Captain Cook Birthplace Museum reopens!

As I said in my last post, the last few weeks have been a total treat for lovers of history and museums, with the reopening of the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum after its renovation, and the launch of the Tokyo to the Tees: Middlesbrough and Japan 1877-1939 exhibition at the Dorman Museum. So, having covered the new Dorman exhibition in my last post, today I’m going to talk about the Cook!

After a period of renovation during the winter, the museum reopened on 1st June with its new exhibition Gotta Catch ‘Em All: Natural history collecting on Captain Cook’s voyages.

A lot of the renovation work has involved the education facilities, so it’s not something that everyday visitors will notice, but it’s no less important – the museum provides fabulous education opportunities for local schools, and the new ‘mess deck’ area will really improve the experience that children get.

Plus, with the education area newly refurbished and increased in size, it also now includes last year’s super popular Walkabout exhibition.

Education sessions are now fully booked, with the first school group having visited this past week, and we’re sure they’ll all have a Cook-tastic time! (Cook-tastic is a word, honest… 😌 #cheese)

Now onto the new exhibition…

With the internet at our fingertips, it’s almost impossible to imagine a situation in which we might see an animal we don’t recognise and know nothing about, but that was the reality for the crew on Cook’s voyages – no checking Wikipedia or Snapchatting a photo and asking for help! Because of that, it was important to have people recording all of the plants and animals they saw, both in words and by creating detailed drawings. Imagine being an explorer and coming across this strange-looking creature (a Flying Fox), with no idea what it was or whether it could bite and poison you… 😱

Not only that, but explorers also bought unusual and exotic specimens home with them, sparking a craze for collecting animals which continues today (as the exhibition name suggests, just look at Pokémon Go!)

The exhibition also includes a breathtaking replica of the type of cabin which would have been used for the examining and recording of specimens collected by the scientists aboard the Endeavour. We don’t want to give too much away, so we’re not showing you the inside of the cabin, but here’s the outside – even that is stunning, and is based on historical references of ships from the time.

Last but not least, you all know that it’s (almost) impossible for a Love Middlesbrough Lass to write a post without some mention of food and/or cake, so here it is! We were extremely excited to hear about the newly opened Cook’s Cafe, and of course had to try it out when we visited.

 

We weren’t disappointed, especially with the ice cream (salted caramel 😍😍). There’s a mega range of sandwich and panini fillings, plus breakfasts (you can never go wrong with a cooked breakfast), sausage rolls (gotta love a good sausage roll), and cake (goes without saying that the presence of cake makes us very happy).

We can definitely vouch for the deliciousness of the quiche, and Love Middlesbrough Lass Claire, who is a connoisseur of sweet potato fries, was very impressed with the bowl we shared (plus you get an absolute heap of them so great for very hungry people like us!)

The pricing is really good too, fab if you’re taking a family there.

We’d definitely recommend it – a perfect end to a fantastic morning or afternoon exploring the museum ❤️

We love International Museum Day!

Happy International Museum Day!

Given that museums are so full of history, and the fact that I just can’t stop myself being a history geek, I thought today was the perfect opportunity to talk about some lesser-known local museum history.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that we’ve only ever had two museums in Middlesbrough, but in fact, there was a second museum which opened after the Dorman and before the Captain Cook Birthplace.

Exhibiting a collection of mammals and birds, and local bygones, a relatively dinky museum lived in rooms in Marton Hall (a beautiful building located in what is now Stewart Park, which was unfortunately lost to fire).  The museum opened on June 18th 1931, but closed in 1939 when the outbreak of WWII required the Fire Brigade to take over the space it was occupying.  Sadly, it never reopened.

This fab little titbit came from The History of Middlesbrough by William Lillie, Borough Librarian (1968).

The Museum, Stewart Park, Middlesbrough
(Postcard from my own collection)


Delving even further back into history, a forerunner to Middlesbrough’s museums opened in 1859.  On Monday, 18 April, the Middlesbrough Polytechnic Exhibition opened at the Oddfellows’ Hall on Bridge Street West.

It was a great collection of objects, some of which fell into neat categories like watercolour paintings, but by far the biggest category was ‘miscellaneous’, so it was probably best described as items from people’s personal collections!

