The sheer scope and scale of this burial chamber are as impressive as its backstory. It’s the final resting place of William Henry Miller, a person who was as mysterious as he was rich. Miller, being a Member of Parliament for Newcastle, spent little time in Edinburgh and was a bit reclusive, but he owned large tracts of land, including the area around the 30-foot mausoleum.
It is partially due to his elusive behavior that rumors began to spread that this gentleman was, in fact, a gentlewoman. Because this was the 19th century, a woman could not own land. So, speculation began to form that an impersonation was incorporated to circumvent the law, and that the elaborate tomb was meant to help conceal his identity.
But there’s another possible, more plausible explanation for the mausoleum’s grandeur. As it was built during the time of the body snatching epidemic, when people acquired corpses by nefarious means for the burgeoning medical schools, it’s plausible Miller had an apprehension toward becoming a victim to the Resurrection Men, or grave robbers as they were more commonly known. Therefore, it’s believed he used his great wealth to construct a massive, 30-foot-deep protected resting place away from church burial grounds—common grave snatching places—to deter any would-be culprits. He also had his coffin lined with lead as an added deterrent.
Miller was a great admirer and collector of rare antique books, which might explain the ornate subject matter of the two marble panels designed by David Rhind, “The Song of Moses and Miriam” and “The Overthrow of Pharaoh in the Red Sea.” The locals refer to this monument carved by Alfred Gatley as the “Craigetinny Marbles” in homage to the Elgin Marbles. In fact, the local Bowling Club, which is next door, has incorporated the mausoleum as their insignia.