Sunday, February 17, 2013

Captain Cook's Monument, Easby Moor. The Mystery Behind it!

By Trev Teasdel
(first published on Glass Orange Vox & Typepad 2008)
Recently reviewed (Feb 2013) in Saltburn magazine Coastal View and Moors News p 33
by Holly Bush -

A Pyramid on Roseberry Topping – Pagodas –
Obelisks, Captain Cook and Freemasonry

It sounds like something out of the Da Vinci Code with its mysterious early proposals of pyramids and obelisks but these occurrences happened long before that book was written. That these events happened on the edge of the North Yorkshire moors and not the exotic locations of the Dan Brown novel, make it all the more unbelievable!

I never set out to explore this mystery, it was an offshoot of other work, but one thing led to another and I became intrigued. I can’t claim, however, to have got all the answers and proofs, but I think there’s enough to state a case and provide a reason for further research. It is not my intention to engage with current conspiracy theories, but follows on from local history research connected to the Stokesley born radical Printer, Publisher, Poet, Author, People's historian and Freemason - George Markham Tweddell.

Captain Cook's Monument - Easby Moor
An obelisk dedicated to Captain Cook sits atop of Easby Moor on the North Yorkshire Moors. The monument, which can be seen for miles around, is a local tourist attraction. The village of Great Ayton (Cook’s childhood home) and Airey Holm Farm lie below. Few suspect that there’s anything more to know about it!

Many times I've walked up to Easby Moor but always felt the monument doesn't really engage with Cook somehow. Obelisks are fairly common of course and there are two dedicated to Cook in the area. Perhaps if it had a statue of Cook at the top like the one in London or Whitby, I might have thought it made more sense but no – the only thing that relates to Cook is a plaque. Everybody knows it’s dedicated to Cook but there is nothing much up there that is relevant to him (or is there?). That’s not to say, of course, that the monument or the views aren't impressive in themselves!

The French Enlightenment and Egyptology

While researching the poetry of George Markham Tweddell  in 2008, I discovered some of his poems contained Masonic emblems or symbolism. (Tweddell was a prominent and open member of the Loyal Cleveland Lodge). During the research I consulted a range of websites and books including Talisman (Sacred Cities, Secret Faith) by Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval. Chapter 1 – Behind the Veils - which was a fascinating read in itself.  The authors describe events in Paris during and after the French Revolution, from the storming of the Bastille in 1789 to the dismantling of the prison and its replacement with distinctly Egyptian structures dedicated to Isis. There is not room to go into details here (you will have to read the book!) but as a result of the involvement of the French Masonic Lodges (eg The Lodge of  Nine Sisters) and the prominent ideas of the Enlightenment – those of Rousseau, Voltaire and Thomas Paine, the landscape of Paris took on an increasingly Egyptian look and Catholicism was replaced by the Cult of Reason or The Supreme Being. Benjamin Franklin (being a Freemason) was involved in this too while living in France and there was also a connection with America. Obelisks and pyramids formed a significant part of this.

1827 – A Good Year for Obelisks!
Fast-forward to the significant date of 1827 – the monarchy had been re-instated but this time around the Kings were also Freemasons and to quote –
Louis XVIII ruled for 10 years. He was a Freemason. On his death in 1824 he was succeeded by his brother, The Count D’ Artois – also a Freemason. Both monarchs showed a marked preference for ancient Egyptian symbolism in their public works..

In 1827, Jean-Fran├žois-Champollion (the Father of modern Egyptology who made a breakthrough in deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs) was commissioned by Charles X to arrange for the importation to Paris of a 35,000 year old Obelisk – one of a pair that stood at Alexandria in Egypt. The obelisk was destined for the Place de la Concorde, which had personal significance to Charles X. It had originally been named after his father Louis XV and an equestrian statue had once graced it. Here also the guillotine had been erected…”  The authors speculate that
"the installation of the obelisk was to commemorate the idea of the reborn and restored monarchy, with the ancient solar symbol of the divine kings of Egypt rising in the heart of the Parisian skyline like a Phoenix"

All very interesting – but how does this relate to Captain Cook’s monument on Easby Moor?

Meanwhile back in Gt.Ayton!

I put the book down and looked out of my bedroom window in Gt. Ayton. I have a panoramic view of Roseberry Topping and Easby Moor. I glanced over at the Captain Cook obelisk and thought – ‘No! – There couldn't be a connection with the events that were going on in France and America during the Enlightenment surely’. The only French Connection I knew about was that Easby Moor may have been a look out post during the Napoleonic war.

Nonetheless, I recalled that Tweddell had a series of 3 sonnets (to be found in his collected poems - ) to Cook and he was also a Freemason. Often I had found answers to my queries to Tweddell related questions embedded in Tweddell’s own work. (Note - I wasn't taking the Masonic connection seriously at this stage – it was just idle curiosity!). So it was with some surprise that I found Tweddell’s first poem about Cook engaging with both Obelisks and Pyramids! True it doesn't go much further, but how odd that both pyramids and obelisks were mentioned in relation to Cook!

[Three Sonnets to] Captain James Cook (No1)

Whilst obelisks are raised to men of wealth,
And pyramids are tow’ring to the sky
To tell mankind where bygone tyrants lie
Men who in life, flush’d with the joy of health,
And render’d vain by crouching helots’ praise, 5
Imagined they, by slave-piled stones, could raise
A Babel high to reach the Heaven of Fame—
And lo! E’en hoary Time’s forgot their name!
Whilst monuments are raised to men who slew
Their fellow-mortals on the field of strife, 10
England! Shall it be said thou never knew
Thy debt of gratitude to one whose life
Devoted was to arts that dignify
Not COOK alone, but all humanity?

George Markham Tweddell

1827 – A Good Year for Obelisks Revisited!

