Restoration of one of the country's most intriguing mausoleums could unlock the key to a centuries-old mystery.
Work has begun on the mausoleum at Pentillie Castle near St Mellion, Saltash, South East Cornwall, created in 1713 following the death of Sir James Tillie who built the castle in 1698.
His will dictated he should not to be buried and instead dressed in his best clothes, bound to a stout chair and placed with his books, wine and pipe at his favourite spot on Mount Ararat, a hill overlooking the estate to await resurrection.
For two years faithful staff obeyed his instructions until they could bear it no longer and buried his body before commissioning a statue in its place. The whereabouts of the body remains a mystery.
The castle was inherited by the Coryton family in 2007 and opened two years later as a venue for weddings and other events and as a bed and breakfast.
Last year following discussions with English Heritage, Natural England and local conservation officers it was decided urgent action was needed to preserve the decaying mausoleum.
Early accounts of Sir James' demise say that the body was placed on the first floor looking out of the windows.
But today both the statue and the windows are on the ground floor. A possible explanation for the contradiction points to Humphry Repton, the 19th century garden designer, who prepared plans for Pentillie in 1810.
It is suggested he may have proposed building a plinth around the existing mausoleum and added another storey.
To test the theory an exploratory hole has been bored in the internal floor of the mausoleum.
Almost immediately the brick built roof of a vaulted structure was revealed and may house the body of Sir James.
Financial assistance for the restoration project was provided by Natural England and the Country Houses Foundation.
The limestone statue of Sir James was recently dismantled and removed by conservationists for cleaning and repair.
The team will spend the winter restoring Sir James to his former glory and plan to carry out paint analysis to see what more can be discovered.