“In two thousand years’ time will there be brambles growing on Ludgate Hill … and will a shepherd graze his sheep in Piccadilly Circus? It happened to Thebes and Carthage…” These are H.V. Morton’s musings on the 3,500-year-old needle that once lay in the sands of Alexandria and now stands on the Embankment. It was a gift from Muhammad Ali (Viceroy of Egypt) in 1819 to honour victories by Nelson and Abercromby some years earlier – the battles of the Nile and Alexandria, respectively. Due to costs and logistics, the needle didn’t make its ways to the shores of the Thames until the 1870s.
Under the obelisk are sealed jars placed as time capsules in 1878, when this slab of granite was erected. The choices were typically Victorian: cigars, razors and a lounge suit; the Bible in several languages and a selection of photographs of the most beautiful English women of the period.