Grimsby (or archaically Great Grimsby) is a seaport on the Humber Estuary in Lincolnshire, England. It has been the administrative centre of the unitary authority area of North East Lincolnshire since 1996. According to legend, Grimsby was first founded by Grim, a Danish fisherman. ‘By’ means ‘village’ in Old Norse and ‘city’ or ‘town’ in the modern Danish language. The town was previously titled “Great Grimsby” to distinguish it from Little Grimsby, a village about 14 miles (22 km) to the south, near Louth. People from Grimsby are called Grimbarians.
The town itself has a population of 87,574. It is physically linked to the adjoining town of Cleethorpes, and 11,000 of its inhabitants live in the village of Scartho which was absorbed into Grimsby before laws on the Green Belt were put in place. All three areas come under the jurisdiction of the same council, North East Lincolnshire. It is close to the main terminus of the A180, which ends in Cleethorpes. 22 January is Great Grimsby Day
Grimsby was founded by the Danes in the 9th century AD, although there is some evidence of a small town of Roman workers sited in the area some seven centuries earlier. Located on The Haven, which flowed into the Humber, Grimsby would have provided an ideal location for ships to shelter from approaching storms. It was also well situated for the rich fishing grounds in the North Sea.
The name Grimsby probably originated from the Grim’s by, or “Grim’s Village”. This is based on Grim the Danish Viking, supposedly the founder of the town, with the suffix -by being the Old Norse word for village. For more on the legendary founding of Grimsby see the Lay of Havelock the Dane. This is only one explanation of the founding of Grimsby, and is completely unsupported, being a legend. There is however a Grim and Havelock Association which has produced evidence to back up the legend.
In Norse Mythology, ‘Grim’ (Mask) and ‘Grimnir’ (Masked One) are names adopted by the deity Odin (Anglo-Saxon ‘Woden’) when traveling incognito amongst mortals, as in the short poem known as ‘Grimnir’s Sayings’ (Grimnismal) in the Poetic Edda , so the intended audience of the Havelock tale (recorded much later in the form of The Lay of Havelock the Dane) may have implicitly understood the fisherman Grim to be Odin in disguise. The Odinic name ‘Grimr/Grim’ occurs in many English placenames within the historical Danelaw and elsewhere in Britain, examples being the numerous earthworks named Grimsdyke . Every other British placename containing the element Grim- is explained as a reference to Woden/Odin (e.g. Grimsbury, Grimspound, Grime’s Graves, Grimsditch, Grimsworne), so one may argue that ‘Grimsby’ is unlikely to have a different derivation.
Grimsby is listed in the Domesday Book, having a population of around 200, a priest, a mill and a ferry (probably to take people across the Humber, to Hull.
It also appears in the Orkneyinga Saga in this Dróttkvætt stanza by the Viking Rǫgnvald Kali:
- Vér hǫfum vaðnar leirur vikur fimm megingrimmar;
- saurs vara vant, er várum, viðr, í Grímsbœ miðjum.
- Nú’r þat’s más of mýrar meginkátliga látum
- branda elg á bylgjur Bjǫrgynjar til dynja.
- “We have waded in mire for five terrible weeks; there was no lack of mud where we were, in the middle of Grimsby. But now away we let our beaked elk [= ship] resound meerily on the waves over the seagull’s swamp [= sea] to Bergen.”
During the 12th century, Grimsby developed into a fishing and trading port, at one point ranking twelfth in importance to the Crown in terms of tax revenue. The town was granted its charter by King John in 1201 The first mayor was installed in 1218.
Grimsby does not have town walls. It was too small and was protected by the marshy land around it. However, the town did have a ditch. In medieval times, Grimsby had two parish churches, St Mary’s and St James’. Only St James’ now remains. St James’ shares with Lincoln Cathedral the folk tale of an Imp who played tricks in the church and was turned into stone by an angel (see Lincoln Imp).
