Coordinates: 54°33′23″N 0°47′44″W / 54.5564°N 0.79561°W / 54.5564; -0.79561
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View of the village
Staithes is located in North Yorkshire
Location within North Yorkshire
OS grid referenceNZ779185
Civil parish
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtTS13
PoliceNorth Yorkshire
FireNorth Yorkshire
UK Parliament
List of places
54°33′23″N 0°47′44″W / 54.5564°N 0.79561°W / 54.5564; -0.79561

Staithes is a village in North Yorkshire, England. Easington and Roxby Becks, which run into Staithes Beck, form the border between the unitary authorities of North Yorkshire and Redcar and Cleveland.[1] The area located on the Redcar and Cleveland side is called Cowbar. Formerly a hub for fishing and mining, Staithes is now a tourist destination in the North York Moors National Park.


The name Staithes derives from Old English and means 'landing-place'.[2] It has been suggested that it is so named after being the port for the nearby Seaton Hall and Hinderwell.[3] The spelling Steers or Steeas is sometimes used to indicate the traditional local dialect pronunciation /stɪəz/.[4] The demonym given to people from the village is "Steerser".

At the turn of the 20th century, there were 80 full-time fishing boats putting out from Staithes. A hundred years later there are still a few part-time fisher men. There is a long tradition of using the coble (a traditional fishing vessel) in Staithes.[5][6]


Staithes has numerous narrow streets and passageways; one of these, Dog Loup, with a width of just 18 inches (46 cm), is claimed to be the narrowest alley in the world.[7] It was reported in 1997 that the Royal Mail were encouraging the occupants of Staithes to number their houses instead of relying on names. Whilst the usual postperson had no difficulty with the narrow streets and cottages, the relief postal staff were getting confused. Royal Mail also claimed it would aid the efficiency of their postal machines which automatically read the addresses.[8]


The oldest and best-known part of the village is clustered around the sheltered harbour, bounded by high cliffs and two long breakwaters.[9] The more modern upper village is located at the top of the hill, centred on the junction of the High Street and the A174 road.[10]

A mile to the west is Boulby Cliff where, for a brief period, alum was extracted from quarried shale and used as a mordant to improve the strength and permanency of colour when dying cloth. The mining operation ended when a cheaper chemical method was developed.[11] The ruined remnants of the mines can be seen from the cliff top when walking the Cleveland Way between Staithes and Skinningrove.[12]


Staithes is a destination for geologists researching the Jurassic (Lias), strata in the cliffs surrounding the village. In the early 1990s, a rare fossil of a seagoing dinosaur was discovered after a rockfall between Staithes and Port Mulgrave to the south.[13] This fossil has been the focus of an ongoing project to remove the ancient bones of the creature. Port Mulgrave remains one of the best places on the northern coast to find fossils of ammonites and many visitors spend hours cracking open the shaly rocks on the shoreline in the hope of finding a perfect specimen.[14]


The parish church is St Peter, Staithes. The Roman Catholic church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea was built in 1885.

There were formerly five churches in the village: St Peter's Church (Church of England), Our Lady Star of the Sea (Roman Catholic), the Bethel Chapel (Baptist), the Primitive Methodist Chapel and the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel. Staithes retained the two denominations of Methodist churches, even after the Methodist Union. The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel closed in 2010 after a financial review.[15]


Between 1883 and 1958, the village was served by Staithes railway station which was on the Whitby, Redcar and Middlesbrough Union Railway.[16] The southern end of the village is bisected by the A174 road between Thornaby-on-Tees and Whitby.[17]

Culture and events[edit]

The permanent population of Staithes has decreased since the 1970s, due to the decline of the fishing and mining industries and an increase in second homes and holiday cottages. Because of this, many of the village's traditions are no longer practised.

