Contemporary articles state that the tower — properly named as Chantrey Tower — was rebuilt at least twice. In 1899, a local journalist described it as being "amid the solitude of the moors, a fitting habitat for a philosopher, a theologian, or a recluse."
Although the tower was certainly linked to the Spencer-Stanhope family of Cannon Hall, a long-running story persists that a local vicar (presumably named "Cook") built a property there as an isolated spiritual retreat.
Historically, the area has also been used for shooting, peat digging and for stone quarrying.
The surrounding moorland appears to have been used for shooting game birds in the early 1800s and was owned at the time by the Duke of Leeds.
According to some sources, Chantrey Tower (also mistakenly called Charity Tower and Centenary Tower in some articles) was named after noted sculptor Sir Francis Chantrey (1781-1841) and was first built by landowners Spencer-Stanhope circa 1828, perhaps replacing an earlier building on the site that was known as Cook's Study. When the tower later fell into ruin, the Spencer-Stanhopes rebuilt the tower's arch in their garden at Cannon Hall.
The land around Cook's Study was sold by auction in July 1829:
LOT 127. Another Parcel of MOOR LAND, situated between and adjoining the Woodhead Turnpike Road and the Estate of John Spencer Stanhope, Esq. in Thurlstone, and bounded westward by the County of Chester, and eastward, by other parts of the Common and Old Inclosures, in the said Graveship, including the small Building, called "Cook's Study," containing 1472 Acres.
In October 1840, human remains were found on the peat moss close to Cook's Study. Little more than a skeleton, it was identified as a red-haired woman whose body had been wrapped in cloth, which the peat preserved. Some of the attached clothing indicated she may have lain there for 60 or 70 years. Only the upper half of the skeleton was recovered. According to a slightly incredulous report in the Leeds Mercury, the men who found the body then exhibited it in the local area as a curiosity.
In a rather unusual experiment, two men from Holmfirth "wrapped two joints of fresh mutton in a linen cloth" and then buried them "in the black heath on the moors, near Cook's Study" on 1 January 1847. They returned a year later and dug the joints up — according to the Leeds Times, "they were in an excellent state of preservation, and completely free from any nauseous smell."
The moors are about two miles and a half beyond Holmfirth, and at the top of one of the mountains, on the moorlands, is a curious building, in ruins, which is called "Cook's Study." It is about ten feet square and twenty feet high, and was built by a clergyman, an incumbent, I believe, of Holmfirth, who used to go and read there. It is at present used by the shepherds of the moors as a shelter, and there is a spring of water close to it which is said to possess valuable medicinal properties.
Articles from the mid-1800s imply that the building was a square tower and that it was rebuilt in the 1850s to act as a hunting lodge and gamekeeper's house. In an article describing a horse-drawn gig ride to Greenfield, the writer gave the following verse:
Two articles from 1854 gave some further details as to the history of the building:
The moors adjoining to, and surrounding the newly built ... "Chantrey Tower," better known by the name of "Cook's Study," and built by W. Stanhope, Esq., was the scene of a fashionable and select picnic party on Saturday last.
That noted place yclept [i.e. named] "Cook's Study" — because a person of that name used to repair here for the purpose of study, in an old building since taken down and rebuilt, but now designated "Chantrey Tower," has become a favourite resort for summer parties.
In February 1851, a "daring gang of burglars" who had been terrorising the Holmfirth and Honley area were tracked down to an isolated house near Cook's Study by Superintendent Heaton. On searching the house, "such a mass of housebreaking implements were found as quite staggered the officer" along with some of the stolen property. Heaton eventually apprehended the leader of the gang, described as being "a daring fellow, who was six feet in height, and strongly built in proportion."
On the afternoon Thursday 7 October 1852, a quarryman named John Roberts (also known as "Strong John") found the body of 53-year-old itinerant medicine vendor George Senior, known as the "Nabsley Doctor", near Cook's Study. The Chronicle reported that Senior "had acquired an extensive celebrity on account of the many 'wonderful' cures he had performed." In a slightly florid article, the newspaper went on to state that Senior "was out on a tour in the pursuit of his healing profession, when the grim personage, against whom he has exercised all his power, overtook and vanquished him." The inquest into his death returned a verdict of "Died by the visitation of God."
In November 1854, the Chronicle reported the following:
Monster Potatoe. — On Monday last we were shown a quantity of splendid potatoes, part of a crop grown by Mr. Charles Crossley, innkeeper, in a field of his own on the mountainous ridge called "Cook's Study ;" one of which when put on the scales weighed 1½ lb.
In May 1855, Miss Hannah Littlewood of Glossop in Derbyshire was walking to Dunford Bridge "by way of Cook's Study" when her black silk velvet cape was torn off in high winds. On realising what had happened, she retraced her steps and came across a quarry with several workmen. When she enquired if any of them had seen her cape, "they replied they had not, and used very disgusting and abominable language". It later transpired the workmen had in fact found the cape and hidden it behind rocks, before passing it on to Martha Beever who attempted to get 30 shillings for it at Walker's pawnbrokers on the High Street, Huddersfield.
Members of the Holmfirth Temperance Society held a picnic at Hill Top Farm, near Cook's Study, in August 1855. Unfortunately, the Chronicle reported that their "various amusements" were "abruptly terminated by the intrusion of a number of 'hobbledehoys'."
