IT is a familiar sight to the thousands of motorists who pass by on the M74 each day, the 120ft-high domed structure of the Hamilton Mausoleum.

Before the motorway ever existed, the distinctive building – within the grounds of the former Hamilton Palace – was a Lanarkshire landmark, holding a world record for the longest echo recorded within a man-made structure (usurped by Inchindown oil tanks at Invergordon in 2014).

Built as a tomb and monument to Alexander, 10th Duke of Hamilton during the mid-19th century, its design is testament to his zest for history, travel and fine art.

Hamilton was appointed British ambassador to Russia, based in St Petersburg, in 1806. He travelled extensively within Europe throughout his life, with Italy being a particular favourite.

It was these experiences that lent a flavour to the design of Hamilton Mausoleum. The original bronze doors, now displayed inside the chapel, were modelled on Lorenzo Ghiberti's "Gates of Paradise" at the Florentine Baptistery and depict scenes from the Old Testament.

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Construction on the mausoleum began in 1842. Hamilton died six years before it was finished – but he already had a plan for that.

Long fascinated by ancient Egyptian artefacts, he arranged for the academic Thomas Pettigrew, an expert on the mummification process, to embalm him. Hamilton was a trustee for the British Museum and under that guise had obtained a sarcophagus in Paris some years previously.

HeraldScotland: The interior of Hamilton Mausoleum in Lanarkshire. Picture: Colin Mearns/The HeraldThe interior of Hamilton Mausoleum in Lanarkshire. Picture: Colin Mearns/The Herald

The sarcophagus had been made for someone much shorter – believed to be a woman from Egypt's Ptolemaic dynasty – and to accommodate its new occupant, the interior was further hollowed out. Even so, they reportedly had to break Hamilton's legs to make him fit.

After the mausoleum was finally completed in 1858, Hamilton was interred in the sarcophagus on a black marble slab in the main chapel with 17 of his ancestors placed in the crypt below.

By 1921, subsidence caused by coal mining in the area necessitated that the coffins be moved to the Bent Cemetery in Hamilton, where the 10th Duke remains buried in his beloved sarcophagus today.

What to listen to: Composer, songwriter and Teenage Fanclub drummer Francis Macdonald harnessed the building's famed echo when recording his 2018 chamber music album, Hamilton Mausoleum Suite, featuring the Scottish Festival Orchestra.

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Saxophonist Tommy Smith recorded his solo album, Into Silence, at Hamilton Mausoleum in 2001, and the San Francisco-based Kronos Quartet performed there, alongside members of the National Youth Choir of Scotland, a decade later.

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