The front page of the The Australasian Sketcher, number 72, volume 6, Saturday 28 September 1878 featuring an engraving titled 'Mr Woolner's statue of Captain Cook for Sydney'.
In 1874 Henry Parkes commissioned artist Thomas Woolner RA to execute the imposing valedictory statue of Captain James Cook for Hyde Park in Sydney. Until the construction of modern high-rise buildings, the large statue was able to be seen from the ships in Sydney Harbour. It was officially unveiled in February 1879, the 100th anniversary of Cook's death.
This engraving is a recreation of a public showing in Pall Mall, London prior to the statue being shipped to Sydney. The base in the image is not the base that was erected for the statue in Hyde Park; the permanent one is 15 tonnes and cylindrical and was shipped from a quarry in Moruya on the ship SETTLER'S FRIEND.
SignificanceThis engraving represents the various public artworks produced to commemorate Captain James Cook following his death. It was produced during the Victorian era, a period active in the celebration of heroes and events in British culture.
HistoryDesigned by Thomas Woolner (1825-1892) and cast by Cox & Sons of Thomas Ditton Foundry in England, this bronze statue of James Cook cost £4,400, funded through public subscription and Government grants. It stands on a cylindrical granite shaft and tiered granite base, facing towards Sydney Heads; Cook is shown holding a telescope in his left hand, and pointing his right hand skywards. It was erected by the Australian Patriotic Association who had formed a committee in 1870 to raise the necessary funds. On its completion in 1878, the statue was briefly displayed opposite the Athenaeum Club in Waterloo Place, Pall Mall, before being shipped to Sydney. It was estimated that some 60,000 people turned out for the unveiling of the statue. The 15-tonne block of stone was quarried from Louitt’s quarry (who also supplied the granite for Sydney Harbour Bridge pylons) at Moruya.
Captain James Cook was born at Marton, North Yorkshire on 27 October 1728. By the age of 20 he was serving an apprenticeship in the port of Whitby, gaining skills in navigation and mathematics under the coal shipper John Walker. In 1755 Cook joined the Royal Navy and was made master's mate on HMS EAGLE. Soon after he was promoted to Master of the PEMBROKE and conducted survey work on the St Lawrence River in Quebec, and the coasts of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
In 1768 Cook was chosen by the Admiralty to conduct an expedition to the Pacific in command of HMB ENDEAVOUR, to view the transit of Venus and locate the Great South Land. He undertook two more voyages to the Pacific, the second in command of RESOLUTION and ADVENTURE with the hope of finding the Great South Land and the third in command of RESOLUTION and DISCOVERY to locate the North-west Passage. It was during this third voyage that Cook visited Hawaii (then called the Sandwich Islands), and was killed on 14 February 1779 in an altercation with the local Hawaiians.
His extraordinary seamanship skills and discoveries along with his tragic and violent death increased public interest in Cook and generated the production of memorials, sculptures and a variety of souvenir mementoes over the ensuing centuries.
Primary title: Mr Woolner's statue of Captain Cook for Sydney
Web title: Captain Cook's Statue