In June 2017 it is 251 years since Captain Cook made his historic landing in Marlborough Sound in New Zealand.

Captain James Cook became a Captain in the British Navy, rising through the ranks after starting as a Mariner and mastering the art of navigation to become a cartographer and explorer. He made detailed maps before making his three expeditions to the Pacific Ocean, when he made the first European contact with eastern Australia and Hawaii.

But did you know about his connections to Yorkshire?

James Cook was born in the village of Marton, close to Middlesbrough, in 1728 and spent his early years in picturesque Great Ayton, where he attended the village school.   There is now a Museum Close to his birthplace in Stewart Park in Middlesbrough, showing a collection of family items as well as accounts and pictures of his voyages, although the original cottage has been moved brick by brick to create a museum and monument  in Melbourne, Australia!

In Great Ayton, the Cook Schoolroom museum tells of his early life and education in the charity school, the village he grew up in and his later adventures at sea. There is a circular walk from Great Ayton to the Cook’s Monument on Roseberry Topping- the ‘Yorkshire Matterhorn’ – not the biggest hill in Yorkshire, but probably the most distinctive.

On leaving home as a teenager, James Cook moved to work in a grocer’s shop in  the coastal village of Staithes, where a  tiny heritage centre now  shows his connections with the local area, including a life size street scene set in 1745 and many books and engravings of the time. Perhaps this is where he first had sight of the sea and started planning his future career?

Cook soon moved to Whitby, becoming apprenticed to a Merchant sailing company, and the harbourside house he lodged at whilst training as a seaman and learning his maritime skills in is now a museum – the high timbered attic here was the place where young James Cook studied into the early hours by candlelight. Whitby’s main museum in Pannett Park houses more manuscripts and original maps.

After leaving the area, he joined the British Royal Navy at 26 as a common seaman, but his talents were soon recognised and rose through the ranks, becoming a ships’ master within two years.  He was also an expert navigator and map maker and was trusted to navigate territory and create precise charts of the land.

This made his name known and led to his commission as the commander of HMS Bark Endeavour for the first of his three Pacific voyages.  In 1770 he took the first European vessel to reach the east coast of Australia and sailed thousands of miles across previously uncharted seas making maps of many lands from Hawaii to New Zealand in the Pacific Ocean. It was sadly in Hawaii where he met his death in 1779.

He is also remembered for surveying many features and coastlines around Europe for the first time, and for his great leadership skills and seamanship.

But don’t forget his roots- come and explore Captain Cook’s Yorkshire connections with a Blue Badge Tourist Guide…

Laura Rhodes

Captain Cook as a farm boy in Great Ayton

Captain Cook as a farm boy in Great Ayton