In a dark dark town there was a dark dark street
In the dark dark street there was a dark dark cemetery
In the dark dark cemetery there was a dark dark mausoleum
And in the dark dark mausoleum a time machines lives
Ok, I may have paraphrased from funny bones but the legend that Brompton cemetery is home to time travelling mausoleum is believed to be true. Upon one of my many London Month of the Dead events I was touring Brompton Cemetery and the guide introduced me to this imposing mausoleum that stood taller, grander and noticeably out of place compared to the remainder of the burial plots.
The story revolves around the friendship of Hannah Courtoy, egyptologist Joseph Bonomi and Samuel Alfred Warner who is now thought to have been a charlatan but at the time a respected inventor. Though having never married, Hannah had borne three daughters by the time of her death, two of whom also interred in the mausoleum. Born as Hannah Peters she later took the surname of John Courtoy who upon his death left Hannah the riches of his estate after a disputed will and court case. Why Hannah inherited such a vast sum is up to speculation with many believing he was the father of Hannah’s children.
Now wealthy and still single Hannah’s friendship grew with Bonomi over time and reportedly the two stayed up late at night discussing all things Egyptian and agreed that Pharaohs were blessed with the ability of time travel, a common theory of the time. The son of an Italian architect, Bonomi started life as an artist and threw himself into the Egyptian culture after travelling to draw the ancient temples and pyramids, learning the native tongue and wearing theclothing of the people. Being so knowledgeable on the subject, he assisted in arranging the British Museum’s Edyptian exhibits and the Egyptian Court at Crystal Palace progressing to become curator of the Sir John Soane museum in London. He experimented with architecture designing several Egyprian style buildings including that of the entrance to Abney Park Cemetery (another of the Magnificent Seven Cemeteries). Bonomi is buried a short distance from the mausoleum under a gravestone easily identified by the engraved hieroglyphics.
An acquaintance of Bonomi, Samuel Alfred Warner was an inventor, who once had an audience with the Prime Minister of the time Sir Robert Peel in order to demonstrate a “psychic torpedo” which never progressed any further. Warner made many claims about his time at sea from the ship and captain he served to the missions he carried out, none of which were able to be confirmed due to a plague of inconsistencies. In 1853 Warner died and was buried in an unmarked grave with other paupers in Brompton Cemetery leaving a widow and seven children.
The egyptian themed mausoleum is shrouded in mystery to this day.
- Built at a crossroads within the grounds of the cemetery this was against common practice, interment at crossroads was once only reserved for murderers and villains so that when the soul leaves the body it would not know which way to travel.
- There is NO key, suggested to have been lost in the 1970’s and no replacement to be found or able to be made the vault has not been opened for decades and no record of it being opened even before that. There was a project run to raise money to replace the missing key though no update has been given recently and interest sadly dried up.
- There are NO plans for this building, officials from the cemetery insist this is not unusual as records were not compulsory for construction.
- What appear to be egyptian hieroglyphics on the exterior are not recognised as genuine, which as both Hannah and Bonomi were avid Egyptologists they would have been true to form.
So what does it do? There are many theories behind this sealed vault with the most common being that one is able to travel through time, one assumes you enter the tomb, pick a date in history and step back out in that time. A more audacious theory is that this is a teleportation device one of a network of seven mausoleum five more in London and another in Paris which would be an interesting way to avoid the queues at immigration post brexit. A less accepted theory of this compelling story is that it houses the psychic torpedo bomb that Warner once tried to sell to the British Navy and it was stored there for safe keeping.
The only way to truly know what is within the granite walls and behind the Infamous locked door is to replace the key that went missing decades ago. Though replacing a key is not as simple as popping to Timpsons or calling out a locksmith, this is a listed monument and requires the expert skills of a listed services worker to replace what would resemble a jailers key from a medieval prison.