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Captain Cook statue at Whitby in 1948


“Captain Cook” looks on as the capstone is lowered into position.  Photo: J. Tindale. 
Courtesy of the Whitby Gazette and the Whitby Museum. 


My late father John Tindale, a renowned professional photographer and local champion of  Whitby, is being commemorated in 2021, on what would have been his 100th birthday.  John had a strong connection with Captain Cook throughout his life, which often happens to those living and working in this Yorkshire town.


Pictured above is one of his photographs for the local newspaper, the Whitby Gazette.  It shows the re-erection of Cook’s statue in 1948, amusingly arranged as to make the Captain appear to be looking on, and awaiting his turn to climb back on top.


The Captain Cook statue in the People’s Park, West Cliff, at Whitby, was sculpted by John Tweed at the invitation of Gervase Beckett, MP for Whitby.  It was unveiled on 2 October, 1912, by Admiral Lord Charles Beresford.  The statue comprises a bronze sculpture on sandstone moulded plinth, with a capstone between.  It was the first statue of Cook to be erected in Britain.  Cook faces east, looking out to sea, holding dividers in his right hand, and maps in his left hand. 


During the Second World War, the statue was removed to a place of safety, leaving just the plinth and capstone in place.  This was to make way for defensive gunnery on the cliff-top, complete with barricades and barbed-wire.  No photographs exist of these war-time arrangements as there was a general ban on photography throughout the war-years. 


After the war’s end when it was decided to return the statue, the capstone was found to be so badly damaged that it needed replacing.  John Wriglesworth of Sleights was given the task.  He used stone from Bolton Wood Stone Quarries, Bolton, spending six weeks shaping and moulding the piece to a replica of the original.  After being taken to Whitby by lorry, the capstone was raised into position using a mobile crane from George Cohen, Sons and Company, Ltd., Stanningley, as shown in this photograph, and then the statue was placed on top where it has remained ever since.


An exhibition of John’s photography, writing and audio-interviews called “A Vision of Whitby” is taking place at the Whitby Museum, Pannett Park, from summer 2021 to spring 2022.  The exhibition includes daily showings of three new documentary films about Whitby and its culture produced from John’s work. 


It is perhaps not widely known that John also founded the Endeavour Project at Whitby in 1981.  It was a scheme to build a full-size working replica in the ship-yards of Whitby, using local skills and men.  The project raised a great deal of support and money locally, and the ship-yard was bought in readiness.  The bulk of the money was pledged by the European Economic Community (EEC).  This funding was mysteriously withdrawn at the last moment.  Work had proceeded as far as proving the ship’s plans were workable, and they were donated to the Australian government. 


Sixteen years later, an Australian-built Endeavour replica voyaged the world from Sydney.  In May 1997 she sailed into Whitby harbour, with John as a guest of honour.


In preparation for the “Vision of Whitby” show, issues of the Whitby Gazette from 1900 to 1999 have been digitised and made searchable for the first time, providing many new opportunities for research.  There is likely to be much historic material about Cook in there ready to be re-discovered.  Public access is available in the Whitby Museum, on touch-screens or by using your own device.


Also part of the Tindale show is an exhibit about Endeavour, both the original and the replica, with plans and timbers.  Much more Cook material is available elsewhere in the Museum in its copious displays.

David Tindale

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 12, volume 44, number 3 (2021).

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