CLEOPATRA’S NEEDLE COMES TO EXETER

A rare archive of Waynman Dixon, one of the people responsible for bringing Cleopatra’s Needle to London will be included in the forthcoming Quarterly auction to be held on 30th January.

Sited on the Thames embankment, Cleopatra’s Needle was made in Egypt for the Pharaoh Thotmes III in 1460 BC, making it some 3,500 years old.

The story of how it was brought to London from Alexandria, the Royal city of Cleopatra is contained within letters and a photographic album now to be offered for sale.

The idea of bringing the needle to London was as a memorial to Horatio Nelson and Sir Ralph Abercromby. Professor Erasmus Wilson subscribed some £15,000 to bring it over from Egypt but only if the scheme succeeded.

The photographic album charts the progress of the needle as it was lowered into a specially designed 93 foot long cigar shaped container ship with cabin, bilge keels, bridge and rudder riveted on, which actually floated!.

The needle made a steady journey to Britain but on October 14th 1877 disaster struck in storm force seas in the Bay of Biscay. With the Cleopatra in danger of sinking, the steam ship towing her, the Olga, sent six volunteers in a boat to take off the Cleopatra’s crew, but the boat was swamped and the volunteers drowned.

Eventually the Olga drew alongside and rescued the Cleopatra’s crewmen and skipper and cut the tow rope, leaving the Cleopatra adrift in the Bay of Biscay

With the benefit of superb Victorian engineering skills, the vessel of course remained afloat and was spotted some five days later floating peacefully off the Northern coast of Spain, although it did cost an additional £8,000 in salvage fees. It was towed to Falmouth and thence to the Embankment in London.

The archive of letters and photographs is expected to realise between £10,000 and £20,000. For more details visit www.hamptonandlittlewood.co.uk

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