Some years back while I was flying to Chicago, elderly twin sisters from Melbourne seated next to me peppered many praises on their hometown. As I bid them adieu on landing, out of all attractions underlined, they enthusiastically reminded about Cook’s Cottage. “Don’t forget to explore it whenever you plan to be in Melbourne for its captivating history and charm.”
I recalled their words, the moment I stepped in the same cottage during my recent visit to this popular Australian city. As one of the volunteer guides there, unfolded its history, I instantly understood why it was so fervently promoted during that air journey. Located in historic Fitzroy Gardens, which lies at a walking distance from several other touristy spots and landmarks in Melbourne CBD, it was surprisingly brought on a ship all the way from England to Australia.
It’s the home which was built in 1755 by a famous British navigator and explorer - Captain James Cook’s father in Great Ayton Yorkshire, England. However, in June of 1933 when it was up for sale, it was bought by a Melbourne based businessman and philanthropist Russell Grimwade for 800 pounds who wanted to gift it to the city of Melbourne to historically mark its centenary of European settlement in 1934. All due to Cook’s Australian connection, who is known to have discovered Australia in 1770 during his first voyage.
When it comes to bringing the cottage to Australia, it was meticulously brought down –brick by brick. Every brick was also given a number and then packed into hundreds of cases and barrels that were brought on a ship called Port Dunedin. And for this transportation, it costed nearly 2,000 pounds more. Finally, when the ship reached Melbourne after a long journey –many locations were debated for it including outside the State Library of Victoria but was eventually finalised for Fitzroy Gardens. Roping in the best hands in construction, it took several months to reconstruct and on October 15 in 1934, it was finally opened to the public which ever since became an instant hit among locals and tourists alike.
Sitting as a double storey and radiating quintessential old British charm, I was muddled from where to start first. I however began with the enthralling ivy plant which has climbed the cottage and has blanketed it in patches. My eyes still glued, the guide interrupted, “Interestingly, this plant also came on the ship and was re-grown here. Still surviving and shinning, it’s truly a nature’s miracle.”
Filled with another exciting fact, I headed in. I first met the simple kitchen with a small fireplace, dotted with old furniture. It was also used as living room and I soon climbed the petit stairs to proceed to its first floor which has a main bedroom. I remember there was also a large container under the bed which was used for filling coal to warm the bed during the harsh winters of England, shared another guide there.
Gazing out of the windows from both kitchen and the bedroom takes one to its kitchen garden which also existed along the cottage in England. It boasts myriad of herbs, flowers, and vegetables on which Cook’s family was dependent not only for daily meals but also using many of its plants as medicines.
Meanwhile, on the back is another room which was used as a stable for horses but it’s now being used as a discovery center which screens documentaries on this house and Cook’s life. It treated me with a rich history. Before my final au revoir to the cottage which is also known as Australia’s oldest building, like many other visitors, I didn’t forget trying the 18th century English costumes hung up outside. Once clad, I asked myself, am I a resident of this cottage?
- Address: Fitzroy Gardens; Wellington Parade, East Melbourne Victoria 3002; T: 00619658-9658
- Admission Price: AU$6.70 for an adult and AU$3.70 for children from 5-15 years
- Open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, except Christmas Day
- Other than walking from other attractions, one can also take the free tram of the city, just disembark at Spring Street, if taking the train get down at Parliament or Jolimont stations