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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

The Forgotten History​ Of Louttit​'s​ Quarry& Captain Cook's Monument Part 4.

The Forgotten History​ Of Louttit​'s​ Quarry& Captain Cook's Monument Part 4.

Further research has added a deal of complexity to our story, but brought with it a great deal more of intrigue. In this article we learn of how a sea-fairing boy sailed the oceans in the wake of his hero, Captain Cook, and spent a lifetime working to create a memorial in his honour​. Shirley Jurmann (nee Louttit) made a discovery of these exerpts taken from Sydney Mail & "Freeman's Journal" 4th Sept.1869-71

SERIOUS ACCIDENT IN HYDE PARK ------ On Monday afternoon, about half-past 2 o'clock, an accident occurred in Hyde Park, which might have been attended with fatal consequences. A man named Henry Barton, was with others engaged in driving eighteen horses attached to a large lorry, having on it a block of granite for the Captain Cook statue, weighing twenty-five tons, along the path leading from Bathurst-street to the Lovers' Walk and close beside the monument. Barton was engaged in driving the shaft horse, and the animals getting restive, the ground being soft, some one scotched the wheel. The horses were then whipped by some of the men, and starting, they caused the wheels to sink and the lorry to turn slightly round. Barton, being at the horse's head, was by the shaft and the horse jammed with great force against the fence, which at once yielded with the pressure and broke down. The unfortunate man had his chest severely injured, and it is believed some of his ribs have been broken. His hand was bruised and the skin on his fingers razed, and he further got a number of cuts on the face. Constable Ryan procured a cab and conveyed Barton to the infirmary, where he had his wounds dressed. Several persons who were contiguous to the horses at the time of the accident sustained injuries to their hands, by getting them jammed, but they were all of them slight.

​"Every individual associated with either specification or use of granite from Joseph Louttit’s quarry on the south bank of Moruya River, has been a person of great repute or renown.” Norm Moore. Sculptor and Poet Thomas Woolner (1825-1892), was born at Hadleigh, Suffolk England, son of a postal office sorter, and whose father took no interest in his son’s early attempts at clay modelling, carving and drawing. However, a sympathetic stepmother paid for his tutoring by sculptor William Behnes. Thomas worked with Behnes and his brother, (a painter) in their studio for six years till he was admitted into academia at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1842.

He was involved in more than120 works of art for the Academy and other British Institutions, and in later years, was eventually appointed Associate Professor in Sculpture.

Woolner was one of the original seven foundation members of the Pre-Raphraelite Brotherhood, but the association brought him no extra work. However, there was little scope for ‘advancement’ anywhere in England in earlier years, and not unlike a number of his counterparts, Thomas Woolner was looking for bigger & better things.

There were reportedly great riches and a brighter future to be found in the goldfields of Australia and so - accompanied by two friends & associates, he headed off on the high seas to seek his fortune and in the hope of furthering his career in a totally new & different environment.

Woolner arrived in Melbourne on the “Windsor” in 1852 and joined the gold rush at Fryer’s Creek, in the Ovens Valley. The conditions were appalling, and the little gold found enabled him only subsistence for just six months. He sold his (mining) tools and returned to Melbourne where, after digging the clay, grinding his own gypsum and making a set of sculpturing tools - began modelling portrait medallions for prominent citizens, each of which was sold for 25 guineas.

This brought favour from Lieutenant Gov. Charles Latrobe and more commissions. Some of Woolner’s work can be seen at the Vic. Society of Fine Art and Mechanics Institute in Melbourne.

However, scope for his best-loved work - that of life size sculpturing, seemed non-existent. The effects on society, caused by the Great Australian Gold Rush and Convict Transportation, were changing the thinking of Colonists toward “British patriotism.”

It was said of Melbourne -“Society is convulsed - the whole world has been turned upside down - servants have become masters!” It seems every shop proprietor in the streets has become a buyer of gold, and has a plentiful supply of gold nuggets & coins on display in the window. A sign entices prospectors to come in and avail themselves of the very best of prices for their gold & silver.

Respected citizens, such as explorer & statesman, William Wentworth - born of convict heritage - were becoming wealthy and well educated - making great discoveries and becoming prominent leaders in the community.