Staithes Bonnets were traditionally worn by the women inhabitants of the village, with some older residents still wearing them daily in the 1990s. The cotton bonnets were sewn by hand, and helped to protect the wearer's hair and face when carrying out fishing work. The bonnets were traditionally white, but colourful and patterned bonnets came in during the Second World War when fabric was being rationed, and the women would recycle their dresses into headgear. A black bonnet was worn during the deep mourning period, which was then swapped, after a period of 2–3 years, for a mauve or lavendar bonnet during half-mourning. There are a few women left in the village who still sew Staithes Bonnets.[18]

Superstitions in Staithes had a part in everyday life. One of the most well known village superstitions is the aversion to say the word "pig". It is believed saying this word will bring bad luck.[19] Fishermen who heard this word would refuse to go to sea in case they drowned. Instead, locals will call the animals "grecians" "grunters" "oinkers" "four legged creatures" or spell out the word.[20] The word "grecian" has no link to Greece and is theorised by local historians to come from Old Norse, however this has not been proven. Ironically there is a pig farm overlooking the village. Previously this belief applied to all four-legged animals, including dogs and cats, however pigs were considered the unluckiest animal of them all.[19] The superstition today only pertains to pigs. Other superstitions include the belief that if all jackdaws leave Cowbar, that side of the village will fall into the sea.

Men of Staithes are a fishermen's choir who perform sea shanties and hymns in the village.

The Roxby Run is a local pub crawl. It starts at The Fox and Hounds in the nearby village of Dalehouse then goes to Staithes Athletic Club, The Captain Cook Inn, The Black Lion (now closed) The Royal George before finishing at The Cod and Lobster on the harbour front.[21]

Staithes Museum is located in the disused primitive Methodist chapel on Staithes High Street. The museum was set up by Reginald Firth in 1993 and houses a collection relating to the history of Staithes and Captain James Cook who lived in the village as a teenager. In 2019 the Museum was taken on by a charitable trust.

Staithes and Runswick RNLI Lifeboat Weekend takes place in August each year and features a nightgown parade. The event raises money for, and encourages participation with the Staithes and Runswick Lifeboat Station.[22]

Staithes Festival of Arts and Heritage takes place in September each year. The first event was held in 2012.[13] Houses and other properties throughout the village open their doors to the public as pop-up galleries, creating a trail through the village. In addition, events celebrating the heritage of Staithes are held.[23]

Staithes in popular culture[edit]

Several episodes of The Fast Show feature sketches filmed in Staithes.

The series Old Jack's Boat, starring Bernard Cribbins, was set and filmed in Staithes,[24] with Old Jack's house located at 4 Cowbar Bank.[25]

The film Phantom Thread features scenes filmed in Staithes.[26]

The 2020 Christmas special of Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing saw Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse was filmed in Staithes. A local tour guide noted that the village's appearance on the show had caused interest in the village to go "ballistic".[27]


Local news and television programmes are provided by BBC North East and Cumbria and ITV Tyne Tees. Television signals are received from the Bilsdale TV transmitter and the local relay transmitter.[28]

Local radio stations are BBC Radio Tees, Capital North East, Smooth North East, Heart North East, Greatest Hits Radio Yorkshire Coast, This is The Coast and Coast and County Radio.

Staithes is covered by these local newspapers, Whitby Gazette and TeessideLive.


Staithes Athletic Club Cricket Club ground is situated off Seaton Crescent, Staithes.[29] The club has two senior teams: a Saturday 1st XI that compete in the Scarborough Beckett Cricket League,[30] a Midweek Senior XI in the Esk Valley Evening League[31] and a junior section that compete in the Derwent Valley Junior Cricket League.[32]

Notable people[edit]

James Cook worked in Staithes as a shop keeper's apprentice between 1745 and 1746.[33] He was apprenticed to local merchant and banker William Sanderson. Sanderson's shop, where Cook lived and worked, was destroyed by the sea c.1850,[17] but parts were recovered and incorporated into Captain Cook's Cottage on Church Street.[34]


