Bridges & Structures

Statues & Monuments

Statues & Monuments


Cleopatra's Needle

Historical BackgroundCleopatra's Needle

Cleopatra's Needle is a Grade I Listed structure located on Victoria Embankment.

The Needle is one of a number of obelisks which were originally erected in Heliopolis, Egypt for the Pharaoh
Thotmes III circa 1570 BC. The obelisks are cut from red granite, stand approx 21 metres high and weigh an estimated 187 tons.  Hieroglyphic inscriptions were added some 200 years later by Ramesses II to commemorate his military victories.

Between 23 BC and 12 BC the first Roman Emperor Augustus had 2 of these obelisks moved from Heliopolis to Alexandria for decorating the front of the Caesarium Temple; built by Cleopatra in honour of Mark Anthony.  Both of these obelisks remained until long after the Temple went into ruin and in 1303 AD, one of these obelisks fell in an earthquake.

In 1819, the fallen obelisk was presented to the United Kingdom by viceroy of Egypt, in commemoration of the victories of Lord Nelson at the Battle of the Nile and Sir Ralph Abercromby at the Battle of Alexandria. Although this was welcomed by the British Government, it declined to fund the expense of transporting it to London.  The obelisk therefore remained in Alexandria until 1877 when Sir William James Erasmus Wilson, a distinguished anatomist and dermatologist, sponsored its transportation to London.

A specially designed container called the "Cleopatra" was used to carry the Needle by steam ship to England in 1878.  Unfortunately, tragedy struck in the rough seas during which six men lost their lives.  The Needle finally arrived and was erected in its current position is 1897.  The names of the six men that lost their lives at sea are engraved on a plaque at the base of the Needle.

In 1958 Cleopatra's Needle was designated as a Grade I Listed Structure.