Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Commemorative obelisk installed

A sculpture made from recycled glass, in the form of an obelisk, has been installed in a new housing project in Kent, U.K., commemorating a local resident who financed the transportation of the Embankment obelisk of Thutmosis III from Egypt to the U.K.:
"The sculpture celebrates a former Greenhithe resident, Sir Erasmus Wilson (1809-1884), who financed the transportation of `Cleopatra’s Needle` from Alexandria, Egypt to the Thames Embankment in 1878. Sir Erasmus, one of Britain’s first Dermatologists was also a Philanthropist and well known Masonic Mason – there is still an Erasmus Wilson Masonic Lodge in existence today in Gravesend. Sir Erasmus’s father came to Dartford as Apothecary and Surgeon to the Workhouse, at the former site of the now redundant West Hill Hospital. He previously served as a Naval Surgeon under Admiral Nelson. The act of his son Erasmus to bring Cleopatra’s Needle to the Embankment was very possibly due to his wish to commemorate his father’s Naval service – the obelisk had been presented to England in 1819 by a grateful Mahommed Ali for ridding Egypt of the French but until Sir Erasmus came along no one and the motive and money to pay for the transport."
See the above page for the full story.

The original obelisk was brought over in a specially designed ship, and was nearly lost at sea: "
A specially designed cigar-shaped container ship, called the Cleopatra, was used to convey this priceless treasure. It was built by the Dixon brothers and when finished was an iron cylinder, 93 feet long, 15 feet wide, and was divided into ten watertight compartments. A cabin, bilge keels, bridge and rudder were riveted on and to everyone's delight …she floated!
But on October 14th 1877 in treacherous waters off the west coast of France in the Bay of Biscay disaster stuck…the Cleopatra was in danger of sinking."
See the following page for the rest of the story and a lovely illustration of the ship:

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