At this stage I had no idea when the Easby Moor Cook obelisk was erected or if  Tweddell was actually involved in its initiation and so I did a search on the internet and got a second surprise when I found out that the monument was built by Robert Campion (a Whitby banker) and erected in 1827, the same year as the French one! Apparently the money came from subscriptions raised in Whitby. As Tweddell was only 3 in 1827, it’s clear he wasn't involved with it’s planning but may have been privy to its origins through his familiarisation with the historical work of John Graves and or Masonic connections and so embedded a clue in the poem. With two ‘coincidences’ under my belt, I was intrigued. Could there be more or was that it?                                                                    

Why an Obelisk?

I wondered about obelisks and in what way are they relevant as a memorial? How does it relate to Cook? I discovered there are two types of obelisk - tall solid ones such as the Egyptian one transported to France and hollow ones. The obelisk on Easby moor is clearly a hollow one as illustrated by this press cutting below showing it after it was hit by lightening in 1906 – it was built without a lightening conductor! It also appears to have a ‘benben stone’ on top (a pyramid-shaped stone or the capstone of a pyramid or the tip of an obelisk) – although missing in the picture here). The pyramidion shape apparently distinguishes obelisks from other monumental columns.

"Ancient obelisks were made of a single piece of stone, a monolith; however, most modern obelisks are made of individual stones, and can even have interior spaces."

This early sketch of Captain Cook Monument is from S. Horsfall Turner's Yorkshire Genealogist and Yorkshire Bibliographer 1890 and shows the obelisk with an open doorway.
(M. Heavisides, reported that the North Eastern Daily Gazette led a successful campaign to have the monument fully restored in 1895. The obelisk was re-pointed, the doorway blocked off, the cap repaired and the plaque and fencing added.)

I’m not sure that there is any significance in the style of the obelisk but another website suggested that obelisks –
"...symbolized the sun god Amon Re, and during the brief religious reformation of Akhenaten was said to be a petrified ray of the Aten, the sundisk.  It was also thought that the god existed within the structure." and "The pyramid and obelisk would have been inspired by previously overlooked astronomical phenomena connected with sunrise and sunset: the zodiacal light and sun pillars respectively."


"Because of the Enlightenment-era association of Egypt with mortuary arts, (and generally with great antiquity), obelisks became associated with timelessness and memorialization."

Ian Pearce of The Great Ayton Community Archaeology Project suggested that

The site for the monument was probably chosen because Easby Moor is the highest ground for miles around and consists of very stable sandstone, suitable for the foundations of an obelisk.  In contrast Roseberry Topping wouldn't have provided a very good base, and is lower.  The site is also visible from miles around.

Some of this begins to make sense – Easby moor is a wide open space where sunrise and sunset are clearly visible and the ideas of memorialisation and timelessness are relevant. The monument acts like a sundial and as Ian says, it is visible for miles around. Whether a deity lives within its hollow structure is another matter! A great myth could be constructed around this – especially as the monument was dramatically split open by lightening (but we’ll leave that notion for the Creative Writing class!).

There is a further suggestion that obelisks act as talismans. In History Under the Hammer by Joyce Dixon, published by the North Yorkshire Moors Park in 1996 (about the selling of the Gt. Ayton Cook Cottage to the Australians) Joyce Dixon gives an evocative description of the effect of the monument as they travel through the nearby countryside.

Cook's Monument - Easby Moor

It was quite late on a winter’s afternoon and the sun was a great sphere of the most vivid shade of orange / red low down in the sky…The colours were intense, different shades of heliotrope, gold, scarlet and lurid pink in an immense sweep of colour all round us. The countryside was getting darker and on the top of Easby, the Monument stood seemingly impossibly large and drawing our attention in a way we had not experienced before –or since.

We drove in silence with our eyes and whole attention fixed on the Monument, stark and black against the vivid skies for mile after mile and we were aware of the huge distances from which it would be visible. It would have been impossible to have given him a more magnificent memorial than this with a feeling of almost reverence at the thought of the man who had inspired the erection of such a simple edifice in his honour.”

Was Captain Cook a Freemason?
The above shows that there are plenty of possible reasons for choosing an obelisk to locally memorialise Captain James Cook but is this all there is to it? Still not taking it too seriously I decided to check if Cook himself might have been a Freemason. That might give a more concrete justification for  an obelisk rather than a statue perhaps but I really wasn't expecting to find any results.

Once again my search was full of surprises!

Apparently it is often claimed Cook was a Freemason – On this site

The Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon – A Short History of Freemasonry in Yukon – there are several entries -
"As a matter of interest it is believed that in 1778, Captain James Cook became the first Freemason to set foot in what is now the province of British Columbia."
And on the Biography – Cook page (url above) it says -
Although no proof of his membership is available, he is often referred to as a  freemason. Claims that he was initiated into Lodge of Industry No 186 do not take into account that this lodge was warranted on 15 January 1788, nine years after Cook died.,000_famous_freemasons/Volume_1_A_to_D.htm

The biographical entry on Cook ends with this sentence –
Although no proof of his membership is available, he is constantly referred to as a member of the Craft.

Interestingly, the idea that James Cook may have been a Freemason has already been explored in the book Captain James Cook – Freemason? Roy H. Clemens published by Masonic Public Library, Honolulu in 1980, and is also a source on the above biographical entry on Cook from the 10,000 famous Freemasons. In ten pages he sets out the evidence for and against and comes out firmly against Cook having been a member.

 Joseph Banks
Joseph Banks
Whether or not Cook was a Freemason, he certainly seems to be associated and respected by them for his work. In 1766 Joseph Banks was elected to the Royal Society, and in the same year he accompanied Commodore Constantine John Phipps (mentioned in Tweddell’s Bards and Authors of Cleveland and South Durham) (available for free download on this site) into Newfoundland and Labrador with a view of studying their natural history.

Another site (in contrast to the claim above) asserts that Joseph Banks (the celebrated Botanist) was the first Freemason to set foot in ‘New South Wales’-

"1770 - The British ship HMS "Endeavour", commanded by James Cook, RN, made the first European exploration of the east coast of Australia.  Cook named the land "New South Wales" and took possession in the name of King George III of Great Britain. Joseph Banks, a passenger aboard the ship, is thought to have been the first Freemason to set foot in the continent as at some date prior to 1768 he had become a member of the Old Horn Lodge No. 4."

