James Cook: Celebrated North Country Explorer

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Within a few years of Cook’s death it was proposed that a monument should be erected to him, either on Eston Nab or Roseberry Topping, Cleveland. However, it was not until 1827 that the hollow obelisk was constructed by Robert Campion, Lord of the Manor at Easby, on Easby Moor, near Great Ayton. The inscription on the monument reads:
“Erected to the memory of the celebrated circumnavigator, Captain James Cook, F.R.S., a man in nautical skill scarcely inferior to any, and in zeal, prudence, and indefatigable exertion superior to most…”

The monument was repointed, fitted with a lightning conductor and generally restored in 1894-95 following an appeal made by the ‘North Eastern Daily Gazette’.

Cook’s Monument at Ayton

Thomas Skottowe, lord of the manor of Great Ayton, owned Aireyholme Farm when James’s father went to work there as the hind or foreman in 1736. The family moved from Marton to live there, probably in an estate cottage on the farm. James Cook junior would have helped out on the farm when he was not attending school. Aireyholme, sitting beneath the conical hill and popular local viewpoint of Roseberry Topping, is still a working farm.
Aireyholme Farm

James Cook received some very basic schooling when the family lived in Marton but he began his formal education in Great Ayton at the Postgate School. Michael Postgate’s original school building of 1704 was rebuilt in 1785 and now houses the Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum.
Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum

Tragically four of James Cook’s brothers and sisters died before they reached the age of five: Mary I (1733-37); Mary II (1740-41); Jane (1738-42); and William (1745-48). All are buried with their mother, Grace Cook (1702-65), in the churchyard at Great Ayton.
All Saints Parish Church

In 1755, the same year that James Cook junior joined the Royal Navy, James Cook senior retired and for services to the Lord of the Manor acquired a small plot of land in Great Ayton village. He built a small, two storey brick cottage on this land, the lintel above the door engraved with the date and the initials J.C.G (James and Grace Cook)

Cook probably called here to see his parents in 1757. In December 1771 he again visited his ageing father. He managed to persuade him to move from the cottage at Great Ayton in 1772 and go to live with Cook’s sister, Margaret, at Redcar, where he died in April 1779.
Cook’s Father’s House

Cook’s father’s cottage in Bridge Street, Great Ayton, was auctioned and sold in 1933. After being purchased and presented to the Victoria State Government of Australia it was dismantled and re-erected in Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne, Australia, where it is open to the public as a museum and is known as Cook’s Cottage.
Auction Notice for Cook’s Cottage

A memorial obelisk was erected on the site of Cook’s father’s cottage, its unveiling being reported in local newspapers:
“THE MEMORIAL OBELISK to Captain James Cook on the site of the cottage recently transported to Australia was unveiled at Great Ayton by Mrs. Linton, wife of the Hon. Richard Linton, Agent-General for Victoria (Australia). After the unveiling. The memorial, which has been presented by an Australian and lodged in the keeping of the county borough of Middlesbrough, is an exact replica of the obelisk at Cape Everard, where Capt. Cook first sighted Australia.”
This memorial and a statue of ‘James Cook as a boy’, unveiled in 1997, can be seen in the village today.
Captain Cook’s Memorial Obelisk

Marton | Gt. Ayton | Staithes | Whitby | Newcastle




Project partners: British Library, North East Libraries and Archives Council, Captain Cook Birthplace Museum

All enquiries to Phil_Philo@middlesbrough.gov.uk
or write to:

Captain Cook Birthplace Museum
Stewart Park


01642 311211

Fax 01642 317419

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