The village was home to a group of around 50 artists known as the Staithes Group, or Northern Impressionists. The group was made up of painters such as Edward E. Anderson, Joseph R. Bagshawe, Thomas Barrett and James W. Booth; with Dame Laura Knight and her husband Harold Knight working in the village for many years.[35] The group mainly painted en plein air in oils and water colours and were inspired by the French impressionists.[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "OL27" (Map). North York Moors. 1:25,000. Explorer. Ordnance Survey. 2016. ISBN 9780319242667.
  2. ^ Ekwall, Eilert (1960). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-names (4th ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 436. ISBN 0-19-869103-3.
  3. ^ "Staithes conservation area appraisal" (PDF). North York Moors National Park Authority. January 2001. p. 3. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  4. ^ Kellett, Arnold (1994), The Yorkshire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition and Folklore, Smith Settle, p. 175, ISBN 1-85825-016-1
  5. ^ " / Staithes". Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  6. ^ "From Captain Cook to CBeebies at the seaside". Yorkshire Evening Post. 6 March 2017. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  7. ^ "A Travel guide to the seaside town of Staithes, Yorkshire". Travel Earth. 23 May 2010. Retrieved 2 July 2021.
  8. ^ Burnham, Nigel (24 March 1997). "Number's up for Captain Cook's village". The Independent. Archived from the original on 24 May 2022. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  9. ^ "Better moorings for Staithes harbour". Whitby Gazette. 16 August 2016. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  10. ^ "Images of the Old Fishing Village". Retrieved 23 March 2024.
  11. ^ Historic England. "Boulby Alum Quarries and works (1018336)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  12. ^ Dillon, Paddy (2010). The Cleveland Way and the Yorkshire Wolds Way with the Tabular Hills walk. Cumbria: Cicerone Press. pp. 144–147. ISBN 978-1849654128.
  13. ^ a b "Picture Post: Wave of visitors for Staithes, courtesy of children's TV show". The Yorkshire Post. 3 February 2014. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  14. ^ Appleby, John (11 August 2014). "Hanging by a thread: Whitby's jet and fossil hunters". The Guardian.
  15. ^ "Northgate :: Document Store Provider". Retrieved 17 May 2024.
  16. ^ "Disused Stations: Staithes Station". Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  17. ^ a b England (6 ed.). London: Rough Guides. 2004. p. 1031. ISBN 1-84353-249-2.
  18. ^ Jeffels, David (30 June 2010). "Keeping the fishing bonnets tradition alive in Staithes". Gazette & Herald. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  19. ^ a b Miller, Stephen (1885). "Notes and Queries". The Folk-Lore Journal. 3 (1): 378. doi:10.1080/17442524.1885.10602795 – via Taylor and Francis Online.
  20. ^ "Why some superstitious North Yorkshire villagers refuse to say the word 'pig'". Darlington and Stockton Times. 30 January 2022. Retrieved 17 May 2024.
  21. ^ "Staithes – The North Yorkshire Gallery". The North Yorkshire Gallery. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  22. ^ Robson, Dave (9 August 2018). "Staithes Lifeboat Weekend to go ahead despite rock fall tragedy". Gazette Live. Retrieved 9 March 2019.
  23. ^ "Staithes Festival". Staithes Festival of Art and Heritage. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  24. ^ "Staithes showcased in children's TV programme Old Jack's Boat". Whitby Gazette. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  25. ^ "Staithes". Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  26. ^ "TV and Film Locations". North York Moors National Park. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  27. ^ Storer, Rhi (20 December 2020). "'Gone ballistic': village of Staithes basks in BBC fishing limelight". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 26 December 2023.
  28. ^ "Freeview Light on the Staithes (Redcar and Cleveland, England) transmitter". UK Free TV. 1 May 2004. Retrieved 24 January 2024.
  29. ^ "Staithes Athletic Club CC website". Staithes Athletic Club Cricket Club. Retrieved 17 October 2021.
  30. ^ "Scarborough Beckett Cricket League". SBCL. Retrieved 17 October 2021.
  31. ^ "Esk Valley Evening League". EVEL. Retrieved 17 October 2021.
  32. ^ "Derwent Valley Junior Cricket League". DVJCL. Retrieved 17 October 2021.
  33. ^ Beaglehole, J. C. (1992). "1: The North Sea". The life of Captain James Cook (9 ed.). California.: Stanford Univ. Press. p. 5. ISBN 0-8047-2009-6.
    - "Captain James Cook's early life at Staithes". Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  34. ^ "James Cook in the North East – Staithes and Whitby". Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  35. ^ "Forgotten work by Staithes Group artist goes under the hammer". Yorkshire Post. 14 February 2016. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  36. ^ "Eminent Staithes Group artwork hidden away for a century". Whitby Gazette. 11 September 2012. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
    - "Hidden talents". The Northern Echo. 15 February 2010. Retrieved 3 April 2017.

External links[edit]