Wood Green’s Obelisk

The Obelisk today
The Obelisk on Bounds Green Road today

Unless you are a frequent traveller along the Bounds Green Road you may not be aware that there is an obelisk in Wood Green. The 20 foot high granite obelisk is located on the grass verge opposite The Prince public house at the corner of Finsbury Road.

Mrs Catherine Smithies

The obelisk was funded by public subscription to commemorate the life and work of Mrs Catharine Smithies (1785-1877). Mrs Smithies was a vigorous campaigner for Temperance and animal welfare. In 1875 she founded the Band of Mercy movement, a charitable organisation for young people aimed at relieving the suffering of animals which subsequently became part of the RSPCA.

Drawing of Mrs Smithies
Mrs Catherine Smithies, date unknown


The original location of the obelisk was at the junction of Bounds Green Road and Park Avenue to where it was hauled by sixteen shire horses and unveiled on 25th November 1879 along with adjacent animal drinking troughs.  In 1904 the obelisk had to be relocated to its present position to enable the laying of tram lines.

A Philanthropic Family

The Smithies were a philanthropic campaigning family who lived for a time (1876-1886) at Earlham Grove House which later became Wood Green Town Hall and now survives as Woodside House on the Wood Green High Road.  Mrs Smithies’ son, Thomas Bywater Smithies (1816-1883), championed the same causes as his mother but was also a staunch supporter of the working man.

T B Smithies
Thomas Bywater Smithies, date unknown

He was a prolific author and proprietor of several campaigning journals including The British Workman. Mrs Smithies and her son were both buried in Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington. The daughter of the household, Eliza, was an author in her own right.

Image credits

The Obelisk today – courtesy of Janet Owen; Mrs Catherine Smithies and Thomas Bywater Smithies – courtesy of Albert Pinching

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