Cleopatra’s Needle is made of red granite and stands 68ft. It is one of three ‘Needles’, the other two being in Paris and New York. Although named after Cleopatra they actually date from 1450BC and the reign of Thutmose III. The inscriptions date from roughly 1250BC and were probably added on the order of Ramesses II as they mention his great victories.
The Needle was given to Britain by Mehmet Ali in 1819 to commemorate the Battle of the Nile (1798) which was won by Admiral Nelson and the Battle of Alexandria (1801). The obelisk was accepted but the British Government would not pay to have it transported to the United Kingdom so it remained buried in Alexandria.
Sir William James Erasmus Wilson paid the £10,000 for it’s transportation in 1877. It was encased in an iron type of pontoon vessel with a rudder and deck house designed to be towed by another ship. This was the Olga and the vessel in which the Needle was encased was named Cleopatra.
The Cleopatra capsized in the Bay of Biscay on 14 October 1877 with the loss of six men, about half her crew. The remaining crew were rescued by the Olga. The Cleopatra did not however sink and was later and rescued.
Cleopatra’s Needle eventually made it into London on 21 January 1878 and was erected on 12 September of that same year on the Thames Embankment.
It is said that ghostly eerie screams have been heard in the vicinity of this ancient Egyptian obelisk and the apparition of a naked man leaping into the Thames from beside the Needle has apparently been seen several times.