Transit of Venus Expedition

Indeed Cook's first expedition for the Royal Society was partly to track the passage of Venus over the Pacific, a distinctly astronomical mission. He had on board Astronomers and it seems that some of his team, including Banks, were Freemasons and had Lodge meetings on board. That this project was of enormous interest to both scientists and Freemasons might be seen from this site that is researching the Astronomical aspects of Freemasonry

Today in New Zealand the Transit of Venus Expedition is partly sponsored by the New Zealand Freemasons

The site tells us –
The Transit of Venus: Voyages in Time and Space project is designed to excite New Zealand students about the great 18th century scientific adventure, which literally gave us the measure of the Universe - the expedition led by Captain James Cook was imaginative, daring, risky and hugely productive scientifically! Transits of Venus are rare. In 1768 Cook was hired by the Royal Society of London to go to Tahiti to observe the Transit of Venus on 3 June 1769 in order to calculate the distance between the earth and the sun - there was great excitement about the expedition for such an opportunity wouldn't come again for another 120 years.

Further links between Cook, monuments and Freemasonry have been discussed in Australia where there is a 20th C Cairn monument to Cook in the entrance to one of the bays he landed in - (The Door of Destiny). It has been alleged that there was some Masonic involvement in its initiation judging by the site below. The Compass symbol at the foot of the Cairn is thought to be both a Masonic symbol and to symbolise navigation.

The site above says “Sir Raphael Cilento, who was actually the father of Diane Cilento and head of the National Trust, designed the monument. I cannot comment on his being a Freemason, or the symbology on the compass in the root of the monument mentioned in the recent article. However, I do know that he did not choose the spot where the ‘Doorway of Destiny; was built. It was I who chose this magical spot on Round Hill Head next to the most beautiful windswept tree.

James Cook and the Wapping Dundee Arms Lodge

More recently I found an article on the Captain Cook Society website which, although not relevant (so I thought) was interesting. Geoff King tried to find a connection between Commodore William Christopher and James Cook. An apparent association was revealed in a Church in Stockton on Tees - Given the mystery of how they had become friends, I suspected there might be a Masonic friendship link but totally without any evidence. I never mentioned it to anyone but a while later I came across some further develops on the site which were most interesting and this time of some relevancy to this thesis. The bullet points below summerise some of the main points of the article.

On this page  Derek Morris and Ken Cozens of the Captain Cook Society reveal (most interestingly) that -

  •  the link between Cook and Christopher was Francis Holman (1723-1784) a well-known marine painter who lived in Wapping and painted ships associated  with Cook and Christopher.
  • He was also a link with Trinity House, William Hammond of Hull, and possibly with other members of Cook's crews and his acquaintances and friends.
  • Most interestingly – “Holman was a senior freemason in the Wapping-based Dundee Arms Lodge, whilst we have found that William Christopher was a member of a Masonic lodge in Stockton on Tees.”
  • This suggests that there were some social connections, or that recommendations about Holman's paintings circulated through the lodges.
  • They tell us “One possibility arises from the fact that Holman was a leading member of the Dundee Arms Freemasonry Lodge in Red Lyon Street in Wapping”
  • Holman's painting of Resolution and Adventure was in the possession of the Hammond family from 1772. Hammond was one of the leading ship owners in Hull, and in the Trinity House of Hull is his portrait painted by Lemuel Francis Abbott, in 1792. 
  • It is claimed on the portrait that "Hammond sponsored Cook's 1772 Expedition to New Zealand".
  • That Hammond was close to Cook is well known, and he was probably the man who commissioned the ships' portrait from Francis Holman.
  • Because of his shipping interests and wealth we would expect that Hammond was in contact with Wapping-based shipping interests, such as that of Camden, Calvert and King, who in turn had strong connections with the Dundee Arms Freemasonry Lodge and Holman.
  • We are now more than ever convinced that the one constant link between the merchants in Hull, Whitby, Mile End Old Town and Wapping, is the Trinity House connection!
  • They would have been using other social networks such as freemasonry, but the strongest link, which encompasses so much, is Trinity House.
  • our work has shown the importance of the Trinity Houses in London and Hull, and the unexpectedly strong links through the Freemasonry Lodges in Wapping, Hull and Stockton on Tees.

Perhaps it’s still not proven that Cook was a Freemason himself but the strong connections are obvious and the involvement of the Stockton Masonic lodge should be borne in mind for what follows. All of that might be sufficient justification for the lodge to campaign for a local memorial to Cook such as an obelisk. In a recent e mail exchange with Malcolm Chase, Professor of Social History at Leeds University who had been feeding back to us in our research in George Markham Tweddell (GMT), suggested that "that if James Cook was a Mason, I'd be surprised if it hasn't been verified by now" and "Freemasonry had strong support among officers in the armed forces, so in a sense it might be surprising if it could be proved Cook was not a member. And perhaps uniquely among the founding fathers of the imperial project, James Cook still retains a reputation as a scientist and intellectual, which would recommend him to a strong local patriot like GMT, even if there were not a masonic link."
(Note - more on Wapping connections in the follow on below this as feedback)

The Plot Thickens! Obelisks, Pagodas and Pyramids and Roseberry Topping

All of the above (except the piece on Holman and Cook) came together over two days in 2008 and was discussed with various people via e mail, including the Gt Ayton Archeology Project and Paul Tweddell (a descendant of George Markham Tweddell). Next day I ventured down to Gt Ayton library where they have a number of books on Cook. I could find nothing more than I already knew – ie that the monument was built by Robert Campion in 1827. I was hoping to learn more about Robert Campion from Whitby and Lord of the Manor of Easby but nothing came to light. Could Campion have been a Mason? (More on this later in the feedback)

Then I pick up the recent publication by the Great Ayton Archeological Project – the gorgeously illustrated Roseberry Topping book. Knowing some of the members, I felt sure that there would be something more substantial here although the book was focused on this area’s other iconic hill – Roseberry Topping. What I found in this book changed the ball game considerably! Although the chapter concerned (p96) focused on the Mystery of the Summerhouse, (a strange pagoda like building on Roseberry Topping misnamed but better known as the Shooting Hut), it was exactly the kind of background material that might give this thesis more validity but oddly enough it didn't make a  Masonic connection.

