Captain James Cook

It was in Great Ayton that he was schooled and worshipped before apprenticing in grocery and haberdashery in the seaside village of Staithes, near Whitby. Legend has it that it was while working in Staithes that he first felt the lure of the sea.

James only stayed in Staithes for a year and a half as his employer found him to be unsuited to the work. He was introduced to ship-owners John and Henry Walker, and began an apprenticeship in the merchant navy, transporting coal along the North East coast of England. During this apprenticeship Cook learned algebra, trignometry, navigation and astronomy, all of which would become useful in later life.

After a three year apprenticeship and several more years where he achieved high rank in the merchant navy, Cook volunteered for service in the British Royal Navy, seeing more opportunities to advance his career. He had to work his way through the ranks once again, but was quickly promoted. His joining the Royal Navy coincided with the start of the seven years war and he was able to demonstrate a talent for surveying which brought him to the attention of the Admiralty and the Royal Society.

In 1766 the Royal Society hired Cook to travel to the Pacific Ocean to record the transit of Venus across the sun. The voyage started in 1768 and resulted in the discovery that he is probably most famous for. On 20th April 1770 Lieutenant Hicks sighted Australia, the point was named Point Hicks in his honour.

Cook was involved with two more voyages to the Southern hemisphere and spent a total of eleven years sailing around the Pacific Ocean. He did not return from the third voyage, he was killed in an altercation in Hawaii on 14th February 1779.

Captain Cook's Monument

Only a short walk from Gribdale Gate, a short distance from Great Ayton, up on Easby Moor, is the well-known local landmark of Captain Cook's Monument.

More info

Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum

Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum tells the story of Cook’s early life and education in the Charity School, the village he grew up in and his adventures on the high seas.

Visit Museum

Cook Family Memorial Garden

The Cook Family Memorial Garden is located on Easby Lane in Great Ayton and is home to the Cook Family obelisk which was erected in place of the Cook Family home.

Visit the garden

Captain Cook Statue

This sculpture, located on High Green, depicts James Cook at the age of 16 looking towards Staithes.


All Saints Church

As a boy, James Cook worshipped with his family at All Saints Church.

Learn more