A Modern Monument to 2,000 Years of History

As you cross the Thames on the Millennium Bridge (the “wobbly bridge”) you may well not be aware that immediately below you on the north bank river path there is a fascinating record of the history of London and the UK, scientific instruments/inventions and religion in London over the last 2,000 years.

Leading up to the year 2000 the northern riverside, round where the bridge is now, was completely regenerated. An accessible and pleasant riverside promenade was created where previously it had been a not very inviting area for the public.

As part of this regeneration, in 2002 one of the City of London’s livery companies, the Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers, presented a “monument” to the City of London to mark the Millennium. It is a three-sided glass and steel obelisk designed by Joanna Migdal called the Millennium Measure. Cleverly MM is also the abbreviation for millimetre and also two thousand in Roman numerals, and the sides of the obelisk measure 2 metres or 2,000 millimetres.

One side traces significant events in the history of London and England/the UK from the creation of London by the Romans in the 1st century AD to the year 2000. Another covers religious developments in London from the Temple of Mithras in the first century to the first mosque in London in the 20th century. The third traces worldwide scientific inventions over the time London has existed. Many ideas which we may think were British inventions during the Industrial Revolution are in fact much older. How many of us would know that the idea for a steam turbine was developed in the first century AD – seemingly by Hero of Alexandria? It was no more than a toy and it took another 18 centuries before the modern steam turbine was produced.

The obelisk is absolutely fascinating and whenever I pass or lead a guided walk past it the temptation is to spend a long time taking in all the information – do you know what an odometer is? This is an ideal time to go on a walk through the City of London along the riverside – yesterday I was the only person on the promenade around the Millennium Bridge so no problem with social distancing. We are currently offering River Thames tours for private groups, so come along to see this modern monument!

Susan Baker is a qualified City of London Tour Guide who delivers guided walks and private tours in London. View all of Susan’s walking tours.


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