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The Legend of William MacKenzie’s tomb on Rodney Street

10 months ago

The Legend of William MacKenzie’s tomb on Rodney Street
William MacKenzie's tomb

In the heart of Liverpool’s historic Rodney Street lies a tomb that has, for generations, captured the imagination of locals and visitors alike.

William MacKenzie’s tomb on Rodney Street has become something of an urban legend throughout the years.

The final resting place of William MacKenzie, an eccentric Liverpool merchant who died in 1851, is far from an ordinary mausoleum.

Instead, it has become the canvas for an array of legends and urban myths, shrouding it in an enigmatic allure that continues to intrigue all of us.

Halloween is getting closer by the day, so let’s dive into one of our city’s most fascinating supernatural stories, but firstly…

Who was William Mackenzie?

William MacKenzie Credit: Wikipedia
William MacKenzie Credit: Wikipedia

Mackenzie was born near Nelson, Lancashire, England, as the eldest of 11 children of Alexander Mackenzie, a Scottish contractor, and Mary née Roberts.

In 1819, Mackenzie married Mary Dalziel, the daughter of a Glasgow commission agent. Tragically, Mary passed away before him on December 19, 1838, at the age of 48.

In 1839, Mackenzie married again, this time to Sarah Dewhurst, who outlived him but eventually passed away on December 9, 1867, at the age of 60.

He became one of Europe’s leading civil engineering contractors in the 1840s, and subsequently became a wealthy man amassing an estate of £340,000, equivalent to £42 million today.

Throughout his career, Mackenzie maintained offices both in Paris and Liverpool. By 1843, he had made his home at 74 Grove Street in Liverpool, where he would die on October 29, 1851, at the age of 57.

Legend has it that William MacKenzie’s tomb is not simply a memorial but a conduit to the spirit world. Eerie tales of ghostly apparitions and whispered secrets have long swirled around the imposing structure.

The Labyrinth

William MacKenzie's tomb. Credit: Wikipedia (Rodhullandemu)
William MacKenzie’s tomb. Credit: Wikipedia (Rodhullandemu)

Among the most enduring myths is the belief that hidden beneath the tomb lies a labyrinth of secret tunnels, stretching like veins through Liverpool’s subterranean world.

These tunnels, it is said, were used for secret activities, including smuggling through the passages to various parts of the city. Whether these tunnels exist, or are simply the stuff of legend, remains a tantalising mystery.

The Devil’s Hand

The tale of William MacKenzie and the devil is one of the most enduring legends associated with his tomb in Liverpool. While it’s important to remember that this story is steeped in folklore and should be taken with a pinch of salt, it adds another layer of intrigue to the enigmatic merchant’s legacy.

According to local legend, William MacKenzie was not just an eccentric character in life but also in death. It is said that MacKenzie was a man of wealth and influence, known for his love of indulgence, particularly in the pleasures of the flesh and spirits. He was alleged to be an avid gambler, and was rumoured to have made a pact with the devil himself, in exchange for his success and prosperity, during a game of poker.

He ultimately forfeited his soul in the high-stakes poker game with Satan, and was told that once he was buried in the ground the devil would come to collect his soul as payment.

The legend goes on to claim that, upon his death, the devil came to collect as per their sinister agreement. However, MacKenzie was not one to go down without a fight.

MacKenzie’s burial defied convention as he was placed in an upright position within his tomb. The tale also suggests that MacKenzie was seated at a table, clutching a winning hand of cards in his skeletal fingers. Believing that if he remained “unburied”, Satan could never claim his ill-fated prize.

It is said that MacKenzie’s ghost continues to roam Rodney Street in the dead of night. Stranded between realms, he is neither subject to the Devil’s grasp nor granted passage to heaven, perpetually haunting the city he once knew so well.

MacKenzie’s Eternal Toast

St Andrew's Rodney Street. Credit: Wikipedia  (User: Rodhullandemu / Phil Nash)
St Andrew’s Rodney Street. Credit: Wikipedia (User: Rodhullandemu / Phil Nash)

The image of MacKenzie, reclined and holding a glass of wine on top of his tomb, has fueled yet another legend.

Local lore suggests that MacKenzie’s tomb contains a bottle of his favorite wine that is mysteriously refilled by supernatural forces whenever it runs dry. A testament to his love for indulgence and perhaps his desire for an eternal toast.

The Stolen Skull Saga

Perhaps the most notorious tale surrounding MacKenzie’s tomb revolves around the alleged theft of his skull in the 19th century. Whispers suggest that it was taken for use in occult rituals or medical studies, adding an air of mystery and intrigue to the already enigmatic tomb.

However, evidence to support this story remains elusive.

The pyramid was commissioned by William’s brother Edward in 1868.

The inscription on the pyramid door reads:

“In the vault beneath lie the remains of William Mackenzie of Newbie, Dumfriesshire, Esquire who died 29th October 1851 aged 57 years. Also, Mary his wife, who died 19th December 1838 aged 48 years and Sarah, his second wife who died 9th December 1867 aged 60 years. This monument was erected by his Brother Edward as a token of love and affection A.D. 1868. The memory of the just is blessed.”

Whether you’re drawn by the lure of the supernatural, the thrill of hidden passages, or the mysteries that linger beneath the surface, a visit to this iconic resting place is sure to awaken your sense of wonder and nostalgia for Liverpool’s rich history.

If you would like to experience this tale during a spine-chilling tour of the city, check out Shiverpool’s website HERE.

What’s your thoughts on William MacKenzie’s tomb? Check out the latest news in Liverpool HERE.

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