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Gainsborough, Lincolnshire

Historical Description

Gainsborough, a parish and a market-town, giving name to' a poor-law union, petty sessional division, and county court district in Lincolnshire. The town stands on the river Trent, at the boundary with Notts, adjacent to a junction of railways, 16 miles by road and 15½ by railway NW of Lincoln, and has railway communication by means of the M.S. & L.E., G.N.R., and G.E.R. directly towards four points, and connectionally with all parts of the kingdom. It is believed to have been founded by the Saxons, and was known to them, as Gegnesburh. But ancient earthworks, called Castle-Hill Camp, on a ridge about a mile to the north, have parts which are thought to be Roman, yet appear to have been altered or mainly formed by the Danes. These works consist chiefly of three concentric circular mounds, with deep intervening fosses, but also include subordinate embankments. The town, with a territory around it, seems for a time to have been an independent state, but was afterwards annexed, first to Northumbria, next to Mercia. Alfred the Great was married here in 868 to .ZEIswitha, the daughter of a Mercian noble. The Danes, under ,Sweyn, came up hither with a numerous fleet, took possession i of the town, overran the neighbouring country, and committed great ravages, but were eventually overpowered. Sweyn was secretly stabbed when on the point of re-embarking, and is thought to have been interred in one of the neighbouring tumuli, and many of his followers are said to have been buried in an ancient chapel which stood in the southern part of the town. The contending forces in the civil wars of Charles I. occupied the entrenchments of Castle Hills, and those of the king were defeated here by Cromwell.

The site of the town, together with a considerable area above and below, appears to have been under sea or estuarywithin the human epoch, and several ancient canoes have been dug up in the neighbourhood. The site also, from its lowness, and from its relative situation to the upper basin of the Trent, was liable to inundation by freshets after great rains or sudden thaws. But this is now prevented by 'embankments. The tide, too, comes hither with a " bore," or rapid breast current, called locally an " eagre," similar to that in the rivers which enter the Bristol Channel and the Solway Firth, but is not so strong or high as in these rivers. The town comprises two principal streets parallel to each other, but has other streets and thoroughfares, and has undergone material recent improvement. It is very closely built, and extends above 2 miles along the Trent, with a maximum breadth of about a quarter of a mile. In recent years it has received some extension towards the south-east, the district thus built over being called the New Town. The town has also extended considerably to the north-west. It is under the management of a local board of health of 12 members, is well paved, and has an excellent supply of water. The town has a head post office, stations on the M.S. & L.R. and the G*N. and G.E. Joint railway, and the steamers of the Gainsborough Steam Packet Company run daily between Gainsborough and Hull, calling at the various ferries of the river Trent. It was constituted a head port in 1840, but the privilege has since been annulled and the custom-house closed. It still maintains, however, a considerable coasting trade, and vessels drawing from 12 to 13 feet of water can lie and discharge alongside the wharfs at the town. Much of the carrying trade up and down the river is carried on by means of flat barges calledketches conveying burdens of 40 or 50 tons. Gainsborough is one of the principal seats of the seed-crushing trade, about an eighth of the linseed imported into the kingdom being here crushed for oil and made into cake. Other industries are ship and boat building, brewing, malting, and brass and iron founding. The Britannia Iron Works employ about 3000 hands in the manufacture of steam boilers, engines, and agricultural implements, and there is a large agricultural implement manufactory. At the Britannia Works a complete suite of rooms has recently been built by the Messrs Marshall for science, art. and technical classes, and they have placed these at the disposal of the Local Technical Instruction Committee entirely free of cost. These rooms have been thoroughly equipped with all the most modern educational appliances, and upwards of 500 students availed themselves of their advantages during the winter session of 1893-94. The rooms are lighted throughout by the electric light, and are fitted with the most modern heating and ventilating appliances. The town has three banks and a savings bank, is a seat of petty sessions, and a polling-place for the West

Lindsey division of the county, and publishes three weekly newspapers. A weekly market is held oil Tuesday, a large fat-stock market on Monday, and fairs on the Tuesday and Wednesday in Easter week, and Tuesday and Wednesday after 20 Oct. The legal duration of each fair is nine days, but the actual duration is two or three days. There are also two statute fairs for the hiring of servants, which are held about May-Day and in Nov.

