The Heritage of Staithes
Captain Cook, Britain’s greatest explorer, got his first taste of the sea at Staithes, and the Staithes Museum is a treasure house of his achievements and village history. That is quite some history, too. Once England’s sixth biggest fishing port, the traditional wooden cobles native to this area still leave the little harbour for lobster and crab, cod and mackerel.
The local RNLI lifeboat has a proud record of rescues from what has always been a notorious wrecking coast in North Sea storms, with much heroism and sacrifice.
The dramatic local cliffs have a longer history, throwing up discoveries which continue to fascinate historians and geologists - being rich in 160 million-year-old fossils. They have been worked by jet miners, ironstone miners and the mighty alum industry which clung to the edges of the coast since 1630s.
And archaeological excavations on the cliffs overlooking Staithes at Boulby have discovered over 100 graves dating from the 7th Century AD, including spectacular gold jewellery buried with the skeleton of a young woman dubbed the Loftus Princess. Most recently, a dig has unearthed a Neolithic saltworks which is the earliest of its kind discovered anywhere in Western Europe.
Staithes' unique past and its hardy fishing community have been richly caught on camera. Great Victorian photographers like Frank Meadow Sutcliffe and Tom Watson visited regularly and a precious reservoir of historic images will always be part of the festival.
Once again we will have a wide-ranging programme of talks, walks and workshops over the festival weekend which offer a fascinating glimpse in to the lives and skills of villagers. You might even see a former fisherman crafting a lobster pot!
For their generous contribution to our heritage programme of walks and talks in 2023 (which sold out), we'd like to thank Peter Appleton, Paul Bader, Andy Blackford, John Cole, Barbara Govan, Caroline Hawley, Bill Hinchley, Al Milnes, Stephen Sherlock, David Tindale, Jill Turton, Chris Toth, Mandy Wragg, and festival founder the late Grant McKee.