What I learned from this book Roseberry Topping published in 2006 by the Great Ayton Archeological Project was –

  • The campaign to get a local monument to Cook had been going from 1787 (8 years after Cook’s demise). Cook died in 1779.
  • There was secrecy about it as if emanating from a secret society.  The mysterious character of ‘Cleveland’ who first proposed the idea was recently shown by Cliff Thornton of the Captain Cook society to be John Brewster – author of the History of Stockton on Tees and a member of the Stockton Literary Club.
  • That the proposed location changed over the years from Marton (where Cook was born to Eston Nab to Roseberry Topping, finally ending up on Easby Moor.
  • Most interestingly for our original thesis – the proposals involved (at various stages) not only an obelisk but a pagoda      and a pyramid on the summit of Roseberry Topping!

This was exciting! The idle fancy that there might be a connection between exotic events in Paris and the outback of the North Yorkshire Moors didn't seem so far fetched now! We are also clearly back to pyramids and obelisks. There was something there!!

John Brewster Proposes a Monument

Rev. John Brewster
The book tells us that the Rev John Brewster, in a published letter in the Gentleman’s Magazine in 1787 under the name of ‘Cleveland’ first proposed a monument to James Cook to erect near Marton in Cleveland (his birth place). Nothing came of the idea. In 1791 Brewster raised the idea again (still under the name of ‘Cleveland’). This time the memorial was to be on Roseberry Topping from which it would be visible for 30 to 40 miles around. Among the suggestions was ‘a building with large apertures in its sides, rather like a Chinese Pagoda’ but eventually settled on a pyramid! In 1808 Cleveland historian the Reverend John Graves commented that there had been a plan to erect a monument to Cook in the form of a pyramid or obelisk on the summit of Roseberry Topping. Nine years later in the second volume of History of Whitby, George Young noted in a biographical piece on Cook  that ‘agitation’ had been made more that once to erect a monument to Cook on Roseberry Topping and Major Bartholomew Rudd, the proprietor had cheerfully consented to the proposal. (Ironically Major Rudd built a mansion over the humble Marton birth place of Cook at what is now Stewarts Park!).

The book goes on to tell us that John Brewster, now writing to the Gentleman’s Magazine under his own initials referred to an earlier proposal to build a monument on Eston Nab.

I raise the following points on the idea of a pyramid on Roseberry Topping –

Pyramid on the Summit of Roseberry Topping!
(My Photo-shopped picture below might not be quite how they envisioned it!)

  • I find the idea of erecting a pyramid on the summit of Roseberry Topping quite bizarre (although interesting!). The
  •  Topping is kind of that shape anyway – more conical like – but aesthetically doesn’t need any artificial enhancement. In fact that might have spoilt it. 
  • As it happens the later landslide might have destroyed it anyway! 
  • However the question is - would people be induced to think of Cook if they viewed a pyramid on the Topping? I personally would be more mindful of Egyptology than Cook! That being so, who might want to evoke the idea of Egyptology? 
As far as I know, Cook had no involvement with Egypt, so unless there was a Masonic link – surely a pyramid has no relevance to Cook except as some exotic tribute. There surely must have been a more fitting style of monument that would reflect Cook’s travels, for example the Easter Island Moai!

A friend offered a possible explanation of how a pyramid might be relevant to cook (although this view is a personal composite from his wide reading but it raises the point that some kind of Egyptian / Masonic symbology might explain it). (Also inherent in this view is the idea that all religions are interconnected with the mention of Vishnu!) –

"The pyramid might also represent the free masons compass.  Four sides for East, West etc etc.  If  it  also  represents  an  upside  down  V  for  Vishnu  and  a  boat  ferrying  dead  pharaohs to  the  netherworld, then  it  would  be hollowed  out  like  a boat.  And what was Cook, but a sailor and navigator."


The idea of a Pagoda is surprising too. The whole chapter in the Roseberry Topping book is dedicated to the mystery

Summerhouse or Pagoda?
 of the Shooting Hut which has an oriental looking roof – somewhat Pagoda like but not the classical curled edge style found in China. It’s not clear that the pagoda Brewster talked of was ever built and the location seemed to be earmarked for Eston Nab rather than Roseberry Topping but the ‘summerhouse / shooting hut’ on Roseberry Topping does have a strange oriental looking roof. However there is no information to suggest this was in anyway dedicated to Cook and so is probably unrelated. However, seeing as a Pagoda was among the proposals, there does seem to be a surprising link with Pagodas and Masonry (I think!). Pagodas are part of the Buddhist tradition, there’s mention of the Buddha as a Supreme Being  -
they appear to have derived their form from a tumulus, because ancient religions are partly based on the veneration of the tombs of ancestors. The pyramids of Egypt and the Ming and other Imperial Tombs of China.. The Buddha, as a Supreme Being among all creatures, is entitled to many umbrellas placed one above the other.

However the mystery of the Summer House / Shooting Hut / Pagoda may or may not be related (that’s a whole issue in itself) but is interesting.

More fruitful to this discussion at the moment is John Brewster -

The Reverend John Brewster – Freemason?

