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Cook Monument at The Vache, Chalfont St. Giles - Access Restored

 

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difficult to reach with notices along the path saying "This footpath is not public and its use may be restricted or withdrawn by the owners at ant time" and "no public to be admitted beyond this point".

 


Click any image for a larger version
Now they have been replaced with ones saying "No public access beyond this point except those wishing to visit the monument, and only by means of the footpath which is not public. Its use may be restricted or withdrawn by the owner."
I visited the monument in August 2003 with CCS member Geoffrey Legge who, as a member of the Chiltern Society, had written to me about the resolution of the access problems. There is no parking for the public on the site, nor in the road outside, Vache Lane.
The Vache is a manor house lying in an estate of about 86 acres near the village of Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire. Its origins are obscure, but the current building is the result of extensive alterations in the eighteenth century. The original manor was owned by the de la Vache family, but after they ceased to own it in 1411 it changed hands many times with about 30 owners in 500 years.

 

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.

 

I first visited the Vache over 20 years ago when I took several photographs. Members of the CCS (or CCSU as it then was) visited the monument in 1987 during a weekend meeting based at Greenwich. The monument is a fascinating structure, as well as being the first ever memorial to Cook, and this year I took even more photographs of it. It was sad to see the deterioration in the lettering of the inscription and elsewhere.

 

 

The beginning of the inscription - as it was and as it is now
The entrance to the memorial - Then Now - with an older Ian Boreham

 

Ian Boreham


Originally published in Cook's Log, page 12, volume 26, number 4 (2003).

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I did a walk around Chalfont St Giles today and diverted to visit the Monument. Thank you so much for your detailed guidance on how to find it, in particular the photos of the various signs. It was really helpful as I would have been unlikely to find it on my own. I loved seeing the monument but I didn't cross the moat as the bridge had a broken plank and I didn't fancy risking it at the start of an 8 mile walk.
By Emma B on 5/15/2022 8:32:18 PM Like:0 DisLike:0
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Thank you for explaining the situation re the memorial to Captain Cook at The Vache.
I appreciate your concerns about the misuse of the monument over the past year, and support your attempts to protect the memorial by limiting public access. I will use this information if this website receives future enquiries about access, amd I always remind enquirers that there is no public right of access, it is a permissive use granted by the owner. Thank you for all that you have done for the memorial over recent years.
By Cliff Thornton on 4/6/2022 11:37:45 AM Like:0 DisLike:0
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Hello! I live in the Vache, and have a great interest in Captain Cook. I have tried to keep the monument and it's path somewhat clean + serviceable in the free time I have (which is little, as I am often away from home studying!), but I am sorry as well it has gotten to such a poor state. I do believe it was the right thing to lock it up, even for a brief while. A very large number of people were going up to the monument to do various things which suffice to say were not related to the pursuit of history! For safeguarding reasons and concerns of why people were going up there it was decided to make it more difficult for people to reach it. I hope you understand, and continue to enjoy the monument!
By Anonymous on 4/6/2022 11:08:44 AM Like:0 DisLike:0
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S M, thank you for posting details of your recent visit. It is good to know that the owners have opened up the private footpath again. Yes it is a thrill to sudeently encounter the structure in the middle of nowhere. But it would have been a permanent reminder to Admiral Palliser, whever he looked out of a window of his mansion and saw the monument on the distant skyline.
By Cliff Thornton on 1/16/2022 4:38:50 PM Like:0 DisLike:0
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My wife and I went on a walk today and decided to go on a road we've seen many times but not walked on. By accident we discovered this monument and it was a thrilling adventure. The signs are still there, but we continued on and found this marvellous monument. There was a tiny bit of graffiti above the inscription, and due to weathering, the 'first' side of the inscription is difficult to read, nevertheless this place is amazing, and the experience of discovering this was great. I hope to owners continue to allow access!
By S M on 1/16/2022 4:05:13 PM Like:0 DisLike:0
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Paul, thank you for your report on your recent visit to the Cook monument. It is sad to see that the monument has not been respected by some young (?) visitors. The monument is owned by the local landowner, who I know has spent money on preserving the fabric of the structure. In addition, the path to the monument is not a public footpath, but is a discretionary one allowed by the landowwner. I will try and pass your report on to the owner. Your suggestion for relocating the monument is worthy of consideration, but as it was erected by Admiral Palliser, who lived at The Vache, the current site has historic significance which would be lost if it was moved.
By Cliff Thornton on 10/13/2021 10:07:25 AM Like:0 DisLike:0
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I visted the monument on Sunday 10th October for the first time. I found the access unclear and discouraging. It off putting and only those determined wi find it. Once there it is obviously not being looked after. The path arround the moat and moat is overgrown, the wooden bridge over it decaying although safe with care when crossing. The internal timber is weathering but repairs are obvious. I did not climb to the roof as i did not feel safe, was accompanied or saw any safety equipment. Should you visit carry a mobile. Consideration should be given to its relocation to the Chiltern Museum for posterity and greater exposure.
By Paul Redington on 10/12/2021 9:50:19 AM Like:0 DisLike:0
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Visited today (March 28, 2021). Still standing, and still looking good. No fence around it anymore but the bridge across the moat was sturdy.
By Roger Alderson on 3/28/2021 9:03:14 PM Like:0 DisLike:0
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Colin Smith, I empathise with your feelings. The gate was locked following a spate of articles in the national press about BLM tagetting Cook statues across the country which they want taken down, claining he was a racist and was responsible for the invasion of Australia and the genocide of its indogenous peoples. It was thought that the locked gate might afford the monument some protection until all the fuss dies down.
By Cliff Thornton on 2/8/2021 8:58:01 AM Like:1 DisLike:0
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I visited this hidden jewel today, luckily we were not deterred by the white gate that had a substantial chain and padlock. such a shame that visitors would appear to be discouraged from this permissive footpath.
By Mr Colin Smith. on 2/3/2021 10:09:45 PM Like:0 DisLike:0

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