Captain Cook’s Cottage is a popular tourist attraction at Fitzroy Gardens in East Melbourne.
Captain James Cook was a famous British navigator who is credited with the distinction of being the first European to chart the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands, and the first to circumnavigate New Zealand in recorded history.The first known landing in Australia by Europeans was by Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon in 1606 and before James Cook, Spanish and many other Dutch explorers reached the shores of Australia. But Cook’s visit resulted in the colonisation at Botany Bay by the British.
He made three voyages to the Pacific Ocean and was killed in 1779 during his third exploratory voyage in the Pacific while attempting to kidnap Hawaiian chief Kalaniʻōpuʻu in order to reclaim a cutter stolen from one of his ships. He was fifty years old at the time of his death.
Numerous memorials have been dedicated to him in Australia but Cook’s Cottage in Fitzroy Gardens is unique being the home of his parents.
The cottage was relocated from the village of Great Ayton in Yorkshire to Melbourne in 1933. 1934 was the year of Melbourne’s centenary foundation and the cottage was relocated to Melbourne as a gift for the centenary celebrations.
Based on the year carved on the cottage door ‘1755’, the house was built 10 years after Captain Cook had left his home and hometown. In 1745 James Cook (Captain Cook) left Great Ayton to enter his apprenticeship with William Saunderson, the grocer of Staithes and in 1755, Captain Cook had already joined Royal Navy. But it is possible that Captain Cook visited his parents occasionally though Cook’s wife and children lived in London.
James Cook was born in the village of Marton and later Cook’s father went to Great Ayton from Marton to be a bailiff on Thomas Skottowe’s farm. It was then, the cottage was built or bought. The cottage in which Cook was born at Marton was demolished in 1786.
Though not in this cottage, James Cook spent part of his youth in Great Ayton. The cottage became famous due to its connection with the Cook’s family.
In 1933, Mrs Arnold Dixon the last owner of the cottage decided to sell, but made a condition that the cottage should remain in Britain. It was suggested at that time that the cottage would make a perfect gift for Victoria’s centenary celebrations in 1934. Prominent Melburnian, Russel Grimwade agreed to buy the cottage and present it as a gift to the people of Victoria. Mrs Arnold Dixon who refused to sell it to wealthy American buyers was persuaded to sell to Mr Grimwade as Australia was still in the Empire. At the time of the sale, Mrs Arnold Dixon maintained that she had definite proof that James Cook stayed in this house for 2 months before setting out on his last fatal voyage as James Cook has mentioned about his stay in a letter he had written to his friend.
Captain Cook’s cottage was sold for £800 in 1933 to Mr Grimwade, but the total expenditure, including packing and sending by special train exceeded £1700 excluding its re-erection and other costs in Melbourne.
Acting agent General for Victoria, Mr. T. Linton secured original titles from 1772, including one signed by Captain Cook’s father. York Architects Brierley, Rutherford & Syme was engaged to manage the relocation of the cottage. Every brick was numbered and packed in straw and placed in rubber lined boxes. Creepers clinging to the walls for years were also packed by an expert horticulturalist. The soil foundation was also shipped. Mrs Dixon. the last owner, gave Mr. Linton the Union Jack, flown on the cottage on Captain Cook’s birthday. Cook’s Cottage was shipped to Australia in 253 cases and 40 barrels on board the ship, Port Dunedin.
Apart from Fitzroy Gardens, Royal Botanic Gardens and the lawn in front of the State Library of Victoria were also considered as a possible site for relocation.
On 15th October 1934, Captain Cook’s Cottage was presented to people of Victoria by Donor Grimwade. Although heavy rain had fallen thousands gathered to witness the ceremony at Fitzroy Gardens.
Today, Cook’s Cottage is a popular tourist attraction in Melbourne for its historical significance.
Some elements in the Australian community consider it as an “absurd shrine to genocide” and as a result the cottage had been a target of graffiti attacks by vandals a few times.
— Nine News Melbourne (@9NewsMelb) January 23, 2014
Address: Fitzroy Gardens, Wellington Parade, East Melbourne VIC 3002
Contact details Phone: 9658 9658
Daily from 9am to 5pm (except Christmas Day)
Last entry at 4.45pm
Tickets and souvenirs can be purchased from the Fitzroy Gardens Visitor Centre, just 100 metres away
Visitors can dress in 18th century costumes and most tourists make it a point to post their photos in Instagram in those costumes.
With the entry ticket, the visitors get a comprehensive fact sheet for self guided tour
Further details on Tickets and other facilities at the site visit
How to Get there
Catch Free City Circle tram and disembark at Spring Street stop
Take Tram 48 or 75 and disembark at Wellington Parade Stop
Train Stations Parliament or Jolimont are nearby at walkable distances
There are plenty of car parking spaces around Fitzroy Gardens. But one should be lucky to find one during weekdays
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