  • John Brewster’s use of the nom de plume - ‘Cleveland’ presents a sense of something emanating from a secret society. Nom de plumes were common among radicals and reformers however, if we think of Cobbet’s Peter Porcupine and Tweddell’s later use of ‘Clevelandus’ ‘Peter Proletarius’,
  • · If you Google John Brewster’s name, up comes the Stockton’s Freemasons Lodge of Philanthrophy. There is a reference to his Parochial History and Antiquities of Stockton-on-Tees of which the second edition has a goodly section of Freemasonry. This does not prove Brewster was a Freemason of course, but it’s interesting. (Actually we have now established Rev John Brewster was a Freemason - see the feedback below).
  • The Reverend John Graves reinforced Brewster’s proposition of an obelisk or pyramid on the summit of Roseberry Topping in his book The History of Cleveland in the North Riding of the County of York (footnotes P 462 -464) after giving a great tribute to the scientific work of Cook. (Tweddell tell us in his Bards and Authors of Cleveland and South Durham) that the Reverend Brewster married John Graves and his wife before either had become historians and so there was a strong connection between them.). (John Graves book is available for free download on Google books)
  • · In the second edition of Brewster’s Parochial History and Antiquities of Stockton-on -Tees (available as downloadable as a Free download (pdf) on Google Books), has a surprising section on Freemasonry. In this second addition Brewster has added notices of societies including ‘a society that although is mysterious, is eminently benevolent – The most Ancient and Honourable Society (No 19) of free and accepted Freemasons – the Lodge now called The Lodge of Philanthropy, constituted in London 1725 at the Swan and Rummer in Finch Lane.
  • The ‘notice’ (p254 bottom of page and onwards) presented by the Lodge of Philanthropy discusses the suppression of secret societies of a political nature bill in 1796 and an inquiry raised by members of the Durham Lodge. The result was that the Freemasons were exempted from the act. This statement was confirmed – the article goes on to say – by His Royal Highness – The Duke of Sussex – to an address of the Lennox Lodge of Freemasons Oct 26th 1827 at Richmond in Yorkshire. It says that his Royal Highness, as a member of the Craft, had intervened to save the Craft from extinction. King George had become a patron. (A further link between royalty and the Craft – this time in England).
  • It’s interesting that that date 1827 comes up again with a significant event a month or so before the erection of the Cook monument on Easby moor and involving the Richmond Lodge and the Stockton lodge of philanthropy in some way. The recent research by the Captain Cook Society regarding Holman reinforces the idea of some involvement here. Brewster, if not a Freemason, certainly had close links with the Stockton Lodge.
  • There were no local lodges in either Gt Ayton (until 1996) and Stokesley until 1847. The nearest would have been Stockton or Richmond.

Note - Geoff King of the Captain Cook Society has confirmed that The Reverend Brewster was indeed a Freemason but with reservations - see the follow on article below)

Radicalism in Stokesley in the 1820's

Although I haven't found direct involvement of Stokesley so far, in the 1820's, a number of local historians have written about the conflict between the Stokesley Radicals and local conservatives at the time -
Alice Barrigan in an article Radicalism in Stokesley now on this site
tells us -
" In the turbulent 1820s, Stokesley was riven by a bitter debate between radicals and traditionalists.  Admirers of the revolutionary activist Tom Paine were at loggerheads with local conservatives and clerics.  It culminated in a war of pamphlets - the Stokesley Paper War."
 Daphe Franks mentions the Paper Wars briefly in her pamphlet Printing and Publishing in Stokesley 1985 ( now held at Northallerton County Library (as Freethought in Stokesley in the 1820s) and
Malcolm Chase's  'Atheists and Republicans in early nineteenth-century Cleveland',  Bulletin of the Cleveland and Teesside Local History Society 47, pp. 29-36, 1984

 The article describes the first of two Paper Wars in Stokesley (the second occurring in the 1840’s around George Markham Tweddell’s radical paper which you can read about here -
From Alice Barrigan -
We learn that "on Monday 2 June 1822 employer Thomas Mease gave a speech at a Wesleyan Methodist Missionary meeting attacking Robert Armstrong - a radical bookseller. This began the first Stokesley Paper War. Mease later published his speech and commented "I was exceedingly amused, Sir, by the way in which the birth-day of Paine was lately kept in this Town," He claimed that the principal objects embraced by their vain were probably the subversion of Christianity and Monarchy, and the substitution of a Republican government, together with what they strangely reckon a scientific morality.

Robert Armstrong, a bookseller in Stokesley who stocked radical (and at the time illegal copies of authors such as Thomas Paine, Carlile, Rousseau,) responded with his own newspaper -  'The Missionary; or Stokesley & Cleveland Illuminator' while Thomas Mease responded with The Extinguisher.

The war of words between Mease and Armstrong in Stokesley was a small part of the great conflict then raging between the forces of conservatism in religion and politics and an increasingly vocal radical movement calling for political reform and open religious debate.

Ill-feeling between the factions of free-thought and religious orthodoxy may have been brewing for some time in Stokesley. Armstrong was a leader of the local Zetetic Society (a society of Freethinkers) and was responding to Carlile's plea from prison for volunteers to carry on disseminating his works to the public.
In 1822 and 1823 Armstrong was openly selling 'The Age of Reason' in Stokesley. Carlile was sentenced in November 1819 to a term of three years' imprisonment with a very heavy fine for publishing Thomas Paine's 'The Age of Reason', which had been banned in 1797 for its attack on organised Christianity and its advocacy of a deistic religion based on reason and logic. Robert Armstrong was an anti-clerical deist, democrat and republican, who followed with interest democrat and republican, who followed with interest the latest developments in scientific and political thought.

During the Napoleonic Wars, in Stokesley, Barrigan tells us, ‘many weavers brought to the town the independent and enquiring minds for which they were well-known.’ Some of the characters, such as John Appleton and Henry Heavisides, associated also with Stockton were in Stokesley at this time. Appleton reported – “A few of the lovers of Civil and Religious Freedom, met in this Town, on the Evening of the 29th of January, to celebrate the Anniversary of the Birthday of Mr Paine.” Heavisides was apprenticed to William Pratt – the printers in Stokesley and later in Stockton (as Tweddell notes) was ‘a warm supporter of Reform’. In Heavisides Annals of Stockton it is clear he was also a Freemason.  It’s not clear if Heavisides was involved with these events in Stokesley but there are clear social networks between the towns."