Contributors included HRH Prince Albert, the Earl of Zetland (the Second, Thomas Dundas), local notables HWF Bolckow and messers John and Henry Pease, current and future mayors of Middlesbrough, William Fallows and Edgar Gilkes, and prestigious manufacturers including Minton and Coalbrookdale.

This exhibition was four years before the Middlesbrough Athanaeum – a society organised for the cultivation of literature, science and the arts – was inaugurated (also at the Oddfellows’ Hall), and thirty one years before Middlesbrough’s first ‘museum’ opened to the public in the Town Hall, so it was probably only open to a select group of people.

Pages from the Polytechnic Exhibition programme
(From the Dorman Museum’s collection)


We couldn’t have a blog post about museums without mentioning our two gems.

The Dorman Memorial Museum opened in 1904, a gift to the town from Sir Arthur Dorman, in memory of his son George Lockwood Dorman, who died in the Boer War.  Dorman Museum The museum originally showcased the impressive personal collections of notable local figures, including Ancient Roman and Egyptian artefacts, and the extensive T. H. Nelson ornithological collection, which was bequeathed to the museum in 1914.

Today, the museum holds the largest public collection of stunning locally-produced Linthorpe Art Pottery in the world, and a highly impressive collection of items designed by the visionary Victorian industrial designer, Dr. Christopher Dresser.

The Captain Cook Birthplace Museum opened on the 28th October 1978 Captain Cook Birthplace Museum – the 250th anniversary of Cook’s birth. Its site in Stewart Park is close to the granite urn which marks the site of the cottage where Cook was born.

The galleries tell the story of the world-famous navigator, from his birth in Marton to his voyages.  It also has fab temporary exhibitions on Cook-related themes like seafaring, Pacific animals, and Australian Aboriginal life.

So there you go, a full on history geek post for International Museum Day!

#ETW17: Middlesbrough’s museums and culture

Dorman Museum

Middlesbrough’s first museum, the Dorman Museum, tells the fascinating history of our wonderful town.Dorman Museum in the spring
As well as local history, the museum has the world’s largest public collection of Linthorpe Art Pottery (world-renowned in the Victorian era and produced just a mile away from where the museum now stands), and an internationally-significant collection of items designed by the surprisingly forward-thinking Victorian industrial designer, Dr. Christopher Dresser, who was for a time the Art Superintendent at the Linthorpe Pottery. (Sorry, geeking out a little over the Dresser collection here!)

Plus, Dressers Tea Room at the museum is adorably cute and very traditional, and does amazing cake (I should know, I’ve eaten a lot of it!)

Captain Cook Birthplace Museum

Middlesbrough’s second museum is dedicated to one of the world’s greatest navigators, Captain James Cook.Pacific Predators at the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum

Cook was born in a cottage which once stood close to where the museum stands today – a granite urn, placed there by legendary Middlesbrough industrialist Henry Bolckow, marks the spot.

After a £500,000 government grant, the museum, which is in the heart of the beautiful Stewart Park, is being transformed, with refurbishments to the first floor and the creation of a new temporary gallery space – which means even more Cook for your buck (sorry)! After the epic Pacific Predators exhibition last year, we can’t wait to see what 2017 brings at the Cook!

Middlesbrough Town Hall

If you’ve been checking our Instagram, you’ll have seen that we recently got a sneaky behind the scenes tour of the multi-million pound renovations currently taking place at the Town Hall. Middlesbrough Town Hall sneak peekBeing a bit (okay, a lot) of a history geek, I’m super excited that they’ll be restoring some of the most historic areas of the building, like the old courtroom and police cells.
But it’s not just the heritage which will benefit; the main concert hall is also being completely refurbished, and work is taking place which will help visitors to have an even better experience when they go to massive concerts and gigs with comedy legends. (We’re talking about boring but essential things like toilets, and exciting and very essential things like the bar!) As Sarah Millican would say, champion!

Middlesbrough Theatre

Middlesbrough Theatre was opened by Sir John Gielgud in 1957 – so happy 60th birthday for this year! – and was one of the first theatres built in England after the Second World War. The theatre plays host to a packed programme of productions, from unique shows by local playwrights to crowd-pleasers like The Ladyboys of Bangkok – not bad for a theatre was originally named the ‘Little Theatre’. With over 450 seats, it’s not really that little!

