It all sounded rather romantic. She was Priscilla, the daughter of a dashing sea captain and associate of Lord Nelson. He was Jack, the enigmatic son of the Irish peerage, and student of the occult. They fell in love when he was 53 years old, a peer of the realm and married with children and she was a blushing 20-year-old - and his legal ward. At the time it was an absolute scandal - a veritable cause célèbre! There was much to gossip about for the antimacassar set of early Victorian society!
Theirs was a love affair, mutually shared and enjoyed, that lasted some eleven years, through one elopement, a child born and a marriage or two on his part, until Priscilla died aged 31 in 1854 from a heart condition. The local gossip mongers, who had already dubbed him ‘Black’ Jack, said her condition was exacerbated by the bizarre love rituals that she and Jack enjoyed together.
Grief-stricken, ‘Black’ Jack immediately set about finding a way to keep he and his love united beyond the grave. A fellow occultist, the egyptologist Joseph Bonomi suggested the construction of an Egyptian mausoleum covered with hieroglyphs and dedicated to Osiris, the god of resurrection. Bonomi claimed that it would serve as a portal to the underworld and a machine for travel through time and space. It cost £30,000 to build, an enormous amount of money at the time, and was large enough to accommodate not only the beautiful Priscilla but also heartbroken Jack when his time came.
It was a Time Machine, a Victorian Tardis, that after numerous adventures through both Time and Space finally settled in St Margarets - and now as part of the Open House weekend it is about to open its bronze doors once again.
On the 20th June 1880, at the age of 92, Francis Jack Needham, 2nd Earl of Kilmorey, died and was interred next to his beloved Priscilla in marbled splendour and they lie there still… waiting for you, assuming of course that they haven’t both been teleported back to the days of the Pharaohs!
Priscilla and Jack’s story is one of sex and scandal, of mysterious arcane rituals and secret tunnels connecting the living and the dead. Now is your chance to meet the star crossed lovers and hear their tale when as part of the Open House weekend the Environment Trust opens the Kilmorey Mausoleum, St Margarets Drive, TW1 1QN - opposite the Ailsa Tavern - to the public on Sunday 23rd September from 1pm -5pm. Admission is free.