Great Ayton, the boy hood home of Captain James Cook, is today a much different village to that in which James lived as a young boy in the early 18th century. It has changed over the years from a farming centre to an industrialised area and now welcomes visitors to enjoy a beautiful village and Cook heritage trail.
The name Ayton is thought to mean “river farm” from old English and in the domesday survey is referred to Aytun. By the end of the 13th century the village was a prosperous community.
A member of the prosperous community-Thomas Scottowe lived in Ayton Hall situated off the Low Green in the village and employed James Cook`s father at Aireyholme farm. Thomas Scottowe paid for young James Cook to attend the Postgate School built in 1704 The site of the Postgate School is where the Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum. Thomas Scottowe also paid for James`s father to buy the plot of land on which he built a cottage off Easby Lane.. The site of the cottage -sold in 1934 and dismantled for transport to Melbourne Australia, is marked by an obelisk in a memorial Garden.
Great Ayton was never a market town and in Cook`s time had only four inns. Of these only the Buck near the low Green and the Royal Oak on the High Green survive. The Low Green extended across the River Leven and was the site of a corn mill.
Great Ayton`s fortunes and industry have varied enormously through time. Flax imported in the 18th century through the ports of Whitby and the Tees was spun, in mainly a cottage based industry. In 1801 the village had three linen manufactures and a linseed oil mill. However by the mid-19th century the linen trade had virtually disappeared. Another important industry until the end of the 19th century was Tanning. Mining of ironstone and quarrying for sandstone and whinstone provided employment from early times. Whinstone – a very hard rock was mined at nearby Cliff Rigg. Stone for road making was extracted until the 1970s. Jet mines dotted the escarpment of the North Yorks Moors the hard black “stone” was popular for making jewellery. The introduction of imported Spanish jet in the 1870s reduced the profitability of the industry. All these industries have vanished and only the traces remain.
James`s mother and five children of the family are buried in the church yard of the 12th century All Saints church located near the Low Green. The young James Cook would have gone to All Saints church.
The village showcases many aspects of the boyhood home of Captain James Cook. There is a magnificent 20m high monument to Captain James Cook on Easby Moor, Airyhome Farm where the young James`s father worked is still a working farm. The mining industry has left its mark and the remains of the mill race providing the power to the village mills can still be seen. The site of the Post Gate School is now the Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum. The sculpture by Nicolas Dimbleby on the High Green depicts James at the age of 16. Young James left the village for his first job in the seaside village of Staithes. The All Saints church where James worshipped and the grave of James`s mother can be visited. The site of the Cook family cottage- exported to Melbourne Australia in 1934, has a memorial garden and obelisk and made of stone hewn from rock at Point Hicks Australia.
Great Ayton in North Yorkshire nestles alongside the River Leven beneath the North York Moors. The village has a lot to offer the visitor – a vibrant dynamic community with a significant heritage.
Take a look at the timeline of James Cook and the associated history of the village of Great Ayton, North Yorkshire.
Great Ayton history - 'Aytun' and All Saints Church mentioned in the Domesday Book in 13th Century.
Michael Postage builds and opens a small village school.
James Cook born in Marton on 27th October.
James moved to Aireholme Farm in Great Ayrn with his parents and siblings.
James attended the Postgate School in Great Ayton.
James is taken on as an apprentice seaman by Captain Walker of Whitby. Followed in 1747 by beginning an apprenticeship on the Freelove.
James joins the Royal Navy as an Ordinary Seaman
James Cook Senior and his wife Grace retire to the cottage in Great Ayton.
Now Master of HMS Pembroke, he serves in Nova Scotia and meets Samuel Holland, who charts the St. Lawrence River islands as the Storming of Quebec.
James Cook marries Elizabeth Batts at St Margaret's Church, Barking, Essex on 21 December 1762.
James' mother Grace Cook dies and is buried at the All Saint's Church in Great Ayton.
James ventures on his First Voyage in 1768 on HMS Endeavour, in 1769 he discovers New Zealand and charts the entire coastline. In 1770, he sights Point Hicks in Australia.
On the return from his successful voyage, James pays his last visit to his Father in Great Ayton. The same year, Cook's Father sells his cottage and moves to Marske to live with his daughter.
James sets off on his second voyage lasting until 1775, on HMS Resolution and Adventure. During this voyage, he crosses the Antartic Circle three times and becomes the first man ever to have circumnavigated the world in both directions. He is elected as a fellow of the Royal Society and awarded a gold medal for his paper on 'The Preservation of the health of the crews of ships on long voyages'
Setting off on his third and final voyage in 1776 on HMS Resolution and Discovery, he visited New Zealand, Tonga, Tahiti and Christmas Island. Discovering the Sandwich Islands (Now Hawaiin Islands), following the North American coast searching for the NW passage. He enters the Baring Straits and sails South back to Hawaii.
On returning to Hawaii to prepare for another attempt to at passage, he sets sails but is forced to return to Kealakekua Bay due to a damaged foremast. A disagreement breaks out and Captain Cook is stabbed to death on 14th February 1779, with news of Cook's death reaching England in 1780.
The Captain Cook monument is erected on Easby Moor, by Robert Campion, a Whitby banker, the 60 ft (18 m) high monument bears a plaque with the following inscription: In memory of the celebrated circumnavigator Captain James Cook F.R.S. A man of nautical knowledge inferior to none, in zeal prudence and energy, superior to most. Regardless of danger he opened an intercourse with the Friendly Isles and other parts of the Southern Hemisphere. He was born at Marton Oct. 27th 1728 and massacred at Owythee Feb. 14th 1779 to the inexpressible grief of his countrymen. While the art of navigation shall be cultivated among men, whilst the spirit of enterprise, commerce and philanthropy shall animate the sons of Britain, while it shall be deemed the honour of a Christian Nation to spread civilisation and the blessings of the Christian faith among pagan and savage tribes, so long will the name of Captain Cook stand out amongst the most celebrated and most admired benefactors of the human race.
Cook's Father's cottage is sold to Russel Grimwald, and shipped to Australia and rebuilt in Fitzroy Gardens in Melbourne.
A Memorial Garden is created in Great Ayton with an obelisk erected in the garden, a gift from Australia on the site of the cottage that was once there.
Great Ayton Parish Council boycott the harden opening ceremony ( due to the erroneous claim that Captain Cook has actually lived there) THe Garden and its care is given over to Middlesbrough Borough Council.
The Cook statue of James as a young boy was erected on the High Green. The statue was created by Nicholas Dimbleby.
Great Ayton Parish Council regains ownership of the Cook family Memorial Garden.
The Captain Cook Schoolroom Refurbishment project is completed.
The Cook Family Memorial Garden refurbishment project commenced funded by LEADER and Great Ayton Parish Council.
The newly refurbished Cook FamilyMemorial Garden is officially opened.
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Great Ayton Parish Council would like to thank gratefully the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the LEADER Fund for their incredibly kind support throughout our Cook Family Memorial Garden refurbishment project.