Speke's Monument - Kensington Gardens, London, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Master Mariner
N 51° 30.541 W 000° 10.751
30U E 695744 N 5710204
Quick Description: Speke's Monument is located in Kensington Gardens close to the junction of Bdge's Walk and Lancaster Walk. It is a tall, red granite obelisk that is stepped at its base and is surrounded by low railings.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 1/3/2015 7:15:16 AM
Waymark Code: WMN693
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member saopaulo1
Views: 0

Long Description:

The Victorian Web website tells us about the man and the memorial:

John Hanning Speke (1827-1864) was the Victorian explorer who discovered the source of the Nile. However, his discovery was surrounded by contention. He died on the very eve of a crucial debate about it with Sir Richard Burton, when his own shotgun went off during a partridge shoot.

Some thought Speke might have committed suicide. At any rate, Sir Roderick Murchison, President of the Royal Geographical Society, who had called for the debate, now called for a monument to be erected by public subscription in this prominent location — not far from the RGS's present headquarters on Kensington Gore. Over 2000 mourners had attended Speke's funeral, and advertisements for subscriptions were placed even in the Delhi Gazette in India (see Godsall 256). Nevertheless, it was hard to garner the funds. When at last the monument was erected, no unveiling was reported either in The Times or in the Royal Geographical Society's own journal.

In 1855, Philip Hardwick had designed a similar monument for another adventurer who had met a tragic end — Lieutenant Bellot. Clearly, obelisk-style memorials were still in vogue. On Speke's, the inscription reads: IN MEMORY OF SPEKE / VICTORIA NYANZA / AND THE NILE / 1864. This avoids crediting him with the actual discovery of the river's source. Speke's claim was later vindicated, and a more informative ground plaque was finally placed in front of the monument in 1995.

The ground plaque at the monument tells us:

John Hanning Speke - Explorer
(1827 - 1864)

Speke was the first European, while on an expedition with Richard Burton to East Africa in 1858, to discover Lake Victoria. On a subsequent journey with James Grant in 1862, he confirmed its northern outlet as the source of the Nile.

This memorial was sponsored by Sir Roderick Murchison, President of the Royal Geographical Society. The cost was met by public subscription.

It was designed by Philip Hardwick RA. It is constructed from red granite and was quarried and made in Aberdeen, Scotland.

The memorial was erected in 1866. Speke had died two years earlier, killed in a shooting accident by his own gun immediately before a debate with Burton about the source of the Nile.

This plaque was erected in 1995 by the Friends of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

The Royal Parks website also tells us:

John Hanning Speke was an explorer who discovered the source of the Nile. He died mysteriously in 1864.

Speke was shot by his own gun the day before he was due to take part in a debate at the Royal Geographical Society about the source of the River Nile. Speke claimed the source was the Rippon Falls, an outflow from Lake Victoria in east Africa. He would have been opposed in the debate by Sir Richard Burton, another explorer, who argued that Speke didn't have conclusive evidence for his claim. Some people thought Speke died accidentally; others that it was suicide.

Speke's claim eventually proved to be correct and the Royal Geographical Society said he had solved "the problem of all ages".

Website with more information on either the memorial or the person(s) it is dedicated to: [Web Link]

Location: Kensington Gardens

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