Friday, August 15, 2014


At the north-eastern end of Napier Bridge is this obelisk, which, until a few days ago, was a mystery to me. It has a masonry base - and the entire structure is brick and mortar itself. The base has no indication of what it is for; as if to tease the curious passerby, there is a rectangular indentation in the base which makes it appear as if there was an intent to have a plaque there, but that the idea has been dropped and no one has bothered to fill up the space, or to finish up the rest of the column itself.

The structure seems to date back a long way. An early picture of the bridge, said to have been taken in the 1890s, shows the obelisk at its end. When I posted a picture of it a few years ago, I had tried to get the column in its entirety. It was only a few days ago that I realised I had missed the most important aspect of this structure. The thin metal rod topping the masonry.

The Napier Bridge - named for Francis Napier, the 10th Lord Napier, who was Governor of Madras between 1866 and 1872. It was during his tenure that this bridge, to connect Fort St George with the sandy strip of beach to its south, was built. At that time, there was no concrete to build a bridge with; the strongest material for such purposes was iron, and that was what was used to make a sturdy bridge. Although its concrete replacement came over 70 years ago, the Napier Bridge is still referred to as Iron Bridge. In the days when the bridge lived up to its name, the biggest threat it faced was from lightning strikes during the monsoons. That could only be removed by having a much taller attractor of electric current - and hey, presto, the mystery of the obelisk has been solved!

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