located furthest north on the East Yorkshire coast, is tucked into a cleft
of rock which forms a natural harbour in this rugged patch of coastline
North of Whitby. There's a Mediterranean feel to the community with its
crop of white-washed cottages and haphazard pantile roofs and there is
no order or plan to the houses which were literally built where it took
their owner's fancy! But there is nothing haphazard about its fishing
industry. This tiny village has been famous through the centuries for
its maritime heritage and was once one of the country's six biggest fishing
ports as well as a renowned boat building centre.
Over the years storms have lashed the coastline to such an extent that
many landmarks, including Captain Cook's old shop and home and the original
Cod and Lobster pub on the quayside, have been washed away.
But its romantic past and beautiful setting have inevitably attracted
many poets, writers and painters over the centuries and the so-called
Staithes Group of around 30 artists were based here around the late 1800s,
typifying the best in British Impressionist painting. Work by the group
is now represented in major public collections and in the Tate Gallery.
The Oxford dictionary defines a "staith" as a waterside coal depot equipped
for loading vessels. Smugglers were responsible for much of that activity,
not only haunting Staithes but also nearby Runswick Bay and Whitby which
were well known for midnight misdemeanours.
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