Navy surveyor attends reopening of Cook garden in north Yorkshire

Published on Aly Thompson (author), Hambleton District Council (photographer)

Location(s): Great Ayton, UK

Topic(s): Historic, Events

Chairman of Great Ayton Parish Council, Ron Kirk, and Commander Neil Cheverton with the Captain Cook Memorial Garden obelisk. (Image supplied by Hambleton District Council). (photo: Hambleton District Council)
Chairman of Great Ayton Parish Council, Ron Kirk, and Commander Neil Cheverton with the Captain Cook Memorial Garden obelisk. (Image supplied by Hambleton District Council).

The Royal Australian Navy’s Assistant Naval Advisor – London has helped the north Yorkshire town of Great Ayton to officially reopen their Captain Cook Memorial Garden.

The garden was officially reopened in mid-May, after a massive revamp and some unexpected finds!

The rejuvenated garden was brought back to life in a £16,800 (approximately $31,914 AUD) project which also celebrated the 250th anniversary of the explorer landing in New Zealand.

Visitors to the garden will also now get an unexpected view of part of Cook’s parents’ former home – with some of the original walls of the cottage discovered during the restoration work.

The cottage was located at the garden site until it was moved stone-by-stone to Melbourne in 1934.

But, while working on creating an outline of the cottage, contractors unearthed some of the building’s original foundations.  

They were exposed following an archaeological dig and will remain on show in the northern England garden throughout the summer months.

“Over the years the site had fallen into decline – the garden was very overgrown and the obelisk had deteriorated and it was often missed by visitors to the village,” Parish Council Chairman Councillor Ron Kirk said.

“So we decided to give it a facelift – but we never expected to be reopening with such an exciting find to show off too.” 

The garden was officially reopened by the Right Honorable Lord Crathorne in the presence of Commander Neil Cheverton, the Royal Australian Navy’s Assistant Naval Advisor – London, representing the Australian High Commissioner.

"This is a very exciting day for Great Ayton, particularly following the rediscovery of part of the foundations of the Cook’s cottage, left behind when the cottage itself was dismantled then re-erected in Australia,” Lord Crathorne said.

“I have visited the cottage in Melbourne and it has become one of the most visited attractions in Australia.

“I hope many people from Australia and elsewhere will come to visit the site of the cottage, the refurbished garden and other places in the locality with Captain Cook connections,” he said. 

Commander Cheverton, who is a Hydrographic Surveyor, said it was an honour to be able to attend the event.

“It was a real honour for me, both an Australian and as a serving Naval Officer.

“The bonds between Australia and the United Kingdom have always been strong and they are deepened by our shared heritage.

Captain Cook is an admired figure in Australia and New Zealand and his discoveries eventually led to the opening up of the New Holland and, what his fellow explorer Mathew Flinders would eventually call, Australia.

“As a young boy, I read the stories of his voyages and it inspired me for my own path as an explorer and service to my own country.

“I have followed his tracks along the east coast of Australia on many occasions as a modern mariner and have reflected at the things he must have seen.

“I have also marvelled at the skill in which he charted the area. 

“To see his own inspirations in a place where his imagination was shaped is a privilege for me and I am sure, for the many visitors that will come to see for themselves,” Commander Cheverton said.

Interpretation boards, a new website and leaflets have also been created as part of the project.

The excavation work of the foundations was also filmed for the archives – and for display at the Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum in the village.