Captain Cook Memorial Museum
|Headquarters||Whitby, North Yorkshire|
|Key people||John Walker|
|Website||Captain Cook Memorial Museum|
Captain Cook Memorial Museum is in Whitby, North Yorkshire, England, 43 miles (69 km) north of York. The Museum is in Walker’s House which belonged to Captain John Walker to whom the great explorer, Captain Cook was apprenticed in 1746, and to which Cook returned in the winter of 1771/2 after the First Voyage.
The house is situated in Grape Lane on the harbour side. A plaque on the wall states that the house was built in 1688 by Joseph and Susannah Dring. It is a largish building on three floors with an attic. It is regarded as a typical example of a well-to-do ship-owner’s house of the period. Much is known about the furnishings of the house from an inventory of contents taken in 1754. The two ground floor rooms are furnished according to this inventory and decorated in the original colour.
The property was bought in 1729 by the father of Captain John Walker, and became his home and place of business. He was also a captain in the merchant marine and developed the family’s shipping business. He died in 1743, and in his will (Borthwick Institute, York), divided his ships between his sons John and Henry, but left the house to them as tenants in common. The brothers allowed their mother to continue to live in the house. After the deaths of his mother and brother, John Walker moved into the house by 1755. The house remained in the family until the mid 19th century and then was used by turns as a hospital and as a private residence until rescued in 1986 to become the Captain Cook Memorial Museum.
Investigations carried out in 2001 revealed:
- The foundations of a range of small buildings interpreted as outbuildings associated with the Walkers’ shipping business
- A brick floor in a herring-bone pattern lying next to the house about a metre below today’s ground level. A ‘brick-floored room’ a kitchen by its contents, was referred to in the inventory of 1754, but its location was unknown until now.
- A slipway, leading down from the main building to the river, with deposits above it dating from the mid-late 18th century. The courtyard, a metre or so above the slipway was built over it as the Walker family moved out of ship-owning into banking and insurance.
The acquisition of Walker’s House by the Cook Museum Trust enabled the Trust to establish a museum in Whitby dedicated to the celebration of the life of Captain Cook and the scientists, artists and crews who sailed with him. The collections comprise original letters about the Voyages including correspondence of Cook, Lord Sandwich, Sir Joseph Banks and the Forsters, paintings and drawings by the artists who went with Cook to the Pacific, including Parkinson, Hodges, and Webber, artefacts from the Pacific islands and New Zealand, original maps and charts, and ship models.
It is a Grade I listed building.
When Cook visited in 1771, the household was lined up to greet him, and told to behave well. The elderly housekeeper, Mary Prowd, who had befriended Cook a quarter century before, could not restrain herself. Flinging her arms round the great man, she cried “Oh honey James, how glad I'se to see thee!”
Will of Captain John Walker (senior), Borthwick Institute, York; Andrew Kippis, Captain James Cook, 1788; Rev. George Young, History of Whitby (1817), Life and Voyages of Captain Cook (1836); J.C. Beaglehole, The Life of Captain James Cook (1974); John Gascoigne, Captain Cook: Voyager between Worlds (2007).