The way of ‘taste’ for rewarding such, was drifting more in favour of giving any honour as such to a local – “a person who might now be considered as Australian.” The name of ‘Wentworth’ had been put forward!

Woolner was becoming aware of this trend, but it wasn’t till 1854, that he moved to Sydney in hope of attaining some sort of commission for a statue of Wentworth.

Meanwhile, unknown to Woolner – another “party” had finished work on a ‘relatively small enterprise’ at the Settlement of Liverpool, on the outer perimeter of Sydney – he wasn’t to know, that many years hence, it would become a “major enterprise in his own life”

Above: Elizabeth Cook and James Cook

The widow of Captain Cook, Elizabeth, had befriended and cared for a young lad named Thomas Watson, showing him every kindness, and encouraging his interest in the sea. When the time came for him to head seaward, Elizabeth Cook, arranged his clothes and packed a kit for him – sending the then young man forth with grand visions in mind of her husband’s exploits.

It would require many chapters to tell of the life & times of Tom Watson and his experiences as he sailed the world. He never forgot the care given, & kindness shown by Mrs Cook , and had avowed one day to reward her devotion to him with the creation of a monumental tribute to her husband’s achievements.

After settling in Sydney, Watson bought & sold land in Watson’s Bay building up considerable reserves of cash. (The suburb is named in his honour). He worked in a number of prominent government positions of public of authority, some being harbour pilot, inspector of distilleries, Assistant Colonial Surveyor, and Superintendent of Macquarie Light House. But it was his position as Sydney’s Harbour Master, where ‘his light’ shone brightest in getting things done.

For years, there’d been constant bemoaning about the state of Cook’s historic landing place at Little Point, and the Philosophical Society of Australasia (as was said in 1822) “Could only manage the placement of a tin plate on a rock”. Watson was looking for something unique & permanent, and to be put “more in the eye of the public!”

His first opportunity came with an appointment as Assistant Surveyor with the Commissioners of the Roads in 1852. (The same year Woolner arrived in Melbourne) The road from Liverpool to Campbelltown was to be upgraded and mile-stones set in place. A suggestion by Watson and the Rev. James Walker that they start with a 12 feet high stone obelisk, (as in Macquarie Place) as the means to honour the achievements of Captain Cook was accepted by the Commissioners.

Watson had also bought & sold land in Liverpool and was financially equipped to pay for the construction. He saw to it the stone was suitably inscribed to mark the achievements of his hero. But the main reason for location of the mileage obelisk was intended for direction, and the inside of the monument’s square was engraved with distances to other towns in the country.

Watson’s first effort to honour the memory of Captain Cook, was finished in 1854 – “the year Sculptor Thomas Woolner moved from Melbourne to Sydney

Above: Cook's obelisk at Liverpool (further reading HERE)

Thomas Woolner was to spend six months in Sydney in 1854 - hoping to be commissioned for the statue of the famous Australian explorer, Wentworth. Whilst there, he met and became friends with (Sir) Henry Parks, and again became involved in the production of medallions - this time for friends & members of their families, at a lesser charge each of five guineas.

One of particular interest to the public was that depicting a splendid likeness of that legendary explorer – and many copies were sold.

Above: W C Wentworth

However, Woolner’s heart & mind appeared set on gaining a commission for the proposed ‘massive’ statue of Wentworth, and Parkes had advised it might take place for him back in England- the main seat of ‘influence’& Colonial finance.

So – despite a great “hue and cry” by the public at his leaving without recognition of his true worth by the authorities, Woolner “Then considered the most popular member of Sydney’s society” - left for England on “Queen Of The Sea”

Above: Sculptor and Poet Thomas Woolner (1825-1892)

That same year, Watson moved to the suburb of Randwick, and renamed his newly purchased residence - Cook’s Lodge. In the next two decades, he became a dominant force in The Australian Patriotic Association, whose members were from a number of political persuasions and other organizations. He continually canvassed them for support in his quest for Sydney to have a statue of Cook.

