“ Address: Grape Lane / Whitby / North Yorkshire / YO22 4BA / Telephone: +44 (0)1947 601 900 „
Whitby in north east England is today a bustling little town that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. Many come here because of its quaint narrow streets and it's old-worldly charms, others to see its old traditional working harbour. There is no denying that Whitby is a town that is steeped in a rich history and at the centre of this history is the story of Captain James Cook.
Reference to this local hero, who sailed from here on his epic voyages of discovery to the New World, are everywhere that you look. In fact the residents of this town are so proud of their connections that they have dedicated an entire museum to him, which is known as the Captain Cook Memorial Museum.
This museum is located on one of these narrow streets that so typify the old part of the town. The building itself that houses this museum is known as John Walker's House and dates from 1688. It was in this house that the young James Cook served his apprenticeship.
John Walker was a Quaker ship owner who had a fleet of coal ships and seventeen young apprentices that worked for him. These apprentices, when they were not at sea, lodged in the attic of their master's house. At night it is said that the seventeen-year-old James Cook would study by candlelight in this attic and gaze across the River Esk to the shipyards. It was in these same shipyards just a few years later that the ships that he used on his voyages were built. The most famous of these were the Endeavour, the Resolution, Adventure and Discovery.
From the outside the building is nothing special and if it was not for the signs on the walls outside one could quite easily walk past here without realising that this was a museum. The entrance into this house is via a narrow passageway that leads to a small courtyard and here there is a turnstile where the entrance fee has to be paid before the visitor can get any further.
The interior of the building resembles an old house, which is obviously exactly what it is, there are low ceilings and narrow doorways. Each room of this house is packed with artefacts relating to this famous local explorer. There are displays cabinets that contain original letters written by Cook and there is even a lock of his hair.
The attic room is where the young James Cook would have spent most of his time when he was not away at sea. This room has been recreated to how it would have looked in Cook's day. There are original lamps and sparse wooden furniture. The one thing that immediately struck me about this room was just how small it was. The roof is very low and there were seventeen apprentices here, although they probably worked in shifts so there was never more than about eight or nine here at any one time.
This museum is relatively accessible by wheelchairs despite the age of the building and wheelchair users can access both the fist two floors. Wheelchair users can unfortunately not reach the attic the upper levels, but there is video footage of these areas available.
There are toilets located on the lower floor, which are equipped for disabled users, but they are quite small and I didn't notice any baby changing facilities. There is also a gift shop that sells souvenirs, which you conveniently have to walk through before leaving the museum and returning back to the courtyard.
Before you leave the museum it is actually worth lingering in the courtyard for a few minutes as this is full of native plants from the countries that Captain Cook discovered. The majority of these plants are very colourful and unusual, and each has a small descriptive plaque to accompany it.
The Captain Cook Memorial Museum is a White Rose Award Winning Museum and it has attracted visitors from over 50 different countries in the past three years.
It is open daily between 1st March and the end of October, during winter it is closed. During March it is open from 11am until 3pm and from April until the end of October it is open from 9.45am until 5pm.
Admission charges are:
Adults - £4.00 (6 Euros)
Children - £3.00 (4.5 Euros)
Family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) - £10.50 (15.75 Euros)
Concessions - £3.50 (5.25 Euros)
The Museum is in the 17th century house on Whitbys harbour where the young James Cook lodged as apprentice. It was here Captain Cook trained as a seaman, leading to his epic voyages of discovery.