Giving Tuesday: Burton: Exploring Without Boundaries

#GivingTuesday began in America in 2012 as a way to give back after Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It was brought to the UK by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) in 2014 with the aim of encouraging people to think of others in the run up to Christmas. You can support Habitats & Heritage through Giving Tuesday either by donating to our campaign below, or by becoming a supporter of £10 a year: https://habitatsandheritage.org.uk/get-involved/become-a-supporter/

What we aim to achieve:

Habitats & Heritage is embarking on an ambitious project to restore the magnificent tent shaped mausoleum of Sir Richard and Lady Isabel Burton in Mortlake to its former glory, and to tell the story of Sir Richard’s adventures and achievements.

The mausoleum stands bold amongst the many gothic memorials in the catholic churchyard of St. Mary Magdalen’s in Mortlake by boasting middle eastern features and appearing at first glance to be a canvas tent. The design was deliberate, mirroring the tent Sir Richard and Lady Isabel used on their adventures across the Middle East.

H&H plan to fully restore the stone structure and to reinstate the opening door which has been sealed up for over fifty years. It is hoped that if access to the mausoleum is again made possible, conservation of the interior may be readily achievable. Access to inside will also enable public access, facilitating income generation for the tomb’s upkeep. It is hoped via this means that interest in the structure as well as enthusiasm about Sir Richard’s life may never fade.

Why the project is important:

The mausoleum has boldly sat on the Mortlake landscape since 1891, and has been a constant mainstay of community intrigue. Like any structure approaching 120 years old, damage and deterioration has taken place. The original opening door was damaged post-war by vandals to then be bricked-up to protect the coffins and ornamentation inside. Since then, the structure has only been accessed a handful of times for remedial works via the window at the rear of the structure. The mausoleum has again reached a point where it is showing signs of deterioration both externally and internally. Delamination of the exterior stonework has begun to take place, as well as plasterwork flaking away from the inside walls. If this continues to happen, the original decoration and structural integrity may be lost.

Complementing the mausoleum’s architectural splendour is the illustrious life of Sir Richard Burton which is equally intriguing and in need of telling. Sir Richard explored the world extensively in the 19th century, embarking on missions to find the source of the River Nile and serving as a British diplomat. Complementing his travels was his desire to embrace other cultures by learning their languages and dialects. Burton multilingual skills were extraordinary and he is believed to have spoken twenty-seven languages in up to forty dialects.

Why you should donate:

Donating to the project will help Habitats & Heritage achieve its goal to restore the mausoleum and to tell the story of Sir Richard Burton to a new audience. The project endeavours to encourage people to explore their local area – from discovering hidden historic sites to enjoying the many green spaces in south and west London.

What we have done so far:

Over the last year and a half since the project began, we have strived to engage with as many people and groups as we can. We have so far reached 150 school pupils by conducting classroom lessons. Groups including the Explorer Scouts, Multicultural Richmond and English as a Second Language have all been introduced to the mausoleum and learnt about Sir Richard’s accomplishments. We have strived to widen scope by participating in two Richmond Literature Festivals, inviting the authors Tharik Hussain and Diana Darke to speak about their books and their understanding of Burton. We have also interviewed the celebrated explorer Levison Wood outside the mausoleum (which you can watch now) as well as interviewing the cinematographer and photographer Gordon Buchanan.

Find out about the walking tours of Richmond we’ve created using the Geocaching app Adventure Lab. Habitats & Heritage has created two walking tours, one through Richmond and the other through St Margaret’s. Choose your adventure, follow the clues, and discover some wonderful stories behind the area’s most iconic sites!

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