From an idle curiosity we have established that there were significant ‘coincidences’ in the date 1827 and its relation to the establishment of obelisks and a ‘coincidence’ of proposals for (or establishment) of Egyptian artifacts such as Obelisks and pyramids both in France, America and the North Yorkshire Moors. Circumstantial evidence at least that Cook was either a Freemason or at least closely associated with them and that John Brewster was too. Clear evidence of a background of political, religious and ideological challenges both locally, nationally and internationally:

More research is obviously needed in many areas but it’s clear from all this that there was more to the establishment of the Captain Cook obelisk on Easby Moor that meets the eye and that there is a fascinating story here. Once again I can’t claim to have all the answers in this essay or that everything is right. Much more research needs to be done, but hopefully this essay will have made a contribution and highlighted what seems to be an interesting story.

Updates to this article are here in part two below - including feedback from the Captain Cook's Society and a comparison with Stoodley Pike above Todmorden.


Part 2

Mystery of Captain Cook's Monument pt 2 - Feedback & Additions
Since writing the article above on this site regarding the mystery of Captain Cook's monument on Easby Moor, North Yorkshire, I have had various discussion via e mail with Cliff Thornton of the Captain Cook Society which have been very helpful and insightful and to whom I'm grateful for taking the time to look at these ideas. This page reflects that feedback as well as additional material regarding Cook's life in Wapping in relation to Emmanuel Swedenborg. This page also includes a comparison to Stoodley Pike in Todmorden. Although not related to Captain Cook, there are similarities there.

Feedback from The Captain Cook Society

The Reverend John Brewster - author of  The History of Stockton.

Cliff Thornton of The Captain Cook's Society kindly sent a link to Geoff King who is mentioned in my article as exploring the friendship link between Captain Cook and William Christopher. Geoff King has managed to confirm that The Reverend John Brewster (who under the name of 'Cleveland' first proposed the Cook monument in the form of a pyramid on Roseberry Topping etc.) was indeed a Freemason. However he does have reservations about drawing further conclusions from this. Here are his thoughts -

" Rev John Brewster was initiated into the Stockton Lodge of Philanthropy 27th Dec, 1781."

  • I think it borders on speculation to align the monument of Captain James Cook with freemasonry. 
  • There are many symbols within the craft and each has a particular relevance to a degree. 
  • Whilst the pyramid is sometimes seen, it is not a common symbol and I have yet to see it quoted in any degree ritual. 
  • I would have thought to place a cap stone on any obelisk is just good workmanship within a design to let the rain run off and also to maybe reflect light catching the sharp angles from the sun.  
  • Yes, a pyramid has a meaning, but a very general meaning.
  • Yes, Brewster extended his 2nd edition of the “History of Stockton” to encompass many organisations in Stockton, freemasonry was but one of them.
  • Unless we can have sight of more information regarding others who wrote about this pyramid design, I fail to see any connection with our valued Captain.

So the only Masonic connection that there is at present is via John Brewster, the Stockton cleric.
So the conclusion here seems to be  that although Brewster was initiated into the Stockton lodge of philanthropy and proposed the original idea for the monument in the forms of a pyramid, pagoda or obelisk, it doesn't mean that it was officially sanctioned by the Craft. Perhaps any proof of that would also be in the lodge's minutes or records. As to the to symbols that is a wider discussion elsewhere.
Cliff Thornton also made enquiries about Robert Campion, who commissioned the Cook obelisk on his land at Easby Moor.

In the article we wondered if there was a Masonic connection via Robert Campion -

Cliff's contact, who knows about Robert Campion, gave this feedback -

  • Robert Campion was the son of Nathaniel Campion and Margaret nee Holt. He was the oldest, and eventually the only, son and became very rich - indeed at one time he was deemed to be the wealthiest man in Whitby (round about the time he put up the memorial). 
  • He had a thriving cotton business (Campionville), was a banker, a ship-owner and a ship-builder. 
  • I have no record of his going to sea, though his father and his uncles were all master mariners and his mother's family were all master mariners as well (He was in baking at first in partnership with his mum; there were also shipowners in the family.
  • The Campion family came from Staithes. They would certainly have known James Cook and I argue that they were probably friends (Nathaniel Campion & James Cook were of an age).

My understanding is that Robert Campion built the memorial because he would have been told about James Cook by his father and uncles from childhood and admired him. He built it where he did because it was on his land, as he was Lord of the Manor of Easby. He built it when he did presumably because no-one else seemed to be doing anything, and he could afford to.

Why was it built as an obelisk? I suggest:

Cook's Monument - Easby Moor
1. Obelisks were in fashion
2. If you wish to build a memorial, you really only have a choice of:
          a) A statue (far too expensive)
          b) A rectangular altar-shaped thing. (not visible from afar)
          c) A pillar (unlikely to stay up in a high wind unless very wide and of solid stone)
          d) A pyramid
          e) An obelisk
- if you don't believe me just look in any graveyard, or at any war memorials.

3. Of these an obelisk has the advantage of being taller for its width than a pyramid, of being able to be built quite cheaply from bricks as it can be hollow (all builders would know how to do it, not different from a chimney stack, so no need to import expertise from afar), and it has a flat surface for putting an inscription on.

None of these have any necessary connection with masons.

Having said this, although there is no evidence that Robert Campion (or Capt Cook) were masons it would still be tangential even if that was the case. Campion was a Whitby man born into a maritime family commemorating another Whitby maritime man who was not only a family friend but an example to others. 'End of' - as they say.
Cliff Thornton also offered some general thoughts of aspects of the essay -

I believe that the monument was built in that location and in that size so that it could be used as a landmark by vessels sailing past the mouth of the Tees.
I think that Robert Campion had been a shipowner, so his construction of the monument was both historic and practical.
In deliberating between monument/obelisk and statue, I note that most statues are built where they are readily seen by passing members of the public.
Easby Moor does not get such a passing trade to warrant a statue, and to become a landmark it would have had to be much larger than life, and therefore be far more expensive than constructing a simple monument.
But the monument is significant as it was the first public one erected to Cook.
(There was an earlier one, erected by Palliser, Cook’s patron, but it was in the private grounds of his estate).
So despite Cook’s fame it is disappointing that there was no national movement to commemorate him in some way. Hence Brewster’s attempts.
The first statue was erected to him in London as late as 1913 (?) and then only after the Premier of New South Wales had written a letter to the Times and shamed the country into commissioning it!
Captain Cook and Emmanuel Swedenborg

Emmanuel  Swedenborg
We mentioned in the article the work of Geoff King, Derek Morris and Ken Cozens in establishing a Masonic friendship  link between Captain Cook and William Christopher via Francis Holman in Wapping. Julie Rae, belows reveals more about Cook's Wapping days including some interesting material on Emmanuel Swedenborg and Cook's associates. While it doesn't prove that Cook was a Mason, it reinforces the idea that those kind of associations were around him at least.

