The Foundation Stone Ceremony For Captain Cook’s Monument.
“A meeting with Royalty for Joseph Louttit’s granite”
Queen Victoria was considered the most caring and gracious of all British Monarchs, and is the second longest serving Queen after our present Queen Elizabeth. Her second son, Prince Alfred, was of nautical persuasion and joined the navy in 1858. Queen Victoria had the greatest of admiration for Captain Cook and his endeavours, and therefore most fitting she chose her second son, Prince Alfred, H.R.H The Duke Of Edinburgh, to discharge the “Duties of Royalty” entailed in honouring one regarded as the - World’s Greatest Navigator.
Above: Queen Victoria in 1862 Why didn't Queen Victoria perform the official ceremony? Queen Victoria chose her second son, Prince Alfred, H.R.H The Duke Of Edinburgh, to discharge the “Duties of Royalty” because her husband, Albert, the Prince Consort, had died of typhoid fever on 14 December 1861 at Windsor Castle. His death completely devastated Queen Victoria who entered a state of mourning and wore black for the rest of her life. She avoided public appearances and was rarely seen by her people: she was widely criticised and her seclusion earned her the name "Widow of Windsor". Although she did undertake some official government duties, she chose to remain secluded in her royal residences, Balmoral in Scotland, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight and Windsor Castle. It wasn't until the early 1880s, after much coaxing by her family and Prime Minister Disraeli, that she began to appear more often in public, even attending the theatre in 1881. Victoria died at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight on 22 January 1901 after a reign which lasted almost 64 years.
Preparation for The The Foundation Stone Ceremony For Captain Cook’s Monument: This version is sourced from, and combined with descriptions by journalists from several newspapers, including the Sydney Morning Herald, March 27 1869 . The ‘phraseolgy’ used is from journalists of the times.
“Several blocks of granite, 6ft 6ins in length and 24ins of height – possibly weighing as much as two tons each, had been laid at ground level to form a 13 ft. square foundation for the monument. Four more of a much larger size & weight were planned to cross these, and another two to again across those.”
“A much larger block , yet to arrive from Mr Louttit’s quarry in Moruya, some 120 miles away, is to be turned into a column or pedestal – upon which, the yet to be sculptured statue of Captain Cook will be mounted.”
“The first and second layer of blocks (above the foundation) were beautifully polished & inscribed with use of script that acknowledges the exploits of Cook, but are still partly concealed by the stonemason’s protective wood packaging –
It seems only one of this number of four bottom ones is to be used in the stone laying ceremony.“
The Ceremony: Various descriptions of the actual foundation stone laying ceremony of the monument appeared in Sydney newspapers from 1869. The one following, essentially sums it all up;
Mr. John Young, builder of the GPO and lessee of Mr Louttit’s quarry, was in charge of construction and prepared the mortar which was duly spread by the Duke of Edinburgh. The stone was then lowered into its place, and “tapped three times” with the mallet, according to ancient custom. His Royal Highness thereupon declared the stone to be “well and truly laid.” The Band played “Rule Britannia” and “God save the Queen.”
The trowel used in the ceremony was of richly burnished silver, having an ivory handle with silver mountings. An inscription on the blade reads:-“ To H.R.H. Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, K.G., on laying the foundation stone intended to commemorate the illustrious navigator, Captain Cook. Sydney, March 27th, 1869,” and was presented to His Highness in a handsome box of Myall wood lined with light blue silk.
“The maul, or mallet, was made of honey suckle wood, with a handle of native beech. The wood was taken from trees growing close to the actual spot at Little Point where Captain Cook first landed in Australia and from where our history began.” “Buried in the “time Capsule“ bottle are copies of the Sydney Morning Herald and Empire, and cards of the officers of the Australian Patriotic Officers Of Australia. There are various references to Captain Cook’s achievements and the mention him as being the “Second Son of Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria” in the thirty- second year of her reign.”
Above: Cook’s landing place at “Inscription Point”, Kurnell, Sydney. The wood for the ceremonial maul was taken from trees growing close to this spot.
A note by Norm Moore. - H.R.H Prince Alfred, was in high demand during his time in Sydney and appeared at a number of other ceremonies & functions. One of the most important of these was to set the “ponderous keystone” for the George Street entrance of the General Post Office in April 1869. The stone was quarried at Pyrmont & weighed 26.5 metric tonnes.