The membership included Sir Alfred Stephen, (Sir) Henry Parks and (Sir) Saul Samuels. Samuels, with his brother, Want, opened the Moruya Silver Mine in 1862 and the Sydney GPO in 1874. He was Postmaster General in 1872.

Construction of the General Post Office was started in 1866, and it was known H.R.H. Prince Alfred was to be invited to take part in a ceremony of dedication. Captain Watson made fellow members of the Association aware of this, suggesting the Prince might like to be involved in the laying of a foundation stone for a monument of Captain Cook at the same time, while in Australia.

A committee was hurriedly initiated - Sir Alfred Stephens was appointed chairman, with eighteen supporting members and power to add to the number – and the invitation sent.

Eminent Architect, Edmund T Blacket was invited to ‘attend design work, and the monument’s site quickly determined as to be near the museum in Hyde Park.

Immediate acceptance of the invitation by the Prince, took all by surprise, causing consternation and upheaval within the Association. There’d been no immediate start of preparations, no finance, and not yet a plan!

A weekly subscription list was opened, and the Colony at large canvassed for contributions. Generous amounts were soon to come forth; but enough only to pay for material in the monument’s base. This however, was regarded as sufficient in making a start, and deemed suitable enough for the location of a foundation stone.

Norm Moore- At this stage - without the brushing away of “cobwebs & dust of time” from archives of the Australian Patriotic Association (prior to 1868) we have no official detail of when & how builder John Young was awarded the contract to build Cook’s monument.

However, we do know from in his previous work throughout Tasmania & Victoria, that in order to prevent holdup, he liked control of all phases of a building process, including the manufacture & supply of “stonemasonry.”

Part of Young’s contract on the GPO was to be in charge of both work & supplies to all trades, including the Masoners. It’s most obvious then, why he acquired a seven year lease on Louttit’s quarry in Moruya from 1868.

At that time, with the Sydney’s population around a mere 70,000- there was every chance of an ‘occasional meeting’ between persons holding considerable sway in the way of ‘getting things done’. Captain Watson was the prime mover (and part financier) for the task ahead, and coupled with his backing by eighteen members of the Monument’s Committee, including Sir Alfred Stephens, Parkes and Samuels – (both soon to knighted) there was a considerable ‘base of power’ at hand for –‘off the record’ decision making.

John Young, - already a well credentialed builder now had control of an excellent source of supply for quality & durable stone. The son of a Queen was about to honour them with his presence and it would seem that at this at this time, an ad hoc agreement was made to promote Young as -“The builder of Captain Cook’s Monument”.

Regardless to this part of a statement made on behalf of the committee at the conclusion of the Foundation Stone Ceremony reads; “which he (Prince Alfred) at once consented to do, and the ceremony came off on the 7th March, 1869, in the presence of twelve thousand persons”.

A further report on the progress of the monument states;

Woolner and Parkes had continued to correspond, and during visits by Parkes in 1861 (and 1882) he was taken to see Poet & Laureate, Alfred Lord Tennyson. It was ‘apparently’ thru these ‘liaisions’- that in 1874, Woolner was invited by Colonial Secretary (Mr. Robertson) to ‘provide’ an amount for a sculpture of Captain Cook.

Above: cameo of Lord Tennyson as made by Woolner

In the end, however, it appears Henry Parkes ‘arranged’ for Woolner to be commissioned for the sculpture of Cook’s statue in 1874 (the same year Parkes received his Knighthood)

From the Manchester ‘Evening News”13th December 1875:-

Upon receiving photographs of the pedestal Woolner replied,- “The great size of the pedestal makes it necessary that the statue be of an unusual height - about 13 feet, including the bronze plinth on which it should stand. Were it smaller than this, the statue, which is an important part of a monument, would appear insignificant, and would be dwarfed by the ponderous stone below. I could ‘execute’ a statue of this size for 4.000 pounds.” .............................

Norm Moore –Woolner was unaware that the pedestal had been turned from a huge rock which almost claimed the lives of some during its perilous journey from Joseph Louttit’s quarry in Moruya and thru to Sydney.

But more was to come, when Woolner received a set of measurements and revised his previous quote to 5,000 pounds because of the “immensity” of the statue needed and “to give the sculptor full assurance of immunity from risks,”

Subsequently Mr Robinson replied; “An additional 2,000 pounds had been voted by the assembly and he, (Woolner) would be notified.”

