Captain James Cook trained here in Whitby, and Bram Stoker was inspired by the church yard and abbey in Whitby to write ‘Dracula’. Whitby jet stone, the town’s iconic deep black stone popular with the Victorians, is on sale in many unique craft shops and the Victorian bay and beautiful historic harbour are the perfect setting for a relaxing break. Visit the Whitby Museum and see over 500 stunning heritage pieces of Whitby jet including chessboards, a Whitby jet model of the Abbey and jewellery.
Captain Cook Memorial Museum
Discover the fascinating history of Captain James Cook at the award-winning Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby. The museum’s location has close links with Cook as it was the house of John Walker, to whom Cook came as apprentice in 1746. The famous Cook’s Attic, where Cook and around 16 other apprentices lodged is within the museum and is much as it would have been in Cook’s day.
Cook learnt his trade here in Whitby under the guidance of Quaker shipowner and close lifelong friend John Walker. Born nearby in Marton-in-Cleveland in 1728, Cook had his first ship – the Freelove by 1747 stocked with a coal cargo bound for London. From modest beginnings Cook’s rise to fame as navigator and epic explorer on three renowned voyages is detailed in the Captain Cook Museum here at Whitby. Cook was internationally acclaimed in his day and was the first to cross the Antarctic Circle as well as circumnavigating and charting New Zealand and charting the east coast of Australia. Both the founding of Australia and New Zealand can be traced to Captain James Cook.
The museum has many treasures including letters written by Cook, documents and accounts such as Cook’s Second Voyage towards the South Pole in 1777 given to Walker and numerous paintings by Thomas Gainsborough. Themed Rooms include the Orientation Room displaying maps of the known world before Cook’s voyages and the Voyages Room which track’s Cook’s three main epic voyages. The museum’s focus is the life and work of Cook, but in the Whitby Room the town’s history, via 18th century paintings, is given due attention as well as exhibits documenting Cook’s time in Whitby. Special exhibitions change regularly and events run throughout the year usually coinciding with major events in Whitby such as the Regatta.
The little Whitby Museum at Pannett Park features a fascinating choice of exhibitions on Whitby’s social history, Whitby Abbey, displays on Captain Cook and his travels, examples of Victorian Whitby Jet and Jet Jewellery, shipping and fishing heritage, weapons and militaria. The museum also holds a large collection of fossils and exhibits from the natural world and sheds light on particular maritime subjects integral to Whitby’s history including whaling.
Formed over millions of years from the fossilised wood of a tree from the Jurassic period akin to a Monkey Puzzle tree, Whitby Jet is light yet with a high polish and intense colour. The stone is completely unique and unmistakable. Popular at the end of the 19th Century due in large part to Queen Victoria’s particular love of Whitby Jet Jewellery, the stone very much represented the Victorian mood towards death. Whitby Jet is still very popular today and unique to this stretch of the Yorkshire Coast.
The Whitby Museum in Pannett Park is essential vising for fans of Whitby Jet. Inside see one of the best collections of Whitby jet artifacts and jewellery in existence. Over 500 Whitby Jet items are held by the museum including Jet necklaces, brooches and various quirky items such as a Jet model of Whitby Abbey, prayer book covers and chess tables.