At the church of St Andrew in Rodney Street, Liverpool, sits a rather noticeably large pyramid tomb.
The tomb belongs to one William Mackenzie and legend has it that he’s buried sitting on a chair inside the pyramid holding a winning poker hand, as a way of cheating Satan after having lost his soul to him in a game of cards.
Unfortunately, the truth isn’t quite so glamorous.
Who was William?
William was a civil engineer, born to Scottish parents in 1794. His career, as any great Victorian engineer would, included working on the construction of canals, railways and tunnels across the UK, as well as railway work in France, Spain, Belgium and Italy.
He died in 1851, and was buried at St Andrews. But, according to the inscription on the door, the pyramid was constructed by his younger brother Edward – the inheritor of the majority of his £341,848 estate – 17 years later:
In the vault beneath lie the remains of William Mackenzie of Newbie, Dumfriesshire, Esquire who died 29th October 1851 aged 57 years. Also, Mary his wife, who died 19th December 1838 aged 48 years and Sarah, his second wife who died 9th December 1867 aged 60 years. This monument was erected by his Brother Edward as a token of love and affection A.D. 1868. The memory of the just is blessed.
Unfortunately, this rather flies in the face to him sitting in the pyramid with his winning poker hand.
Why his brother chose a pyramid as a monument isn’t immediately obvious. William, as far as I can ascertain, didn’t spend time in Egypt, or have any other particular link to Egypt. (Putting in time studying his diaries could possibly shed some light, however.)
In the absence of any other obvious reason, it may be that Edward was merely swept up in the ongoing Egyptomania of the later 19th century; a time when the obelisk was a popular monument for graves (there are three in this graveyard alone). Why not go one better to honour the brother who left you such a grand legacy and give him a tomb of the kind favoured by kings?
Edit, 24 June 2016: I’ve changed the old photos for a batch of new photos I took today with a better camera and lens. Also, since I wrote the original post, the rebuilding of St Andrews church has been completed, and is now student accommodation.