The statue was cast by Cox and Sons at the Thomas Ditton Foundry England, and reached a final figure of 4,400 pounds. But in 1878, Woolner claimed the contract he was forced to sign was dishonest, and the sculpture had cost him another 2,000 pounds.

The statue was kept on display in London’s Strand Arcade for several weeks, attracting huge crowds - many spell bound at its enormity & attention to detail.

It appears the statue arrived and was set up on its pedestal by early 1879, and plans for its unveiling well underway so as to co-inside with the anniversary of Cook’s untimely death, in February, 1789.

Since the life & career of Captain Cook had been one steeped and bound by naval traditions it was not unexpected the unveiling celebration would feature displays depicting ‘moments in time’ symbolic and in keeping with his life, and the lives in general of sea-fairing men and their families.

The preparations were enormous, and required considerable planning & attention to detail, and for which, Colonial architect James Barnet was placed in charge. He designed two grandstands, each capable of holding 2,000 spectators, and a dais with enclosure, – “suitable for the seating of many prominent citizens of the day”!

The firm of Messrs. Hudson Bros. was placed in charge of construction and the eminent firm of Messrs. David Jones & Co. Esq, was given the task of draping and upholstering of the VIP’s dais enclosure - “In the most resplendent materials of the day.”

A gathering of ships anchored in Port Jackson, including steamers H.M.S. Wolverene , H.M.S. Emerald and five Schooners of the Royal Navy, gave little indication of the “pomp & circumstance” and excitement that was to come.

The parade was put underway led with a contingent of mounted police. This was soon followed by the band of H.M.S. Wolverine and companies of six hundred sailors and marines, then 200 marchers from units of the NSW Royal Artillery. Spectacular enough was this but then a crowd of 12,000 joined the parade and grew to near 100,000 as the monument to Captain Cook was about to be unveiled.

A group of 200 white frocked school girls adorned with broad blue sashes and navy blue hats, attracted some of the crowds attention as did a large number of dignitaries from the Australian Patriotic Association. Then came a moment of silence and a scene of poignancy as the aged and unsteady figure of Captain Thomas Watson was guided to his seat.

Immediately the Governor arrived & was seated, Chairman of the Committee, Sir Alfred Stephens, took Watson by the hand and introduced him to Sir Hercules. There followed a moment of pleasure, as the Governor warmly shook the Captain’s hand in congratulations –declaring, “He knew him to be the instigator of the project”. There was much clapping and cheering as the crowd took in the joy of the unexpected delay in proceedings.

There were many speeches given extolling the virtues and achievements of the great navigator, Captain Cook, his friends, and the few with the same fore-site & strength, as Thomas Watson, who helped bring his long held dream into reality.

Hence; The monument to Captain James Cook , born at Marton, Yorkshire,1728; discovered this territory 1770; was unveiled 25th February 1879, by NSW Governor, The Rt. Hon. Sir Hercules Robertson GCMG, 1st Baron of Rosmead, GCMG PIC – and a former Governor of Hong Kong, Fiji , New Zealand & other Colonies.

Captain Thomas Watson died at his home on 6th October, 1879- a few months after seeing his dream come to reality. In 1874, (in frustration of waiting for others to act) he paid for his own sculpture & statue of Cook to be cut from Pyrmont stone, and had it mounted outside his home in Randwick - a few months after Parkes commissioned Woolner for Cook’s sculpture

Above: Cook’s Statue at Watson’s Randwick home

Henry Parkes also had arranged for Woolner to execute a statue of Sir Charles Cowper, Sir James Martin & Wentworth in 1874, but there was a new government brought in under (Sir) George Gibbs & and the finance arranged, was diverted to an endowment of a Fellowship at Sydney University in 1891.

Thomas Woolner died on 17th October 1892. His obituary from The” Saturday Review” (London) reads:- “ Few men of his generation had a greater or more telling delivery. He had at one time or another been a friend of everyone his age.”

Next – The equally incredible story of builder & lessee of Louttit’s quarry, John Young.

NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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