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The Navigators' Memorial, Westminster Abbey


On Saint Francis's day, Thursday 4 October 1979 at 5 p.m. a Navigators' Memorial was unveiled and dedicated in the south cloister of Westminster Abbey, to the memory of Sir Francis Drake, Captain James Cook and Sir Francis Chichester.

The memorial was commissioned by the Rt. Hon. Edward Heath, M.B.E., M.P. financed by private means, and commemorates four hundred years of England's pre-eminence in seamanship and navigation.

Three selected and significant circumnavigators of the globe all of whom set out from Plymouth feature in it with their ships; Sir Francis Drake, who sailed round the world in the Golden Hind in 1577-1580; Captain James Cook, who followed in the Endeavour in 1768-1771; and Sir Francis Chichester, who made his solo voyage in Gypsy Moth IV in 1966-1967.

The Memorial, measuring 3 feet 6 inches by 2 feet 6 inches, is fixed to the south cloister wall. The design, by Eric Fraser, is in coloured marbles and pictorial and cartographic in aspect, featuring the globe and the navigators' ships. The materials used were cut from Devon marble, with marble inlay, executed by Messrs. Whitehead, the marble masons of Kennington. The frame was made by Arthur Ayres, the sculptor.

During the dedication service the seconds pendulum which was used by Captain James Cook for astronomical and gravity observations on the Transit of Venus expedition (loaned to him by the Royal Society) was carried by the Rt. Hon. Arthur Bottomley, M.P. President, Captain Cook Trust, from the Great West Door of the Abbey and presented to the Dean of Westminster and laid upon the High Altar.

Grateful acknowledgement is made to W.R.J. Pullen, Esq., Receiver General, Westminster Abbey for information and material received in connection with this memorial, and Mr. Ian Stubbs of the Capt. Cook Museum, Marton for initially informing me about the memorial and providing details and photographs of same.

Andrew Bardell

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 224, volume 6, number 4 (1984).

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