In St. Andrew’s church, Rodney Street in Liverpool, there is a pyramid shaped monument, the final resting place of a civil engineer named William Mackenzie, who died in 1851. This imposing pyramid shaped monument has attracted many rumours over the decades and has entered into local folklore. According to the tale, Mackenzie, born in 1794, was a Devil of a man, a compulsive gambler who left strict instructions that when he died, he should be interred in the pyramid, sat at a card table with a winning hand, forever ensuring that he had cheated the Devil of claiming his soul by not being buried in the ground. This is a fantastic story, but totally untrue, as according to transcriptions of the actual inscription on the door of the pyramid, it reads that Mackenzie was interred ‘in the vault beneath’. The monument was only constructed by William’s brother Edward seventeen years after William’s death, built after his second wife had died.
Another local rumour is that William Mackenzie was a Freemason, and the monument is a flamboyant Masonic memorial, but there is no evidence that Mackenzie was a Freemason. In reality, Mackenzie was a civil engineer who worked on the tunnels at Edge Hill for the Liverpool and Manchester railway, and worked with engineer Thomas Brassey on constructing railways in France and in other areas in Britain. He was also a shrewd investor, and when he died in 1851, he reportedly left a large sum to his brother Edward.
The folklore surrounding Mackenzie and his pyramid is very similar to another pyramid shaped monument that can be found in St. Thomas a Becket’s church yard in Brightling, Sussex. This monument marks the final resting place of John ‘Mad Jack’ Fuller (1757-1834), an MP who was fond of his drink, earning him the name of ‘Mad Jack’ after a number of drunken incidents. Fuller however was a noted philanthropist, supporting the Royal Institution, and was a builder of follies, building an observatory that was designed by Robert Smirke. Local folklore puts forward that ‘Mad Jack’ was entombed in the pyramid, wearing full dress and top hat, sat a table with a roast chicken and wine. This was disproved after renovations of the tomb in the early 1980s. ‘Mad Jack’, like Mackenzie, is buried underneath the pyramid. Like Mackenzie, Fuller has been linked to Freemasonry, but there has never been any evidence that he was linked to a lodge.
Pyramid shaped monuments were not uncommon during the early nineteenth century, there are a few of them of varying sizes in various churchyards. It coincides with an increasing interest in Ancient Egyptian culture and archaeology, and a romantic view of the pyramid as a symbol that represented the exotic and the mysterious. Memorial monuments were also a symbol of wealth and power in an age of industry and Empire. A small part of me would like old ‘Mad Jack’ and Mackenzie to be Freemasons, and this is what starts the stories that eventually enter into folklore. If they do turn up on an old lodge list, I would love to know.
 Frederick John, ‘A Village’s Queer Buildings’, The Sussex County Magazine October 1928, No. 10 Vol. II, pp.442-443.