Captain James Cook was born on October 27, 1728, in the village of Morton near Middlesbrough. His family lived in a thatched cottage which has long since been taken down. His father is supposed to have been a Northumbrian who was a day labourer. The family later moved to Great Ayton and as a young boy he attended the village school. There is nothing particular of interest regarding his school days on record except his resolute adherence to his own plans in p preference to those proposed by his school-fellows’ Before he left school he assisted his father in his agricultural labours, and at the age of seventeen, l was placed with Mr. William Sanderson, a l shopkeeper in Staithes, with a view to learning his general business. At this fishing place he mixed l with seafaring people, which created in him a great desire to go to sea, so after a year and-a-half with Mr. Sanderson, he was bound apprentice for three years to Mr. John Walker, of Whitby.
His first ship, the " Freelove," of about 450 tons, was employed in the coal trade. In the course of his apprenticeship he spent several intervals in Whitby, chiefly in the winter, when the vessels were usually laid up.
According to custom, he lodged in his master‘s house, where a trusted old housekeeper allowed him a table and candle to read by himself, while the other » apprentices were spending their time in amusements.
That eagerness for knowledge, which grew so rapidly in his future life, had then begun to take deep root. The house where he spent these profitable evenings is on Grape Lane.
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The above is a facsimile of the tablet in the front wall of Cook’s House facing the street. The initials are those of the probable owners of the house at the inscribed date Moses and Susannah Dring.
After serving a few years in the Merchant Service, in which he rose to honourable positions, Cook entered the naval service.
The three ships which are most associated with James Cook are Endeavour, the resolution and the Adventure. The most famous of these ships will be the Endeavour in which he left Plymouth in England on 26 August 1768, on the voyage to observe the transit of Venus from the location of Tahiti which was a vantage point. During his voyage be circumnavigated New Zealand passing the eastern coast of Australia.
On the second and third voyage Cook took command of the ships Resolution and then Adventure
On his third memorable voyage he was killed by the natives of Owhyhee, one of the Sandwich Islands, February 14th, 1777. His remains which the savages were compelled to deliver up, were committed to the deep in Karakakooa Bay a week later. A monument was erected to the memory of the gallant explorer at Easby in Cleveland, in 1827, by Mr. Robert Campion.
A bronze statue of the famous circumnavigator, on a base on which is carved Captain C0ok’s coat-0f- arms, was erected on the West Cliff, on a piece of ground known as People’s Park. It was presented to the town by Sir Gervase Beckett, M.P., for the then Whitby Division of the North Riding. It was unveiled by Admiral Lord Charles Beresford on October 2nd, 1912. The statue is a fine example of the work of an eminent sculptor Mr. John Tweed.
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