HERE'S a picture of grinding poverty if ever there was one. But where is it? Some remote eastern European town? A village in the foothills of the Himalayas?

No, our main picture is the pretty North Yorkshire fishing village of Staithes, just over a hundred years ago.

The photograph appears in A History of Whitby And Its Place Names by Whitby born-and-bred social historian Colin Waters, which we first dipped into last week.

“The village of Staithes was rarely visited by outsiders when this picture was taken in the late 1800s,” says the caption. You can see why.

The village, Colin notes, was once a safe haven for smugglers. And it’'s name? It was originally known as Seaton Staithes – which means, Colin says, Sea Town landing quays. It appears as such in lists of English villages between 1450 and 1462.

To another Staith for our first photo: Boyes Staith, in Whitby. As its names suggests, this small pier stuck out into the harbour in lower Church Street was once owned by a Mr Boyes.

The mud below it was once the traditional site of the planting of the Penny Hedge, or Horngarth – a ceremony that still takes place on the Eve of Ascension, Colin writes.

The custom has probably come down to us from the days when a fence was placed at the harbour’s edge, where animals were driven for de-horning, he believes. “One of the oldest buildings on the lower end of Church Street, now used as a motorcycle garage, was formerly called Horn House."

As you’d expect with a seaside fishing town, there were once many roperies or rope walks in Whitby: long, straight, narrow lanes, sometimes covered, where strands of fibre were laid, before being twisted into rope.

One of Whitby’s earliest was in Arundel Hole. It was 240 yards long and was owned by Nicholas Harker who, with his wife, died in a snowstorm on the Whitby to Scarborough road in 1816.

But Whitby’s last rope walk, Colin writes, was the one shown in our second picture, which stretched along the south side of Spital Beck, close to Spital Bridge. The old ropery buildings in the picture were in use until the First World War.

And finally, we have a glimpse of some of Whitby’s old mills. There were a number of these, of which the largest was the Union Mill, which stood on the site of what is now Harrison’s Garage at Flowergate Cross. It was owned by shareholders, Colin writes, who received their dividends not in cash but in flour.

The Union Mill is one of the three mills shown in our strip of pictures, taken from Colin’s book.

The last image is an etching or drawing of the three mills, as seen from the old main road from Whitby to Hawsker.

• A History Of Whitby And Its Place Names by Colin Waters is published by Amberley, priced £14.99.

York Press: An etching of the three mills, as seen from the old main road from Whitby to Hawsker

An etching of the three mills, as seen from the old main road from Whitby to Hawsker