The history of Staithes

Explore the history of Staithes - visiting this beautiful village feels like you are stepping back in time.

Fishing Heritage

The name Staithes means ‘landing place’ in Old English, and the village once boasted one of the largest fishing ports in the area with around 80 boats coming in and out of the harbour on a daily basis.

The fishermen traditionally used a coble which is a type of open fishing boat, developed on the North East Coast.

The coble has a distinctive shape which is flat-bottomed and high-bowed enabling the fishermen to launch and land on shallow, sandy beaches. The high bows are required to sail the treacherous North Sea.

The women at the time wore traditional Staithes bonnets, to protect themselves whilst they balanced fish baskets on their heads. They were very graceful as they had to hold themselves straight whilst balancing the heavy baskets of fish whilst walking back to the village.

Captain Cook

James Cook is the most famous resident of Staithes. He worked as a grocer’s apprentice for William Sanderson in 1745 in Staithes and discovered his passion for the sea. He eventually became one of the greatest explorers in history.

Sanderson introduced Cook to his shipowner friend John Walker who lived in Whitby, and took him on as an apprentice. Cook worked on the ships for nearly 10 years, sailing as far as Norway, before he joined the Navy in 1755. 

In 1768 Cook and his crew set sail from Plymouth aboard the Endeavour, and onboard Cook opened sealed instructions to discover he had to attempt to find the Great Southern Continent and claim it for the British Empire. The Endeavour arrived in New Zealand in 1769, and then went onto Australia.

Despite Cook’s failure to discover the mythical Great Southern Continent, a second trip was planned. In 1772 Cook sailed further south than any previous explorers, disproving the existence of the Great Southern Continent.

His third and final voyage started in 1776 to find the North West Passage. Cook discovered the Hawaii and sailed as far north as he could before ice in the Arctic Sea forced him back. Stopping off at Hawaii to repair a damaged mast, the ships cutter was stolen and during the fighting that broke out, Cook was killed at the age of 50.

There is no doubt that in Staithes Cook felt the call of the sea. It changed the course of his life and made history.

Art in Staithes

Staithes with its picturesque harbour, quaint cottages and dramatic scenery has long been a focal point for artists.

Staithes was home to a group of artists known as the ‘Staithes Group’ or the ‘Northern Impressionists’, which was formed in 1894.

Dame Laura Knight was the most famous artist in the Staithes Group and she had a studio in the village with her husband Harold Knight, also an artist.

Staithes now holds an annual festival of arts and heritage to celebrate this wonderful history. Many houses and businesses open as pop-up galleries during the festival, creating an art trail through the village. 

Find out more about the Art Festival here. 

Pop-up Gallery at Ravenscraig House

Ravenscraig House

Sometimes our guests are keen to find out a bit more about the history of the house, so we did some digging through the archives to find out more

Ravenscraig House was built in the early 1800s.

Following the opening of the Whitby, Redcar & Middlesborough Railway in 1883, there was an influx of visitors, many boarding with local families.

As Ravenscraig House was one of the larger properties in the village, it is believed that in various times in it’s history, it has been used as a boarding house for tradesmen, miners and artists.

In 1911 it was home to Dinah Alice Hick, who  worked in the fishing trade as a fish merchant. 

Records show that by the 1950s, Ravenscraig House was being marketed as four apartments to potential lodgers. It is believed that Wilf Mannion (1918-2000), a famous Middlesbrough & England inside forward used to stay at the house occasionally. 

We purchased the property in August 2015 and spent most of the next 12 months undertaking extensive refurbishment to bring it up to the standard of quality that our guests can enjoy today.

ravenscraig house staithes front exterior
Ravenscraig House in 2018