Above: Completion Of Sydney GPO Stage 1 in 1874
Granite for the Sydney GPO's columns was shipped from 1868 at the same time as the smaller blocks for Cook’s memorial, and turned on an earlier version of the giant Abernethy stonemason’s lathe – now in Moruya’s historical museum in Campbell street. James Abernethy & Co built stonemason’s lathes on demand & to design from about the 1840’s.
Above: An Abernethy lathe turning column for GPO second stage here - 1881 It would seem an earlier model of this lathe would also have been used to turn the huge ‘troublesome’ block of granite into the impressive pedestal on which it was intended to mount the statue of Captain Cook.
The present lathe (located at the Moruya and District Historical Society Museum) arrived in Sydney in 1881 & started its extraordinary association with Moruya’s granite and Sydney’s splendid Colonial architecture by turning columns for the colonnade of the General Post Office second stage,1882 -1887.
The GPO was designed by famous Colonial architect James Johnstone Barnet & its builder was internationally renowned builder & lessee of Louttit’s quarry –John Young. Both are further linked with buildings associated with use of Moruya granite. Their stories (and more on the giant lathe) will be told in their own chapters, later in this series.
A Perilous Journey:
Previously, in Part 1: A loading operation aboard S.S. “Settlers Friend” gave trouble enough, but two nights out on its journey to Port Jackson, the tiny overladen vessel and its crew were met with an extraordinary challenge! Several newspapers of the times provide us with these graphic descriptions;
Sydney Morning Herald August 27 1869. (A brief only)
The 400 ton Barque “Golden Age,” was on consignment to ship cargo of hemp & sugar from Zebu and sailed on 9th May. She struck a reef off Kera Island 1st July ,and was compelled to make for Coepang. However, with limited facilities, the ship’s carpenter was able only to attend temporary repairs, and after the discharging of 16 tons of sugar and 180 bales of hemp from the forehold, she sailed again on 16th July.
“Golden Age” had fine weather to Cape Leeuin, but from thence N.W. and W. winds, attended by violent squalls. Her misfortunes, however, were still to be supplemented. On Tuesday night, at 8 o’clock, she came into collision with the schooner “Settlers Friend” off Jervis Bay----
---The wind was from the North, and the barque was on the starboard tack, the schooner on the port. With vessels in that position, the rules of the road at sea are well known- ships on port tack always give way to those on starboard tack. This principal, we are informed by ”Golden Age,” was not adhered to, and a collision took place. The jibboom of the barque passed through the mainsail of the schooner and had to be cut away, together with all the gear attached, to allow the vessels clearing - the whole of which was lost .
“Settlers Friend” Leaves Moruya - Sydney Morning Herald 6th September 1869;
The Moruya Correspondent of the Braidwood Journal states that the schooner “Settlers Friend’ had left that place with granite for the Cook‘s Monument in Sydney. One stone weighed over 20 tons; this was part of the pedestal. It was so large that it was several feet above the deck.
The stone being too large to fit down the hold of the 80 ton schooner requisitioned for the occasion, was blocked in position by the pitchers in such a manner that about a quarter of it was down the hatchway and the remainder above deck level.
The schooner, which carried a crew of three, with a captain and a cook , cleared the bar without incident, but about 11 o’clock on the second night out, collided with a 400 ton barque about 4 miles off Jervis Bay.
The vessels became locked in what looked like a death grip and a small boat containing Major Hamilton Brown, then a youth, was put over the schooner’s side to stand by to pick up the men in event of either vessel sinking.
The vessels were eventually separated with the use of an axe, and the “Settlers Friend “made Port Jackson under jury rig 3 days later.
“It was a most thrilling experience,” Major Hamilton-Brown said, “ and every time I pass the statue of Australia’s discoverer the whole of the perilous scenes off Jervis Bay are re-enacted before my eyes.”
Norm Moore -The father of Major Hamilton- Mr James Brown, was reportedly to be in charge of ‘financial arrangements’ for the transportation of the granite for Cook’s monument and “Settlers Friend” had been especially requisitioned for the trip.
At this stage – there seems no knowledge of the unloading of the pedestal rock from “Settlers Friend’ or its movements to both stonemason’s yard & onward to its final placement atop the already constructed base. However, it would seem it was in place no later than 1871 and then languished for several years awaiting the end to ‘political argumentation’ for more finance, and its final “anointment” with the magnificent statue of Captain Cook ,in 1879.
Next: The intriguing background & travels of Sculptor Sir Thomas Woolner – the giant pedestal rock continues to cause trouble & controversy, and the memorial in honour of the achievements of Captain Cook is unveiled midst an unrivaled display of “British Colonial pageantry”.