Among the principal buildings of the town is the town-hall, an imposing building lately erected on one side of'the market-place, at the north end of which stands the Market-house and Corn Exchange. This building is about 34 yards long and 13 wide, in red brick and terra-cotta with Ancaster stone cornices and dressings, and is one of the handsomest in the county. The entire ground floor is used for market purposes, such as the sale of poultry, butter, fruit, &c., and is well lighted by means of the large circular-headed'windows all round the front and ends. Over this floor and approached by a wide stone staircase is the Corn Exchange, a handsome room 74 feet long, 30 wide, and 20 high, well lighted from the roof at the north side. The Albert Hall, a building of red brick, is used for concerts and theatrical performances; and there is a large public hall, and a quondam palace known as the Old Hall or Manor House. The latter is said to have been built in part by John of Gaunt; was afterwards a residence of the Hickmans, lords of the manor; occupies nearly half an acre; forms three sides of a quadrangle with a lofty embattled tower at one corner; was formerly encompassed by a moat, and is now the property of Sir Hickman Beckett Bacon, Bart., of Thonock, who holds the manor. A portion of the building is now occupied by the Literary and Scientific Institute. The bridge which crosses the Trent is a handsome stone structure of three elliptical arches, built in 1790, at a cost of £10,000. The parish church, or All Saints' Church, was originally founded by the Knights Templars; has been twice rebuilt, the second time in 1740-48; retains a fine tower of the 14th century, and during recent years has received considerable improvement. Holy Trinity Church, situated at Southoime, is modern, presents a singular contrast to the parish church, is cruciform, and has fine stained glass windows. of St John the Divine, completed in 1882, is a building of red brick in the Gothic style. There are also a Roman Catholic church, a Congregational, two Wesleyan, Free Methodist, Primitive Methodist, and Unitarian chapels, and a meeting-house belonging to the Society of Friends. The grammar school, which was founded by charter in the time of Queen Elizabeth, has only an endowment of £60. It is now maintained as a middle-class school. The charities of the town produce about £300 a year. The parochial living, or All Saints, is a vicarage; net yearly value, £300 with residence. The livings of the ecclesiastical parishes of Holy Trinity and St John the Divine are also vicarages; net yearly value of Holy Trinity, £300 with residence; gross yearly value of St John, £110. All these livings are in the diocese of Lincoln, and in the gift of the Bishop of Lincoln.

The parish contains also the townships of Morton, East Stockwith, and Walkerith, which are noticed under the headings of Morton and East Stockwith. Acreage of Gainsborough, 3446; population, 14,468; acreage of Morton, 848; population, 1137; acreage of East Stockwith, 488; population, 419; acreage'bf Walkerith, 275; population, 85. The town gives the title of Earl to the family of Noel. Thonock Hall, which stands about 2 miles NNE of Gainsborough, is a fine mansion of brick, standing in a park of 500 acres, and is the seat of Sir Hickman Beckett Bacon, premier baronet of England.

West Lindsey or Gainsborough Division of Lincolnshire was formed under the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885, and returns one member to the House of Commons. Population, 49,595. The division includes the following:-Lincoln (Lindsey)-Aisthorpe, Atterby, Barlings, Brampton, Bramsby-cum-Sturton, Brattleby, Broxhoime, Burton-by-Lincoln, Cainby. Cammeringham, Carlton (North), Carlton ! (South), Coates, Dunhoime, Fenton, Fillingham, Firsby (East), Firsby (West), Fiskerton, Glentham, Glentworth, Greetwell, Hackthorn, Hanworth Cold, Hardwick, Ingham, Lincoln Bail, Lincoln Close, Kettlethorpe, Nettleham, Newton, Normanby-by-Spittal, Normanby-by-Stow, Norton Bishop, Owmby-by-Spittal, Eeepham, Riseholrne, Saxby, Saxilby-with-Ingleby, Scampton, Scothern, Snarford, Sprid-lington, Sudbrooke, Thorpe-in-the-Fallows, Torksey, Welton, Willingham Chen-y; Epworth-Althorpe, Amcotts, Belton, Butterwick (West), Crowie, Eastoft, Epworth, Garthorpe, Haxey, Keadby, Lnddington, Misson (part of), Owston, Wroot; Gainsborough-Blyborough, Blyton, Burton Gate, Cleatham, Corringham, Ferry (East), Gainsborough, Gray-ingham, Green Hill and Red Hill, Harpswell, Heapham, Hemswell, Kexhy, Kirton, Knaith, Laughton, Lea, Marton, Morton, Northorpe, Pilham-with-Gilby, Scotter, Scotton, Southorpe, Springthorpe, Stockwith, Upton, Walkerith, Wildsworth, Willingham-by-Stow, Willoughton; Lincoln (Kesteven, part of)-Bracebridge; Lincoln, municipal borough.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyLincolnshire 
Ecclesiastical parishGainsborough All Saints 
Poor Law unionGainsborough 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Church Records

Findmypast, in conjunction with the Lincolnshire Archives, have the following parish records online for Gainsborough:

All Saints1564-19111738-17581564-18991564-1848
Holy Trinity1844-1911 1844-19101844-1911

Civil Registration

For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Gainsborough from the following:


Online maps of Gainsborough are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Lincolnshire papers online:

DistrictWest Lindsey
RegionEast Midlands
Postal districtDN21
Post TownGainsborough