On this day in history : 12th September 1878 – Cleopatra’s Needle is erected in the City of Westminster, London…. It had originally been presented to the UK by the ruler of Egypt and Sudan in 1819….

An 1840 portrait of Muhammad Ali Pasha, leader of Egypt and Sudan – by Auguste Couder – Public domain

The red granite obelisk, which is over 2,000 years old, had been given to Britain to commemorate the victories of Lord Nelson (Battle of the Nile, 1798) and Sir Ralph Abercrombie (Battle of Alexandra, 1801) – but it had taken until 1877 to arrange for its transportation to Britain…. Standing at 69 feet high and weighing 224 tons this was no easy task; a special floating ‘pontoon’ had to be designed so it could be towed to London….

Encasing Cleopatra’s Needle for shipment to London – Flickr’s The Commons
London’s Needle being erected – Public domain

Cleopatra’s Needle is one of three similarly named obelisks; its counterparts can be found in Paris and New York…. London’s Needle is flanked by two bronze reproduction sphinxes, designed by English architect George John Villiamy…. Concealed in the pedestal, on which the obelisk stands, is a time capsule….contained within are items such as:- a portrait of Queen Victoria, a map of London, copies of newspapers, a set of British coins, a box of cigars, children’s toys, a box of hairpins and a dozen photographs of the most attractive women of the day….


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