wife and daughter.
The following year, his son, Henry, bought a grand manor house at Hatchford Park in Surrey, which is still there — and decided to build a Temple of Sleep in the woods that came with the house. That became Samuelson’s Mausoleum
Thought to have been designed by Roland Plumbe, who had been busy redesigning Henry’s newly purchased manor house some thirty years earlier, the design is of an open temple above a crypt with a domed roof over the top.
It was completed in April 1920, although, if Plumbe was the architect, then he wouldn’t have seen the finished item, as he had died the year before, in April 1919.
Three members of the Samuelson family were interred here, Sir Bernhard, mother Caroline and sister Florence. Although they were interred in April, it took until October before a blessing would take place, as many of the bishops would do such a deed for a Baron were on holiday, and none of them wanted to cut it short.
Eventually, it turned out that the Bishop of Gibraltar was in the UK, in a reverse holiday, so he turned up on 8th October 1920 to consecrate the grounds.
However, far from this becoming a long standing family tomb as Henry had planned, he moved away in 1924 due to ill health, and the house was taken over by the government during WWII, then in 1952 converted into a school.
At the time of the sale, it was for the house only, not the woods, so the woods and mausoleum passed into the ownership of Surrey Council.
In 1969, the manor house was used as a film set for the Doctor Who story, Spearhead from Space, which both introduced Jon Pertwee as the new Doctor and the Autons, and was the first of the series to be filmed in colour. The manor house was used as the hospital where the Doctor is taken after he was first found. Today it’s a private estate and the building was rebuilt after a fire and converted into flats, so you can’t go up and see it.
The woodlands were sold separately to the house though, and you can freely wander around, maybe visiting a nearby semaphore tower, and the mausoleum.
Sadly, in 1960, the bronze tomb that stood in the temple was stolen, recovered later from the thieves, it was stolen again some point later and has never been recovered. That’s why there’s a large rough stone in the middle of the mausoleum where you would expect something more impressive to have stood.
The coats of arms of the family are on two sides, and around the top are inscriptions in English, Latin and Greek.
There used to be a locked crypt underneath, but the two coffins in there were removed several decades ago, and now it’s open and empty. The bottom of the crypt is tiled, with what could be a cross facing a lost altar.
With the leaves rotting in the corners and the gloomy appearance it feels less spooky than rather sad actually, an abandoned home left to decay.
I am sure if you visit at night or on a foggy winter’s morning, your opinion may differ though.