From the Archives, 1934: Cooks’ Cottage transported to Melbourne

First published in The Age on October 16, 1934


OFFICIAL OPENING – Handed Over to City Council

Cook Cottage, the little two-story brick cottage from Great Ayton, Yorkshire, which has been transported to Australia and rebuilt in the beautiful and appropriate surroundings of the Fitzroy Gardens, was officially opened and handed over to the City Council yesterday afternoon.

Cooks’ Cottage in Yorkshire, England, just before it was dismantled and packed in 1934.

The cottage, which has become familiar in appearance to most Victorians because of the numerous photographs of it which have appeared in recent months, has been rebuilt exactly as it stood in the Yorkshire village, even to the ivy climbing around the walls. This ivy was brought out from England, and it has already begun to flourish and grow in its new environment.

The cottage has been rebuilt in one of the most picturesque spots in the gardens, not far from the Conservatorium, near Lansdowne-street. Surrounded by typically English trees, such as elms and oaks, and wide-spreading green lawns and flower beds, and with a neat little garden and a low iron fence around it, the cottage stands in surroundings as like the original English surroundings as it is possibie to imagine. When the ivy has crept over the walls the picture will be complete.

Inside, the house has been simply but appropriately furnished with relics, pictures, chairs and furnishings of the period, so that the home atmosphere of the Cook family’s day is most faithfully reproduced. After the opening ceremony yesterday the house was open for inspection, and visitors expressed admiration of the unique cottage and the charming and sympathetic manner in which the cottage had been reconstructed and furnished. It will please and delight many thousands of people.

The opening and handing-over ceremony took place under dark, gloomy skies, with rain threatening to fall at any moment. There was a large attendance, including many representative citizens and Centenary guests. Among those present were Mrs. A. Dixon, of Great Ayton, who came specially to Australia to present the key of the cottage to the Premier. Mrs. Dixon’s husband is a member of the firm of Dixon Bros., who sold the cottage to Mr. Grimwade.

Mr Grimwade’s Speech

The statue of Captain James Cook in the Fitzroy GardensCredit:Penny Stephens

Mr. Russell Grimwade, who presented the cottage to the State, said the story of the building had been published many times with truth and with imagination (Laughter.) He outlined the series of negotiations that had taken place leading up to the purchase of the cottage, and said that in reviewing those negotiations he could only say that they had proved irrefutably what the Poet Laureate (Mr. Masefield) had termed “the extraordinary decency of everybody.” What better evidence of this could be furnished than the fact that the shipping company had carried the 253 packing cases free of freight, that the Federal Government itself had paid the primage duty due on the cases; that the stevedoring company, carriers, architects and builders had all done their little bit without seeking profit. (Applause.) Even the tradesmen had risked their reputations by building brick walls out of plumb, in faithful adherence to the architect’s plans. (Laughter.) He also desired to thank the donors of the exhibits within the cottage. He hoped the building would become a repository of relics of Captain Cook’s time. The flag floating overhead on the pole was that flown in 1928 at the Bi-centenary of Cook in Yorkshire. He also expressed thanks to the City Council for the beautiful gardens and surroundings. (Hear hear.)

There had been those who had carped and criticised during the negotiations, but in the long run they had merely served his purpose. For every note of dissent there had been twenty in reply to approve and support. (Hear hear.) This building was the home built by the parents of Captain Cook after he had gone to sea, and in which they had received him when he had come home, and where, no doubt, he told them of his experiences and exploits overseas. Naturally there had been some resentment in Yorkshire at losing such a valuable link with the past, but this had been assuaged by sending to Yorkshire from Australia an obelisk made of stones taken from that part of the Australian coast where Cook’s ship, the Endeavor, had first sighted Victoria. By this means it was hoped to strengthen the bonds of union which linked our Commonwealth with the English county. (Applause.)

Mr. Grlmwade then formally handed the key of the cottage to the Premier amid further applause.

Cooks’ Cottage in the Fitzroy GardensCredit:Publicity

The Premier (Sir S. Argyle) said the cottage reminded them all of the romantic story of Captain Cook’s life. If they could visualise Captain Cook having this cottage built in the Melbourne of his period they would realise that the bricks for the cottage would have had to be carried to this spot on the backs of the seamen, instead of by motor waggons as a few months ago. Those seamen would have had to make a track through an almost trackless bush. Such facts reminded them of the wonderful changes that had taken place in the course of years since the day when Pt. Hicks was sighted. This point was now known as Cape Everard, and was named aftor the father of the present Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. (Hear hear.)

This cottage furnished a link between the old and the new; between the little old village in England and modern Melbourne. He desired to express the gratitude of the people of the State to Mr. Grimwade for his generous and public-spirited action in presenting the cottage to the State. (Applause.) If it had not been for his energy, enthusiasm and generosity the cottage would not be in Australia today. He had done that as a Centenary gesture, which was warmly appreciated. He had even personally visited Cape Everard and supervised the selection of the stones for the obelisk for Great Ayton. (Applause.)

The task of the present generation was to see that this precious cottage was cared for and protected as a valuable link with the past. He had much pleasure in officially handing over the cottage to the care and protection of the Melbourne City Council, and he trusted that body would safeguard it in the years to come.

City Council’s Protection

The Lord Mayor (Sir. H.G. Smith) in accepting the cottage on behalf of the City Council, expressed the confident belief that it would always be cared for and protected. The council appealed to the citizens to care for and take an interest in this valuable historic building and thus help to replay Mr. Grimwade in some measure for his kindness, liberality and public-spiritedness (Applause)

Mrs. Grimwade was then handed the key by the Lord Mayor, and she officially opened the front door, and the visitors entered in single file to inspect the cottage.

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