The National Trust has done a huge amount of work to improve Stowe Gardens, the access and facilities, with the help of a grant of £1.5 million from the National Lottery. There is a monument to Captain Cook on a small island in one of the lakes.1
The soft limestone pedestal does not appear to have weathered well but the words JACOBO COOK MDCCLXXVIII can be still easily deciphered. This monument must be one of the first in Cook’s honour, as Earl Temple, who had it set up, died in 1779. There is less writing on the globe clearly visible than when it was restored. It is part of a quotation of the Roman poet, Horace, from the story of Anchites, a sailor who, like Cook, was killed at sea. Because his body was never found, he was denied a proper burial, being forced to wait 100 years before he could enter Elysium.
I visited on an overcast day (5 March 2012). When the trees are in leaf and the sun is shining the gardens must be magnificent. The Temple family, who created the gardens over 300 years, expressed their ideas and politics in the gardens. They admired ancient Greek and Saxon freedoms, supported Protestantism, civil and political liberty and hated Roman, and what they considered modern-day, tyranny.
Give yourself plenty of time for a visit. There is much to see; monuments, temples, follies, bridges, and extensive grounds. You can take the Paths of Vice, Virtue or Liberty. Appropriately, Cook’s monument is on the Path of Virtue.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 9, volume 35, number 4 (2012).
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