The Speke Monument is quite a statement piece. OK – so it’s not really a statue but it is impressive. It’s rather phallic form lies near the junction of Lancaster Walk and Budges Walk in Kensington Gardens, one of London’s Royal Parks.
I like finding and learning about memorials which evidently were extremely important when first unveiled but now lie somewhat forgotten in amongst the changing landscape of life. This memorial is dedicated to John Hanning Speke, the explorer who discovered Lake Victoria in East Africa and led expeditions to the source of the Nile.
It was designed by Philip Hardwick, designer of the original Euston Railway Station, hewn from Scottish red granite and erected in 1866. It was paid for by public subscription and sponsored by the President of the Royal Geographical Society which had paid for two of Speke’s expeditions.
Speke died in mysterious circumstances – shot by his own gun the day before he was due to take part in a debate about the source of the River Nile. His claim that the source was the Rippon Falls, an outflow from Lake Victoria in east Africa, was eventually proven but he would have been opposed at the debate by fellow explorer, Sir Richard Burton. The Royal Geographical Society said he had solved “the problem of all ages”.
Contributor & photographer: Sue Lowry
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