James Cook got to spend his formative years in all the best places. Two years before he started his apprenticeship in Whitby, he spent some time in the charming little fishing village of Staithes, where he worked in a shop. In fact, his birthplace was only 25 miles south of Staithes, in Marton. Like Whitby, Staithes makes the most of its connection with the great Captain in the form of the Staithes Heritage Centre and Captain Cook Museum, housed in a building in the main street leading down through the village. The museum is a must for anyone who, like me, loves old photographs as it contains a veritable treasure trove of images of Staithes’ past, especially with regard to its fishing activities. The town even lent its name to a type of headgear called the Staithes Bonnet, worn by women who had to carry baskets of mussels and other loads on their heads. Not surprisingly, given the picturesque nature of this small town, Staithes has long been a magnet for artists, and like Newlyn in Cornwall, it gave its name to a group of artists: the “Staithes Group of Artists” some 25 in number, who came together around the year 1900. As with so many things, it was the arrival of the now disappeared railway which led to the initial trickle of artists turning into a flood, since before the railway was built Staithes was remote, with overland travel proving so difficult that many preferred to access it from the sea. The Staithes Group was best known for being at the forefront of British Impressionist painting. Two of the artists, Laura Knight and her husband Harold, used a tiny cottage in Staithes as a studio, and this cottage, one of the oldest in the town, is now available for rent as a holiday cottage.
Map of the area.