Great Ayton

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Great Ayton
Great Ayton is located in North Yorkshire
Great Ayton
Great Ayton
 Great Ayton shown within North Yorkshire
Population 4,570 (2001)
OS grid reference NZ565115
Civil parish Great Ayton
District Hambleton
Shire county North Yorkshire
Region Yorkshire and the Humber
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Middlesbrough
Postcode district TS9
Dialling code 01642
Police North Yorkshire
Fire North Yorkshire
Ambulance Yorkshire
EU Parliament Yorkshire and the Humber
UK Parliament Richmond
List of places

Coordinates: 54°29′44″N 1°07′45″W / 54.49569°N 1.12919°W / 54.49569; -1.12919

Great Ayton is a village and civil parish in the Hambleton district of North Yorkshire, England, on the edge of the North York Moors. It lies 7 miles (11.3 km) southeast of Middlesbrough and 3 miles (4.8 km) northeast of Stokesley on the border with the unitary authorities of Redcar and Cleveland and Middlesbrough. According to the 2001 census, it has a population of 4,570.[1]

The village was the boyhood home of Captain Cook, the British explorer and navigator, who was born in nearby Marton.

The name Great Ayton derives from the Old English Ea-tun, tun meaning farm and ea meaning river.[2] In the 18th and 19th centuries Great Ayton was a centre for the industries of weaving, tanning, brewing, and tile making: subsequently whinstone was also quarried from the Cleveland Dyke.[3] It was home to the Great Ayton Friends' School (Quaker) from 1841 until it closed in 1997.[4]

The village is served by Great Ayton railway station on the Esk Valley Line.


Looking south-west to Great Ayton from Cliff Ridge

Great Ayton is situated at the foot of the Cleveland Hills beneath Easby Moor and the distinctively-shaped Roseberry Topping. The River Leven, a tributary of the River Tees, flows through the village and links its two centres, High Green and Low Green.

The Cleveland Dyke, a narrow band of hard whinstone rock that runs for about 31 miles between Robin Hood's Bay and Eaglescliffe lies to the north-east of the village.

Christ Church[edit]

The parish church of Christ Church was built in 1876, It holds a number of services during the day that attract a total attendance of about 200. In the summer months, the evening service takes place in All Saints Church, the former parish church, which dates back to the 12th century.[5] The church has an organ built by James Jepson Binns.[6]

Captain Cook connection[edit]

Main article: James Cook

James Cook and his family moved to the village when he was eight years old and lived there until he was sixteen. James' father, James Sr., was a Scottish migrant farm labourer who was married to Grace, a local Yorkshire woman; he had moved to the village to take up a position on one of the local farms. His employer, one Thomas Skottowe, financed the younger James' schooling. After completing this tuition, James stayed on at the farm for several years helping out his father (who was now farm manager), before leaving in 1745 to take up an apprenticeship at a haberdasher and grocery store 20 miles (32 km) away in the fishing village of Staithes, near Whitby.

Museum and monuments[edit]

Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum[edit]

The museum is within a former charity school, founded in 1704 by landowner Michael Postgate. James Cook received his early education here from 1736 to 1740.


Statue of James Cook as a youth

A statue, located on High Green, depicts James Cook at the age of 16 looking towards Staithes where, according to tradition, he first felt the lure of the sea. The sculpture was commissioned by Hambleton District Council and is the work of sculptor Nicholas Dimbleby. It was unveiled on 12 May 1997.


Captain Cook's monument

The monument is a 51 ft (16 m) high obelisk located on Easby Moor and visible for miles around. It was constructed from local sandstone and was erected in 1827. The inscription on the monument reads:

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.

Site of the Cook family's cottage[edit]

"Capt. Cook's Cottage" Obelisk

The Cook family home on Bridge Street was built by James' father in 1755. The cottage was dismantled in 1934 to be shipped to Australia. Each stone was numbered so that the cottage could be reconstructed exactly in its new home in the Fitzroy Gardens in Melbourne. A granite obelisk now marks the original site of the cottage in Great Ayton. The obelisk is constructed from granite taken from Point Hicks, the first land sighted by Cook in Australia.

All Saints Church[edit]

James Cook's mother and siblings are buried in the churchyard of All Saints Church.[7]


External links[edit]