I have often wondered about the origin of this Obelisk. Surely it must be of some importance, standing grandly as it does at the top of Bathurst Street where it intersects with Elizabeth Street, on the edge of Hyde Park?
The only information available to the visitor at the obelisk is that it was erected by the Municipal Council in AD 1857.
Having further enlightened myself on the obelisk, let me enlighten you, Dear Reader.
Unveiled by the then Lord Mayor, George Thornton, the obelisk was an educt vent allowing the escape of noxious gases from the sewer system below the street. For good reason it was soon christened Thornton’s Scent Bottle. Its specific location was determined by the fact that this was the highest point on the City’s sewage system when the vent was built.
To-day it vents the rather less noxious storm-water system, possibly making it Sydney’s oldest working piece of public infrastructure.
The obelisk was modelled on Cleopatra’s Needle in London, which I must assure my reader was not, and is not, a sewer vent, but rather a gift, in 1819, of an ancient antiquity given by Muhammad Ali the ruler of Egypt and Sudan to commemorate the victories of Lord Nelson at the Battle of the Nile and Sir Ralph Abercromby at the Battle of Alexandria in 1801.
The Hyde Park Obelisk stands 22 metres high, topped by the vent – a filigree bronze pyramid – and is adorned lower down by Egyptian style serpents and sphinxes.
As depicted in my final picture (albeit it rather selectively and a little mischievously using a picture owned by Jackson Long – https://twitter.com/jax1000), in 2014 a giant pink condom was lowered onto the obelisk to promote the fight against HIV/AIDS in NSW. The obelisk was similarly adorned in 2016, in the run-up to the Sydney Mardi Gras, to promote safe sex. I suspect this will now become an annual occurrence, though not everyone considers it the best way for the State Government to promote a healthier lifestyle.