The following comes from
Captain James Cook Endeavours” by Julie Rae published by Stepney Historical Trust 1997"  who explores Captain Cook's time in Wapping.

Julia Rae, in her book Captain James Cook Endeavours published by Stepney Historical Trust 1997, describes Cook’s links with Emmanuel Swedenborg whose ideas later became a strand of Freemasonry. I’m not claiming this to prove that Cook was a Freemasonry, just that its interesting background and shows the deeper elements behind Cook’s work. Here are extracts from Rae’s book -

“Cook would have been familiar with the many nationalities who were residents in the areas. They often had their own churches or meeting places. The Swedish Church was a meeting place for the Swedish Community in Princes Square off the highway now known as Swedenborg Gardens) which was named after Emmanuel Swedenborg who was the son of a Swedish Bishop, a brilliant scientist, mathematician, astronomer, anatomist and linguist.

Dr Solander
He produced nearly 100 great works and while here, claimed he was commanded by God in a vision to write about spiritual things. He saw into the spiritual world and described his experience in his book “Heaven and Hell”. His religious teaching were both scriptural and rational and he harmonised religion and science. He loved London and came to publish his writing, which translated into English by William Cookworthy from Plymouth who was one of Cook’s Quaker friends (From Cook’s own scientific curiosity he may have visited Emmanuel Swedenborg along with Dr Solander (the botanist) who was a member of his church. (Dr Solander was buried there in 1782). P81

p97 “ HM Bark Endeavour was a ship with a mission with a galaxy of scientific talent on board, notably the botanist, young Joseph Banks FRS, Daniel Solander, a favourite pupil of Linnaueus, and artist Sydney Parkinson, a Quaker friend of Dr Fothergill…..

No doubt these eminent gentlemen discussed the voyage which lay before them, with particular reference to its principal purpose the observation from the most favourable vantage point in Tahiti, of the passage of the planet Venus across the sun’s disc. Cookworthy was particularly interested in the astronomical observations which were to be undertaken by Cook and his companions.

He and Dr Solander had a common friend, Dr Emmanuel Swedenborg, whose cousin was married to Carl Von Linnaeus, the teacher of Dr Solander. Emmanuel Swedenborg was also an amateur botanist but his main interest was astronomy and mathematics, but because of his religious beliefs he was regarded as a mystic. Solander and Cookworthy were both members of his church in Princess Square, off Ratcliff Highway. It was Cookworthy who translated Swedenborg’s writings into English and for a time became a Swedenborgian, until, as quoted in the Quaker Meeting House minutes, “He came to his senses and returned to Quakerism”.

This connection is very interesting as it shows how the 18thC scientific world worked together. Banks would also have been curious about the contents of Swedenborg writings who, before he turned religious, was one of the brilliant astronomical minds of that century, which may have proved helpful to Banks on the forthcoming voyage.

Naturally Cook would have listened intently to these discussions but at the time was he was principally concerned with provisioning his ships”.

P101 “..for William Cookworthy would have been one of the most avid readers of accounts of Cook’s voyage, (and) therefore would have mentioned the accounts of the voyage to Swedenborg who also would have shown great interest, considering he was a cousin in law to Linnaeus and a friend of Dr Solander, apart from being one of the best scientific minds at the time.

Therefore  was it possible that William Cookworthy advised the scientific team on astronomy before  they sailed in the Endeavour, and after the voyage reported back to Swedenborg of their success?

The question cannot be dismissed, for Swedenborg had many friends and supporters in high society and it would not be unreasonable to presume he gave advice to Cookworthy on astronomy. Swedenborg, as a young man visiting London, had attended lectures by the great scientists of his day. He visited Greewich observatory and was allowed to watch the Astronomer Royal,the Rev.John Flemsteed, doing his observations…It was thus he learnt how to calculate the eclipses of the sun and moon. Of greater importance was the fact that Swedenborg went to Oxford to meet Edmond Halley, with whom he discussed his own method of finding the Longitude at sea by observations of the moon."

While there is no evidence that Emmanuel Swedenborg was a Freemason, the Swedenborg Rite became an associated part of Freemasonry after his death. There is a good account of the influence of the Swedenborg's ideas on the Mason's with advanced degrees on this Masonic page from  - The Grand Lodge of Columbia and Yukon -
" But non-membership of the Craft does not imply the absence of a relationship of some kind: the episode of the Illumines d'Avignon is clear evidence that Swedenborg had an influence upon Freemasonry, albeit unknown to himself; or, in Mackey’s words: 'it was the Freemasons of the advanced degrees who borrowed from Swedenborg, and not Swedenborg from them9.
It would, however, be the best part of a century before they borrowed again. In the interim those Swedenborgians who were drawn to Freemasonry were quite content with the Craft degrees"

More information on Swedenborg can be found on Wikipedia

Interestingly at the foot of the Grand Lodge article is a list of names relating to the Swedenborg Rite which includes poets like William Blake etc but also George Markham Tweddell of Stokesley lodge via whom I began this enquiry.
STOODLEY PIKE - Todmorden - A Comparison.

On a recent visit to Todmorden in the Calder Valley, I was taken by Stoodley Pike which looked very similar to Captain Cook's obelisk on Easby Moor North Yorkshire. I picked up a couple of local history books in the information centre and looked on the internet. Although Stoodley Pike bears no relationship to Captain Cook, the similarities were striking and there was, in the local history account, an acknowledged Masonic involvement which there isn't for the North Yorkshire counterpart.

