For several years in the late 1990s the monument to Captain Cook at The Vache had been difficult to reach with notices along the path saying "This footpath is not public and its use may be restricted or withdrawn by the owners at ant time" and "no public to be admitted beyond this point".
One of these owners was Admiral Sir Hugh Palliser, who bought the property in 1777 and lived there until his death in 1796. He was a patron of Cook, as captain of the Eagle, on which Cook was Master's Mate, as governor of Newfoundland, when Cook was conducting his surveys of its coast, and later as Comptroller of the Navy.
In 1780 (1781?) Palliser erected a memorial to Cook in the form of a globe standing on a plinth, with a long inscription about Cook on all four sides. It is housed in a two-storey tower of flint rubble with red brick dressings. Each side has an open arcade, and the parapet is battlemented. There is a staircase to a flat roof. The tower is atop a mount surrounded by a ditch or moat. It is in direct view of the front door on the north side of the Vache.
In 1955 the Vache was bought by the National Coal Board which used it as a training college until 1991. It nearly became a private psychotherapy clinic, but ,instead, it was developed by a company called Vache Estates Ltd restored parts of the Vache, by now a listed building, and erected 13 houses in its grounds. When the house was sold in 1998 some of the land was sold with it, including the Cook Monument. But Vache Estates Ltd retained the footpath to the monument, which runs around the edge of the property, and access from Vache Lane. It was they, and not the owners of the monument, who erected the offending signs.
During the campaign led by the Chiltern Society solicitors acting on behalf of Vache Estates Ltd argued that the monument had suffered considerable amount of abuse and vandalism and that in the interests of safeguarding the monument and protecting the Vache they wished to restrict access. However, it was pointed out to them that at the Public Inquiry in 1995 into the proposed development the company had undertaken to "maintain clear and unimpeded access during the daylight hours at all reasonable times for pedestrians from Vache Lane to the Captain Cook memorial plinth and monument". After much pressure the company changed the signs. And Chiltern Society members cleared the undergrowth along the path to make walking along it easier.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 12, volume 26, number 4 (2003).
David, many thanks for your informative update. After such a hot and wet summer, it is good to see that the undergrowth is not barring the way. Readers are reminded that this is a "permissive footpath" allowed by the landowners, and not a "statutory footpath" to which the public have a right of access.
I was at the monument yesterday (29th July 2014) and I'm pleased that the access is easier than when I last visited in 2011. The notices are still in place on the access road but make it clear that access to the monument is allowed. Parking, with consideration, is OK in Kings Road on the other side of Vache Lane. There is now a relatively new sign by the white gate, with effectively the same wording, and the awkward 'stile' has gone so that pushchair access is easier. Wheelchair access (with assistance) is just about ok there and along the footpath but of course not at the monument itself due to the steps.The monument pillar has deteriorated a little more but most of the text is still easily legible, the stair to the roof is stable, and the roof appears to have been re-surfaced.Still a wonderful 'best kept secret' and when the trees are in leaf that suspense and surprise when you turn the last corner to finally see the monument is the icing on the cake.
I visited this monument 2 years ago. Thanks for the guide, it was a great help and with some effort I managed to find it. I am a kiwi explorer tracing part of my history. England is a great place to explore when you know where to look.
Thank you for your memories Malcolm. You will be pleased to know that the monument has been restored by the present owners.
between 1950-1954, my dad was head gardener living on the Vache estate owned by the Dawson family.My sister and I would play around the monument all the time and we never saw anyone else around. The immediate area around it was quite overgrown and the "moat" basically dry,with a rickety piece of wood as a bridge. What a grat castle to have to ourselves! Glad to see its now ok for public to visit.
the Vache-Cooks monument
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