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Memorial details

Memorial type
Obelisk
District
City Of Westminster
Town
London
County
Greater London
Country
England
Commemoration
Napoleonic Wars (1803-1814), First World War (1914-1918)
Maker
George John Vulliamy, C H Mabey
Ceremony
  • Unveiled
    Date: 12 September 1878
    Attended by:
Lost
Not lost
WM Reference
39718
Current location

Victoria Embankment
London
City Of Westminster
Greater London
WC2N 6PB
England

OS Grid Ref: TQ 30545 80517
Denomination: Undefined

View location on Google Maps
Description
Obelisk incised with Egyptian hieroglyphs, dating to circa 1570 BC. Obelisk is mounted on a plinth and flanked by two sculpted Sphinxes, which were erected alongside the obelisk in 1878. The obelisk was a gift of the viceroy of Egypt, to commemorate the victories of Lord Nelson at the Battle of the Nile in 1798 and Sir Ralph Abercromby at the Battle of Alexandria in 1801. A brass plaque is set within the stonework of the plinth supporting one of the two sphinx that face onto Cleopatra's needle. The plaque commemorates the unrepaired damage caused to the plinth by the first raid by German planes in London during the First World War.
Inscription
Cleopatra's Needle, Shaft: (Egyptian hieroglyphics) Cleopatra's Needle, Plaque, River facing: THIS OBELISK, HAVING FALLEN PROSTRATE IN THE SAND AT ALEXANDRIA,/ WAS IN GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE/ OF NELSON AND ABERCROMBY,/ PRESENTED TO THE BRITISH NATION, A.D. 1819,/ BY MOHAMMED ALI, VICEROY OF EGYPT. ENCASED IN AN IRON CYLINDER IT WAS ROLLED INTO/ THE SEA/ AUGUST 29, 1877./ ABANDONED IN A STORM IN THE BAY OF BISCAY,/ IT WAS RECOVERED AND TAKEN INTO FERROL HARBOUR/ WHENCE, IN CHARGE OF CAPTAIN CARTER, IT REACHED/ THE THAMES, JANUARY 20, 1878. Plaque on the plinth of the Sphinx: THE SCARS THAT DISFIGURE THE PEDESTAL/ OF THE OBELISK, THE BASES OF THE SPHINXES/ AND THE RIGHT SPHINX, WERE CAUSED/ BY FRAGMENTS OF A BOMB DROPPED IN THE/ ROADWAY CLOSE TO THIS SPOT, IN THE FIRST RAID ON LONDON BY GERMAN AEROPLANES A/ FEW MINUTES BEFORE MIDNIGHT ON TUESDAY/ 4TH SEPTEMBER 1917
Inscription legible?
yes
Commemorations
  • Napoleonic Wars (1803-1814)
    Total names on memorial: 2
    Served and returned: 0
    Died: 2
    Exact count: yes
    Information shown: Undefined
    Order of information: Undefined
  • First World War (1914-1918)
    Total names on memorial: 0
    Served and returned: 0
    Died: 0
    Exact count: yes
    Information shown: Undefined
    Order of information: Undefined
Components
  • Obelisk
    Measurements: Undefined
    Materials: Granite
  • Plinth
    Measurements: Undefined
    Materials: Granite
  • Sculpture
    Measurements: Undefined
    Materials: Bronze
  • Plaque
    Measurements: height 150mm, width 450mm
    Materials: Brass
Listing information
Condition
History
1919: The London County Council decide not to remove the damage marks made by the air raid. The announcement is made in The Times under the article title 'Lest We Forget', The Times, May 12, 1919. A plaque is mounted on the plinth of one of the damaged sphinx. 1917, 5 September: Damaged by an air raid which also wrecked a passing tramcar, killing three passengers. 1878: Obelisk erected in London in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Victoria. 1877: Sir William James Erasmus Wilson FRS sponsored transportation from Alexandria to London by sea. The transportation ship was wrecked with the loss of life of the crew. The obelisk was salvaged. 1819: Presented to the British by the viceroy of Egypt to commemorate the victories of Lord Nelson and Sir Ralph Abercromby. The British government welcomed the tribute, but declined to fund transportation of the obelisk. Between circa 23 BC and 12 BC: Moved to Alexandria by Roman Emperor Augustus. Circa 1370 BC: Addition of hieroglyphics by Ramesses II to commemorate his military victories. Circa 1570 BC: Erected in Heliopolis for the Pharaoh Thotmes III.
Costs

Comments: £15,000 transportation costs. Sir W J Erasmus Wilson FRS paid for the transportation of the needle from Alexandria, Egypt to London, England by sea.
Memorial: £15,000

Trust fund/Scholarship
No
Purpose: Unknown or N/A
Sponsorship
Private
Reference
  • The Times 10.09.1878; 13.09.1878; 17.10.1878; 24.09.1917; 25.09.1917; 29.07.1918; 13.11.1918; 12.05.1919; 02.07.1929; 04.07.1929
  • The 'Baby Killers' - German Air Raids on Britain in the First World War by Thomas Fegan pp.86-87. Published:Leo Cooper 2002 South Yorkshire The bronze plaque erroneously refers to the first raid by aeroplanes on London. This should be the first night-time raid on London.
  • Illustrated London News 26 September 1925, p587 Four photographs of sites damaged by air raids, including one of the damaged Sphinx.
  • LONDON'S OPEN AIR STATUARY by GLEICHEN pp109-110 Source: Image Library Published:LONGMAN'S, GREEN & CO 1928 LONDON

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