James Cook: Celebrated North Country Explorer

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Staithes was an important fishing and smuggling community in the 18th century and during the 19th century the rise of the alum, jet and ironstone industries supplemented the local economy. Despite the decline of these occupations in the late 20th/early 21st centuries Staithes retains its character as a traditional North Yorkshire fishing village.

This is part of Staithes’s appeal to tourists, linked with its connections with Cook. Although the shop where Cook was an apprentice for a short time from 1745, to William Sanderson, has been washed into the sea some of the materials were used to build the present house, or Cook’s Shop. A Methodist chapel has also been developed into the Captain Cook and Staithes Heritage Centre.

The statue of Cook was presented to the town of Whitby by the Hon. Sir Gervase Becket, M.P. and unveiled in 1912. The sculptor John Tweed made the seven feet six inches high bronze figure of Cook on its freestone pedestal.The inscription on it reads:“For the lasting Memory of a great Yorkshire seaman this bronze has been cast, and is left in the keeping of Whitby; the birthplace of those good ships that bore him on his enterprises, brought him to glory, and left him at rest.”The monument can be seen today on Whitby’s West Cliff.
Captain Cook’s Monument, Whitby

When Cook moved to Whitby in 1746 to become an apprentice to John Walker he lived at Walker’s house in Grape Lane when he was not at sea. This house now houses the Captain Cook Memorial Museum. The Museum has a number of restored 18th century rooms and reconstructed interiors, including the attic room where Cook would have lived with the other apprentices, and a fine Cook collection. The back yard faces onto the harbour where Walker’s fleet of merchant vessels were moored.
Captain Cook Memorial Museum, Whitby

This reconstructed room in the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, Whitby, shows a typical merchant’s room in the mid-18th century. The Walker family, to whom Cook was apprenticed, were wealthy ship owners and the furnishings in their house in Grape Lane would have reflected this wealth and their tastes.
The Blue Room

Cook worked well for John Walker and soon gained promotion. When Cook joined the Royal Navy in 1755 his former employer wrote letters of recommendation. Cook never forgot Walker’s support and encouragement and wrote to and visited his friend on his rare visits to see his family in the North East of England. This letter, in the collection of the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, Whitby, was sent by Cook to Walker after his first voyage (1768-71).
Cook’s letter to Walker

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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