The first book was authored by Mrs E.M. Savage and called Stoodley Pike and published by the Todmorden Antiquarian Society.

Mrs Savage tells us that various legends and traditions suggest there had been 'a Cairn of some description' on the spot where the Pike now stands. Whatever the nature and origin, the facts are that there was a structure of some description long before 1814 when the first Pike was erected.

The first Pike was erected in 1814 by public subscription to 'commemorate the surrender of Paris to the Allies in

First Stoodley Pike
 March 1814. The subscription was opened and to this the freeholders in the neighbourhood mainly contributed.

Savage tells us that "In order that the monument could be seen from a distance, a prominent part on Langfield Out-pastures was chosen." Savage lists the five trustees and the freeholders and their occupations.

The first Pike, which wasn't at all the same as the one on Easby moor (see picture)

However the first Pike was erected according to the following terms -
" perpetuate and commemorate the achievements which the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland have so gloriously made for the nations of Europe by the Peace concluded in the year of our Lord 1814"

Savage tells us that the foundation stone was laid with full Masonic honours. According to accounts - " A youngster perched on his father's shoulder, leant forward to see all that was going on, and was touched accidentally by the Tyler's sword, and blood flowed freely."

However the incident didn't detract from the enjoyment of the occasion when among other rejoicings and feasting, a whole sheep was roasted.

John Billingsley, in his book Folk Tales from Calderdale says "the belief that cement mixed with blood - especially human blood - is stronger than standard mortar is familiar in the folklore record and is usually taken as an echo of ancient foundation sacrifices and offerings"

The inscription on the door read " This Monument was erected by Public subscription, to commemorate the Peace. Anno Domini 1814"  However she tells that although work began on the Pike in 1814, Napoleon escaped from Elba on February 20th 1815, hostilities broke out again and building was suspended. When Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18th, building was resumed and finished in the same year.

Again John Billingsley comments " the cynicism which some have felt over the financing of the peace monument - the major part of the cost was subscribed by local textile manufacturers whohad made considerable sums in supplying uniforms to both side in the long war - was not shared by Tony Hegginbottom who argued for the sincerity of the local desire to for peace and emphasised the active involvement of local Quakers who were relatively numerous in Langfield"

It would seem that the obsession with Egyptology and the Cult of Reason during the French Enlightenment and the America Revolution were having some effect in England regardless of whatever connections there were in relation to Captain Cook or the defeat of Napoleon. - Discuss!

Like the monument on Easby, Stoodley Pike was also struck by lightening and destroyed and then rebuilt along with a lightening conductor. However, unlike it's Easby moor counterpart (as far as I know), Stoodley Pike had a strange coincidence attached to it -

Mrs Savage tells us that the Halifax Guardian headline on February 11th 1854 ran "Fall of Monument - An Evil Omen" the reported continued " On Wednesday afternoon, February 8th, between 5 and 6 o'clock, the inhabitants of Langfield were greatly startled by a loud rumbling noise, resembling the falling of roacks or a large pile of buildings. It was found that the pillar or monument erected on the height of Stoodley Pike in commemoration of Peace had fallen nearly to the bottom. A few years since, it was struck by lightening which cracked the walls in several places and to that its fall is mainly to be attributed..."

The reference to the Evil Omen, she tells us was due to the coincidence of the Russian Ambassador leaving London on the same afternoon owing the start of the Crimea war.

In 1854 the monument was rebuilt - again by public subscription - but the design this time was similar to the one on Easby more only with more design features involved.

John Billingsley, in his book Folk Tales from Calderdale, tells us
" Freemasons were certainly actively involved in planning the second monument, and their symbols remain in the architecture. Over the doorway can be seen a crossed compass and square and the six-pointed 'Star of David', whose interlocking triangles represent 'As above, so below'.There was no foundation ceremony as in 1814 but doubtless a masonic rite was performed and Heginbottom suggested it may have been a rite of consecration."

Billingsley goes on to suggest " The chosen obelisk design surely conformed to Masonic predilections (hence its use for Washington Monument in America) originating in Egypt, it was a sacred architectural form associated with the Sun-god Ra and later Osiris. Heginbottom suggests that obelisk adds another layer of meaning to the peace movement -that of the 'symbol of the Masonic God the Architect' .We might add that the obelisk form represents the Axis Mundi or world axis, and note how the current monument does indeed seem to be a fixed point around which the upper Calder valley revolves.  Steve Hanson  has suggested that the design of the Pike, in particular the staircase to the balcony, which one accesses under masonic signs over the doorway, further encodes masonic symbolism into the architecture - "the ascent into total darkness appears to replicate the masonic blindfold ceremony, a trial by ordeal, a leap of faith, after which enlightenment is is received with the removal of the blindfold and acceptance into the order.. the Pike might be designed to replicate this ceremony for the layperson, accent by ordeal followed by a privileged view."

The Cook monument, as far as I know, has none of the design features mentioned above - the symbols of the staircase or the balcony but certainly something was going on around the time of the French and American Revolutions etc that affected the landscapes of this country and perhaps Cook and the defeat of Napoleon were only the outward reasons for their construction. As far as Stoodley Pike is concerned Savage tells us that
"the carving of the emblems and the inscription was cut by Mr Luke Fielden, whilst it was believed that John Fielding himself drew up the inscription."

Steve Hanson tells us " The obelisk design of the tower is a ‘…reflection of patron Samuel Fielden’s freemasonry’ and of the society of the time’s obsession with Egyptology."

It seems that the Fielden family were largely involved with this project. Savage tells us that Samuel  and J. Fielden of Dobroyd were chief subscribers. This site gives some background to the family
So - an interesting comparison of ideas there and food for thought!


  1. I wonder, could it be that some of the correspondents that you have mentioned above, the dead and the living, are freemasons themselves.

  2. Great piece! BTW, Cook´s memorial in Hawaii is another obelisk....hmmmmmmmm