Elyza Fraser and the Fraser Mausoleum

Mausoleum in churchyardIn August 2019, AOC’s historic buildings recording team digitally documented the Fraser Mausoleum in Cluny Old Kirkyard, Aberdeenshire, on behalf of David Chouman, Architect. This neo-classical mausoleum (right) was built for Miss Elyza Fraser of Fraser Castle by her friend James Byres of Tonley, an internationally renowned architect. The drum-shaped mausoleum is topped by a dome with oculus and above the architraved doorway is a coat of arms and foliage swags, and the inscription: ELIZABETH FRASER OF CASTLE FRASER MDCCC VIII. The elaborate wrought iron grille is said locally to have been made from screens saved from the old church at Cluny, demolished in 1789. The mausoleum was completed in 1808, six years before Elyza’s death.

Beside the mausoleum are four mortsafes (below): iron cages topped by massive slabs of granite. These enclosed the coffin in the grave to prevent grave robbing. Such weighty mortsafes required block and tackle pulley systems to manoeuvre them into the grave.

Large slabs supported by iron cagesElyza Fraser inherited Fraser Castle in 1792, aged 58. She made many improvements to the castle and played a very active role in the estate management. Andrew Wight, in his report on The Present State of Husbandry in Scotland (1778-1784) stated ‘this Lady is a miracle for farming. Her genius must be uncommon, to excel so eminently in a vocation that nature deems to have confined to the male sex.’ You can read more about Elyza and the improvements she made to Castle Fraser and its estate on the National Trust for Scotland’s website here.

The mausoleum was digitised using a Faro Focus 3D laser scanner, using high resolution and quality settings. In addition, a photogrammetric survey was carried out using a Canon 1000D digital SLR. The resulting datasets were processed into high-resolution geometric meshes for visualisation under simulated light conditions.

The Fraser Mausoleum has seen significant deterioration over the years and is now in need of repair. It is owned by the North East Scotland Preservation Trust (NESPT), who are working to make essential repairs. You can find out more about the project through the NESPT website or the Friends of Miss Elyza Fraser’s Mausoleum Facebook page.

 You can explore the photogrammetry model of the mausoleum on AOC's Sketchfab page here.