One of the places I shall most probably go and see in Melbourne is the cottage in which the explorer James Cook grew up. Yes, I know he was from the north-east of England, but the cottage stands in Fitzroy Gardens, just outside the CBD,
Some years ago, I visited ‘Cook Country’, doing research for an article in a now sadly defunct history magazine. I went to the ‘Captain Cook Birthplace Museum’, which stands on the site of the place he was born, in Marton, now a suburb of Middlesbrough; I called at the house of John Walker, where he lodged and worked, now the ‘Captain Cook Museum’ in Whitby. I visited the steel replica of Endeavour at Stockton on Tees, and caught a glimpse of the working replica at Darling Harbour.
The only place I didn’t go was the shop where he worked in Staithes. That was lost to erosion some time ago, although they did build a replica.
There’s also stuff at the village of Great Ayton, in Yorkshire. Just outside the village is Airy Holme Farm, where Cook’s father worked as manager, and in the village is the school which the young James Cook attended … although a school no more. It’s now … you’ve guessed it! … the ‘Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum’.
In the centre of the village, there’s a statue of the young James setting out for Staithes, then Whitby, then the rest of the world, and there’s a tall obelisk commemorating his achievements atop the nearby Great Ayton Moor.
But, of the cottage in which the family lived, there’s no trace. Not at Great Ayton, anyway. It was one of a row of houses which was demolished in the 1930s. But, a concerned body in Australia raised the money to transport it ‘down under’ brick by brick, and re-assemble it in Fitzroy Gardens.
While I was in Great Ayton, though, I met an old lady, who told me that nobody really knew which of the houses the Cooks lived in … and it’s possible the Aussies may have got the wrong one!