In April 1860, whilst the gamekeeper residing in the tower was away, it was burgled and a "considerable quantity of silver plate" was taken. Perhaps to cover their tracks, the thieves then set a fire which gutted the building:
Great surprise and indignation was manifested throughout the Holmfirth district last Monday, when it became know that some person or persons, yet unknown, had set fire to the far-famed shooting box, known as "Cook's Study." This noted structure stands on the summit of the Yorkshire hills, a few miles southward of Holmfirth, and is the resort of multitudes in the summer season, shooters, pic-nic parties, health and pleasure seekers. It is in the occupation of Messrs. Brook, Nelson, and other shooting gentlemen, as a head-quarters in the shooting season. Some years ago, it was re-built, and made into a neat and comfortable dwelling for a keeper, with a stone tower above, from which there is an almost unlimited view of the country all round. Mr. Webster, gamekeeper, resided at it at the present time. He was absent on Sunday night, and in his absence some miscreants, who must have known that he was away, set fire to the place. It seems that their ingress was no easy task, as an iron crow-bar, seven or eight stone in weight, was found, with which they had wrenched the iron bars from the windows. The habitable part was completely gutted, beds, furniture, the flooring of the upper rooms, in fact everything that was combustible. The whole of the damage done is estimated at £200. One report states that a considerable quantity of silver plate was kept at the place, which is not now forthcoming ; hence a motive for the marauders. The police are on the qui vive, and it is hoped they will succeed in bringing the villains to justice.
On the afternoon of Wednesday 17 September 1862, 22-year-old Robert Turner, son of farmer Jonas Turner of Hazelbead Farm near Penistone, was riding on the moorland near Cook's Study when his horse stumbled in boggy ground. Turner was thrown off and the horse rolled on top of him, pushing him face-down into the wet ground where he drowned.
Published in 1867, Murray's Handbook for Travellers in Yorkshire rather disdainfully noted that "the tower on the hill is 'Cook's Study,' a modern building of no interest."
The 1871 Census lists gamekeeper Samuel Haigh (aged 59) and his wife Amelia (68) residing at Cook's Study.
Snailsden Reservoir was constructed nearby in the mid-1870s by the Dewsbury and Heckmondwike United Waterworks, with a new access road built to the reservoir from the "corner of the building known as Cook's Study or Chantry Tower."
The tower was listed as uninhabited in the 1881 Census.
Labourer Thomas Battye of Damhouse was working in a quarry near Cook's Study in September 1890 when he fell seven feet and broke his hip bone.
The 1891 Census lists Cook's Study tower as being uninhabited, although gamekeeper Thomas Hirst (aged 26) is living nearby at Snailsden with his wife Sarah Ann (36) and a son from her first marriage, Foster (10).
In their account of the opening of Victoria Tower in 1899, the Chronicle described the many landmarks that could be seen from the tower, including Cook's Study — "surely you will find it amid the solitude of the moors, a fitting habitat for a philosopher, a theologian, or a recluse."
By 1901, gamekeeper Thomas Hirst (aged 36) was residing at Cook's Study, along with his wife Sarah Ann (46) and their daughter Edith Marian (4). A decade later, widow Sarah Ann was still living there with 14-year-old Edith Marian — Thomas having likely died in 1910.
A curious event occurred in August 1921 when the body of 74-year-old grocer Will Sandford of Hillhouses, near Holmfirth, was found on the side of the road leading up to Cartworth Moor and Cook's Study. Reportedly, the old man was in a sitting position when found in the fog by the sheepdog of local farmer Eli Roberts of Elysium Farm. There were no marks of injury or any signs of a struggle. Sandford had been out walking with his son Harry, who was nowhere to be found and was soon reported missing by his sister, Alice. At the inquest, Dr. Edward Trotter stated that Will Sandford had a diseased heart most likely died of a heart attack and a verdict of "Death from natural causes" was returned.
The search for Harry Sandford continued, with a growing assumption that he had committed suicide, perhaps out of mistaken belief he had caused his father's death — Harry had been suffering from depression having recently lost his job, and the two men had been seen arguing that day. The Yorkshire Post reported that there was a local superstition that a drowned man will rise to the surface on the ninth day and a watch was been set on the nearby Snailsden Reservoir. On cue, "a dark object rose to the surface" and P.C. Smart, a local constable, swam out to retrieve the body. The jury at the inquest were of the opinion that the sudden death of his father "threw the young man off his balance" and they returned a verdict of "Suicide by drowning."
Photographs likely taken in the 1910s appear to show the tower uninhabited and with large cracks running up the exterior, and this may have led to rumours that the tower was haunted.
An article from 1919 recorded a visit by the Yorkshire Geographical Society to the area and noted that the tower was now little more than "a landmark." The Yorkshire Evening Post lamented that the tower "has wintered badly, and is fast falling to pieces" in April 1928. The tower was possibly demolished as unsafe in 1937.
During the Second World War, a shortage of coal resulted in an appeal launched by Arthur Brook for the people of Holmfirth to go up to Cook's Study to collect peat to burn instead of coal. According to Hazel Wheeler, the hill was used as an ARP post during the war.
By the 1960s, the tower was little more than a small pile of stones.