In the 15th century, The Haven began to silt up, preventing ships in the Humber from docking. As a result, Grimsby entered a long period of decline which lasted until the late 18th century. In 1801 , the population of Grimsby numbered 1,524, around the same size that it had been in the Middle Ages.
Fishing and maritime industry
In the early 19th century, the town grew rapidly. The Great Grimsby Haven Company was formed by Act of Parliament in May 1796 (the Grimsby Haven Act) for the purpose of “widening, deepening, enlarging, altering and improving the Haven of the Town and Port of Great Grimsby”. Grimsby’s port boomed, importing iron, timber, wheat, hemp and flax. New docks were necessary to cope with the expansion. The Grimsby Docks Act of 1845 allowed the necessary building works.
Alexandra Docks and National Fishing Heritage Museum
The Dock Tower was completed in 1851, followed by The Royal Dock in 1852. No.1 Fish Dock was completed in 1856, followed by No.2 Fish Dock in 1877. Alexandra Dock and Union Dock followed in 1879. During this period the fishing fleet was greatly expanded.
The arrival of the railway in 1848 made it far easier to transport goods to and from the port. Coal mined in the South Yorkshire coal fields was brought by rail and exported through Grimsby. The population of Grimsby grew from 75,000 in 1901 to 92,000 by 1931 but then remained fairly static for the rest of the 20th century.
The former Humber ferry, PS Lincoln Castle, is moored in Alexandra Dock. It used to be a pub\restaurant, but now lies adjacent to Corporation Bridge, its future very much uncertain. Also in the dock is the Ross Tiger, a trawler which can be toured in the summer as part of the Fishing Heritage centre.
World War II
During World War II, Grimsby’s status as a major port made it a focus of the German Luftwaffe. They used the Dock Tower as a landmark and refused to bomb it (the British Government discussed its demolition to prevent its use as a navigational aid). It was later revealed that had the German invasion been successful Grimsby would have been one of the first landing points in the north of England due to the combination of its location and its infrastructure. This was probably one reason why the town suffered significantly less bombing raids than neighbouring fishing port Hull whose geographical location would have made it harder to reach. However, Grimsby was still hit by numerous air raids during the war and 197 people were killed. Grimsby was also the first place in Great Britain to have the Butterfly Bomb used against it by the Luftwaffe in 1943, devastating many areas
The Royal Dock was used as the UK’s largest base for minesweepers, to patrol the North Sea. Minesweepers are military vessels using deep-sea trawling methods. There is a memorial next to the dock.
In reference to modern-day minesweeping, HMS Grimsby is a Sandown class minehunter (commissioned in 1999) currently in service in the Royal Navy.
Great Grimsby formed an ancient Borough in the North Riding of Lincolnshire, Parts of Lindsey. It was reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835 and became a Municipal Borough in that year. In 1889 a County Council was created for Lindsey, but Great Grimsby was outside its area of control and formed an independent County Borough in 1891. The Borough expanded to absorb the adjacent hamlet of Wellow (1889), also the neighbouring parishes of Clee-with-Weelsby (1889), Little Coates (1928), Scartho (1928), Weelsby (1928) and Great Coates (1968). It had its own police force until 1967 when it merged with the Lincolnshire force.
In 1974, the County Borough was abolished and Great Grimsby was reconstituted (with the same boundaries) as the Grimsby non-metropolitan district in the new county of Humberside by the Local Government Act 1972. The district was renamed Great Grimsby in 1979. Local government in the area came under the review of the Local Government Commission for England and Humberside was abolished in 1996. The former area of the Great Grimsby district merged with that of Cleethorpes to form the unitary authority of North East Lincolnshire. The town does not have its own town council, instead there is a board of Charter Trustees. During 2007, in the struggle for identity, it was suggested that the district could be renamed to something like Great Grimsby and Cleethorpes to give a stronger indication of the towns the district consists of. This didn’t meet with favourable comment among local residents, and the Council Leader dropped the idea a year later
Grimsby River head before it was rebuilt as Freshney Place