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difficult to reach with notices along the path saying "This footpath is not public and its use may be restricted or withdrawn by the owners at ant time" and "no public to be admitted beyond this point".


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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 Its use may be restricted or withdrawn by the owner."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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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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Hi Anmarie, good to hear about your connection with Marton. You may know that the junior school in the village is now named the Captain Cook Primary School.
By Cliff Thornton on 7/26/2019 9:51:15 PM Like:0 DisLike:0
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I went to school in the village where Captain Cook was born - Marton in Cleveland
By Anmarie Jackson on 7/25/2019 1:07:18 PM Like:0 DisLike:0
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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.
By Cliff Thornton on 8/7/2014 10:37:03 PM Like:0 DisLike:0
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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.
By David on 7/30/2014 11:51:02 AM Like:0 DisLike:0
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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.
By James on 3/19/2014 12:51:38 PM Like:0 DisLike:0

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