James Cook was born in Marton about 25 miles south of Staithes the second child of seven born to parents Grace (nee Pace) and James Cook. When he was 8 years old the family moved, as tenants, to Aireyholme Farm a short distance from Great Ayton where James received a basic education at the village school. For a short period at the end of his school days James worked for his father on the farm.
Thomas Skottowe, Lord of the Manor of Ayton, appears to have took a great interest in the lives of his tenants as it is to the business of Thomas's wife's brother-in-law, William Sanderson, that James becomes apprenticed.
In 1744 James moves to Staithes to work in the shop of William Sanderson. In those days of poor roads and no railway the best form of long distance transportation was by sea making Staithes in addition to its fishing activities a very busy little port. It was not long before the interests of 16 year old James moved from being a farmer or a shop keeper to that of becoming a seaman.
Captain James Cook's Cottage in Staithes, North Yorkshire
Image by John Vincent dated: July, 2004
James appears to have been either a lucky lad or a complete pain as his employers seem to have been keen for him to move on. It is to a friend of William Sanderson another merchant called John Walker that James moves next. In July 1746 James moves to Whitby to take a position in the Walker family business but his time there was a difference because the Walker's were ship owners too!
The rest as they say is history and James's life was to take him far away from his humble beginnings in North Yorkshire. One thing is for sure it is Staithes that can take credit for introducing Captain James Cook to his life at sea.