Galleries

You’d be forgiven for wondering where all of Middlesbrough’s galleries are, because we have some little gems which are hidden away off the beaten track.Neon and That by Stuart Langley
The House of Blah Blah lives in what was Victorian Middlesbrough’s post office, neatly tucked away in Exchange Square right by Teesside Archives. Hosting everything from exhibitions of neon artworks to Christmas markets to warehouse parties, it’s definitely one of the town’s most unique spaces.
In contrast, the more traditional gallery spaces, Python Gallery and the Heritage Gallery at Cargo Fleet, exhibit paintings, photography, and other works from local artists. mima brings things up to the minute with modern art, discussing themes including housing, migration, inequality, and regeneration through their exhibitions.

Transporter Bridge

A blog about Middlesbrough wouldn’t be a blog about Middlesbrough without a mention of the Transporter Bridge.Transporter Bridge on a sunny day

Our beautiful blue dragonfly isn’t just a handy way to cross between Middlesbrough and Stockton, it’s also one of the country’s premier extreme sports venues (abseiling or bungee jumping, anyone?) and an attraction in its own right.  Standing over 150ft above the River Tees, the views from the top are pretty magnificent, and the new glass lift is the perfect way to get up there and see them. You can book a glass lift tour online.

Middlesbrough skyline from the Transporter Bridge

Love Middlesbrough Lasses
x

On the Trail of Young James Cook

Discover Middlesbrough kicked off last Friday with a walkabout and tucker in James Cook’s birthplace, Marton. What made this event that bit more special was the presence amongst the walkers of a couple visiting from Melbourne, Australia.

marton-philSenior Museums Curator Phil Philo and Education Officer Jenny Phillips let the antipodean visitors down gently by explaining that the Melbourne Captain Cook Cottage had actually been the Great Ayton home of James Cook senior. We were on the trail of the birthplace and early haunts of his son, the navigator and explorer who would go on to chart the eastern seaboard of Australia and put it on our global maps.

This Marton walkabout took in two Marton’s, for we first explored the lost village of East Marton and looked for clues to the equally lost birthplace of James Cook, which took place some 278 years ago on Thursday. Or at least it is the birthday by the Gregorian calendar; for the calendar changed at a cost of 13 days during Cook’s lifetime. A fact that Phil and Jenny brought to our attention.

marton-birthplace-urnDuring this fascinating walk we discovered former roads, house sites and features that would have been familiar to James Cook junior. Many of them were very close to the Birthplace Museum and inside Stewart Park. Immediately outside the park there are still many houses in the old village that date to Cook’s century. Jenny read to us a list of the trades carried out by living near to the village green.

marton-greenOn Marton Green we stopped to look at another tangible link to Australia. A piece of Australia in fact, gifted to Cook’s birthplace village. Then it was over to St Cuthbert’s Church and a fascinating tour by incumbent, Reverend Andrew Grant of this historic building. This is a building that James Cook would have known very well indeed and there are some notable features recording the association with Marton’s most famous son.

marton-churchAfter all that walking and talking we were ready for the tucker in Nana Tom’s, the museum café. I always think it is like a tree house café as you look out between the trunks and branches of trees that might have been planted by Bartholomew Rudd or Henry Bolckow, two owners of the estate with perhaps contrasting views on James Cook’s cottage.

On this fascinating walk you will learn exactly why the birthplace cottage has disappeared. How Marton lost its iconic painting of James Cook. And where parkrunners can look out for the main street of East Marton as they scuttle past on a Saturday morning.

It is a real privilege to be guided by two absolute founts of knowledge regarding the life and times of James Cook. As a Marton boy myself I find it enthralling to glean more insights about the village before it was swallowed hole as a suburb of Middlesbrough.

Don’t worry if you missed the walk because the very good news is that the fascinating tour will be repeated this Friday (28th October) at 2pm. Only costing £5 and you get your tucker, tea and cake included in the price. Don’t miss this gentle stroll, very short on distance but extremely high on historical interest.

Places can be booked at the Museum shop 01642 311211

marton-walkabout