An Obelisk, which is a tall, four-sided monument ending in a small pyramid shape at the very top, might not be something you would be expecting to see when strolling around Kingston Lacy’s grounds in Dorset, however, this extraordinary monument has been standing proud in this location since 1821.
The Obelisk is not the only collectible item found at Kingston Lacy’s estate, and ancient artifacts are found all over the inside of the house, as well as the adjoining gardens. The Obelisk was created to be placed at the entrance to the Temple of Isis on Egypt’s sacred island of Philae. This particular Obelisk is considered as a grade II pink granite needle, which was once one half of a pair of obelisks which are believed to be dated approximately 150 BC. Its twin was found broken into pieces, however, this Obelisk was still intact.
William John Bankes, a notable explorer, Egyptologist, and adventurer, first encountered this Obelisk on his Egyptian travels that happened between 1815-1819. During the 1820s, John Bankes acquired the Obelisk, as well as a large piece of its twin, and had them transported to his Estate at Kingston Lacy in Dorset. The logistics of such a massive move were taken care of by the adventurer Giovanni Belzoni. The journey of the Obelisk, from Egypt of England, which would be quite the task even today, took six years to be complete and the Obelisk finally arrived in England in 1821. The trip did not go along as planned, especially when it reached the edge of the Nile River.
The sheer weight of the structure made the vessel carrying it sinks into the riverbed, but with sheer determination, the Obelisk eventually made it to England. However, the journey to Dorset was not yet complete. The Duke of Wellington, Bankes’ old-time military friend, offered his gun carriage for the final leg of the journey to Dorset. The Duke did not only help to get the Obelisk to its final resting place, but an inscription at the bottom of the Obelisk also confirms that he was the one to chose where the monument was to be placed in Kingston Lacy’s grounds.
This Obelisk was also central to the nineteenth-century race to decipher hieroglyphs. A highly educated and intellectual Egyptologist, William John, observed two languages inscribed onto the Obelisks four faces, Ancient Egyptian on the main shaft and Ancient Greek on the Plinth. After identifying two very important names in Egyptology on the Obelisk, namely; Ptolemy and Cleopatra, the Obelisk went on to become a key feature in Jean-Francois Champollion’s decipherment of hieroglyphs in 1822.
Although the collection of Artifacts at Kingston Lacy’s grounds is nothing less than impressive, the Philae Obelisk remains the most significant of the Egyptian Artifacts found, so if you’re ever in the area, do not miss the opportunity to witness a real piece of Egyptian history right at the heart of Dorset.