Cabbie’s Curios: A Monolith in St Katharine Docks

Based upon a story by Arthur C. Clarke and directed by Stanley Kubrick, 1968’s ‘2001 A Space Odyssey is widely considered to be one of cinema’s greatest science-fiction films.

2001 poster

Epic, disturbing and frequently baffling, one of the film’s most memorable recurring images is that of the mysterious black monolith which reveals itself at various key points in the evolution of mankind.

The Monolith's four appearances

The monolith’s four appearances

Initially, this looming icon was intended to be transparent and Stanley Kubrick commissioned a hefty 2-tonne prop from the aptly named Stanley Plastics. However, once on the set at Borehamwood Studios the notoriously picky director decided that the monolith looked far too sparkly and decided to change the design altogether. Basalt was selected as the new material, providing the monolith with its now infamous brooding aura.

Poster advertising '2001 A Space Odyssey' on the London Underground, circa 1968

Poster advertising ‘2001 A Space Odyssey’ on the London Underground, circa 1968

The rejected monolith was left to gather dust until 1977 when it was decided that it’d make the perfect basis for an artwork in honour of Her Majesty the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. The slab- said to be the largest solid block of Acrylic in the world- was therefore handed to sculptor, Arthur Fleischmann who carved a gleaming crown into the material.

The monolith at St Katherine Docks; its home since 1977

The monolith at St Katherine Docks; its home since 1977

The recycled prop has been on public display ever since at St Katherine Docks, Wapping quietly watching over London’s own transformation…


HAL 9000, the murderous super-computer from ‘2001’


12 responses

  1. I didn’t know about this at all, Rob. A great piece of trivia for movie buffs!
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. Wow, I didn’t know either. Excellent post, thank you. Will have to get out of the cab one day and have a look now!

  3. Gracious…I’ll go and have a look when I’m in England this summer.

    1. Thanks Helen, hope you get to see it soon!

  4. That is so brilliant. Thanks for this! Had no idea. Will look for it on our next trip!

    1. Thanks, hope you make it here soon 🙂

  5. It used to be in that thing that looks like a bandstand,now Starbucks. In fact, that building was made especially to display the slab. It was called the Coronarium Chapel.

    1. Thanks for that, really interesting info.

  6. […] Want more on Stanley Kubrick’s London? Then check out this post: A Monolith in St Katherine Docks… […]

  7. OMG I love in Wapping, saw the crown many times but never knew the story behind it

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