Welcome to the July 2011 issue of the Egyptian London Newsletter, and congratulations if you could work out the meaning of the hieroglyphs. (If not, read on to the end.)
Even Better Value
If you look at the web site, you will see that by popular request there are now two prices. Regular pre-booked tours and walks now cost only £6 for 60+ and full-time students. That works out at between £3 and £4 an hour, and represents great value for money, especially if you consider the price of coffee in London nowadays.
Solved: The Mystery of the Mausoleum
One of the London sites included in 'Egypt in England' is the magnificent Egyptian style Gordon Mausoleum at Putney Vale Cemetery. This has been featured in books before, such as J S Curl's great 'Egyptomania', but there was a mystery surrounding it. There is nothing on the outside to show who it belonged to, and on the inside, there is only a single word 'Gordon' on the slab sealing the vault. Enquiries to the cemetery authorities and local history societies drew a blank, apart from the information that it was occupied by Alexander Gordon, who had died in 1910 aged 69. But who was Alexander Gordon? One theory was that he might be a younger brother of the famous Gordon of Khartoum, but no-one knew for certain.
The answer turned out to be quite unexpected. A trip to the British Library's Newspaper Library at Colindale, and a dig through the gloomy microfilm copies of the Wandsworth Borough News produced a notice in the 'Deaths' column for 16th September 1910
“On the 11th Sept, at “Woodfield”, Lytton-Grove Putney, SW, the residence of his son. Col. Alexander Gordon, late of President McKinley's staff, of Shrewsbury Park, Seabright, New Jersey, and Hamilton, Ohio USA, aged 69. No flowers, by request.”
So Alexander Gordon was American, a Colonel, and had been attached to a President's staff. But who was he? A little more delving turned up an article in an American paper, the Hamilton Journal-News. Alexander Gordon originally worked for James and Jonathan Niles, brothers whose business, among other things, repaired steamboats on the Ohio River. During the Civil War, when this side of the business boomed, they needed needed another lathe, but none were available. Two of their employees, of whom Gordon was one, built the lathe and were so successful that the company started a machine tool department. After the Civil War, Gordon and his fellow employee went into partnership with a wealthy local businessman, and bought the machine tool business from the Niles brothers. The Niles Tool Works, as it was called, moved from Cincinnati to Hamilton, and went on to become part of a conglomerate which at the time was the biggest machine tool company in the world. The company's extensive contracts with the US military would explain Gordon's involvement with President McKinley, although Gordon's title of 'Colonel seems to have been a courtesy one. Gordon was a technical expert, and travelled all over the world for the company, including to Egypt. In retirement he may have moved to London to live with his son. The design of Gordon Senior's monument may have been inspired by his experiences of Egypt, or by the name of his company, but there is a Cairo in America, on the Ohio River, and a Thebes in Illinois, a Memphis in Tennessee, and the Mississippi has been called 'The American Nile', so maybe it isn't so surprising after all.
Egypt in England
'Egyptian London' newsletter is a bit of a misnomer at the moment, as most of my attention has been outside London, and on 'Egypt in England'. The draft text of the book has now gone off to the referees, and is awaiting their comments. Despite a delay of several months waiting for the last photos to be taken by English Heritage's photographers, I am keeping my fingers crossed that we are still on track to meet the original publication date of February 2012.
In the next issue, how a treasure trove of letters to and from the Egyptologist Joseph Bonomi Junior threw light on the vexed question of who designed Temple Mill in Leeds, and another mystery cleared up as restoration of the Egyptian Hall at Stowe begins.
Send me your comments on this issue, and if you are still wondering about the hieroglyphs at the top, they are read as (something like) Wepoot, and are the Middle Egyptian for...message or news.
Ankh Wedja Seneb
Welcome to the October 2011 issue of the Egyptian London Newsletter.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Trying to organise tours and walks on a fixed schedule is always a problem, so the booking system for Egyptian London Tours and Walks has just undergone a major overhaul to make it much more flexible. It now allows people to request any walk for any day or time. This may not always be possible, but it does mean that you are much more likely to get what you want. The new system may need a few tweaks, and any feedback is welcome.
Some people prefer not to pay on-line, and so the option of paying on the day has been added as well.
The Elderly Lady’s Elephant
It’s hard now to believe that the whole Egyptian London tours and walks thing started off as one walk, from Cleopatra’s Needle to the British Museum. Over the years, as more and more material came out of the research, this spawned (if that’s the right word) the current family of tours and walks, but it didn’t stop there. Doing justice to the story of Cleopatra’s Needle was getting more and more difficult, so The Elderly Lady’s Elephant walk now starts in Trafalgar Square, rather than Leicester Square. This not only makes it more closely focused on the story of the London Obelisk, but gives more time at the Needle itself. (The Leicester Square material is still covered on two other walks.) So if you fancy finding out how the Needle came to London, and why it took so long, not to mention what is under the obelisk, and what the mysterious Browning’s Invisible Preservative is, wrap up warm and come and find out. (Or book one of the British Museum tours if you prefer to be indoors at this time of the year.)
Been there, seen it, and got the fridge magnet
No t-shirts (yet), but as going on one of the tours and walks qualifies you as an honorary Egyptian Londoner, there should be some way of marking it. So our discriminating clients now have the opportunity to acquire a souvenir of their visit in the shape of a fridge magnet featuring the Egyptian London logo. Manufactured to the same quality as those on sale at the British Museum, but at a fraction of the cost. (Well, £2, anyway.) Impress your friends, family and neighbours, and keep shopping lists on the fridge in a way the Ancient Egyptians could only dream of.
Until next time,
Ankh Wedja Seneb
Welcome to the December 2011 issue of the Egyptian London newsletter.
Three more potted biographies on the web site, this time of three very different military men. There is the father of modern Egypt, Mohammed Ali (who wasn't Egyptian), who planned to demolish the Pyramids, and was only narrowly persuaded not to; the High Commissioner who helped to negotiate Egyptian independence in the 1920s; and the Scottish general who decided that Cleopatra's Needle was finally going to come to England. Read all about them by going to the Egyptian London page of the web site, and following the link at the bottom of the page.
Egypt in England
Last issue I mentioned the sat nav Points of Interest file for Egypt in England, but for those who prefer the fail safe technology of print, there will be maps as well. One has now been completed, and the other is in hand. These are the last outstanding elements before the production process starts in earnest, and the anticipated publication date is now late summer 2012.
Blue is the colour...
Filming is going on at the moment for a BBC documentary on Flinders Petrie, who has a good claim to be not only the Father of Egyptology, but of modern archaeology as well. Petrie is one of only two Egyptologists currently commemorated in London by an iconic Blue Plaque, the other being Howard Carter. However, I have also proposed Amelia Edwards, foundress of the Egypt Exploration Society, and sometimes referred to as the first woman Egyptologist, for her own Blue Plaque. The process is a very long drawn out one, but she is slowly moving up to the top of the short list of candidates.
Compliments of the Season
From the Scribe of Light, to all his readers, a very merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and as always:
Ankh Wedja Seneb