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Great Grimsby, Lincolnshire

Historical Description

Grimsby, a parliamentary and municipal borough, a market-town, and a seaport in Lincolnshire. The town stands on the flat shores of the Humber, opposite Spurn Head, about 6 miles within the mouth of the Humber, which may be considered to begin at Spurn Point, 16 NNW from Louth, 18 SSE from Hull, and 155 from London by rail, and has railway communication, by direct lines or by facile connections, with every important part of Great Britain, the main lines being the M.S. & L.R. and the G.N.R. It is supposed to be the place where the Danes made their first landing when they invaded Britain about the end of the 8th century; it is said to have got its name, signifying " Grim's town," from a fisherman or merchant called Grim, who obtained great riches in consequence of having found and brought up an exposed child called Havelock or Havloc, who proved to be of the Danish blood-royal, and obtained a Danish princess in marriage; and it is thought to have been founded or restored by Grim after he became wealthy, and after the spot was in possession of the Danes. A recent translator of that part of the Domesday book which relates to Lincolnshire gives us another explanation of the word Grimsby. He derives it from the British words Gra, Mas, Buy; Gra meaning sacred, Moss entrenched mounds, and Buy a dwelling-that is, the dwelling of the mounds. An ancient British town appears to have stood adjacent, and is still indicated by numerous mounds or tumuli in the marshes. Seven of these, in the form of a crescent, and diversified with many barrows, mark the site of the ancient British town, and three lines of artificial embankments called beacons extend thence across the country in different directions, and seem to have led into communication with every part of the island. A stone, said to have been brought hither by the Danes, and known as Havelock's Stone, forms a landmark between Grimsby and Wellows. Great numbers of Roman, Saxon, Flemish, and Lombardic coins have been dug up in the neighbourhood, indicating a succession of occupancy and of traffic from very early times till those of the Hanseatic merchants, and of the merchants of Flanders and Lombardy. Ingnlphus and Peter Langtoft describe the landing of the Danes, and the writers of Norway and Iceland speak of Grimsby as a market frequented by the merchants of the northern and the western islands. The town evidently looks to have acquired importance and wealth at a period not long after the Danes' landing; it is one of the most ancient boroughs in the kingdom; it was a mayoralty in the time of King John; and it sent 11 ships and 171 mariners to the siege of Calais in the time of Edward III. Richard II. confirmed the charters of the town by reason of the men of Grimsby, with the men of Barton, having built a ship of war for the king according to the ordinances of his council; and that the soldiers furnished by Grimsby for the Scottish wars between 1297 and 1326 acquired a very high reputation, and the corporation received the public thanks of His Majesty for their services. But its harbour became gradually choked up, a dangerous sandbank was gradually formed across the harbour's mouth, and the trade of the place was transferred to Hull Toward the end of the 18th century, however, the harbour was greatly improved; in 1796-1800 wet and dry docks, at a cost of £70, 000, were constructed; about the same time a canal, calculated to admit vessels of 1000 tons, was cut into the Humber; and, in connection with these works being executed, hopes were entertained that, as a seaport, Grimsby would soon outrival Hull. The hopes were not all realized, but in 1849 the first stone of the fine new docks to which the subsequent rise of the port is due, was laid by the Prince Consort, and they were opened by the Queen in 1854. Although designed and commenced on a large scale, they have been continually extended since, and there is every likelihood of the work being continued.

The town is narrow, but runs more than 1½ mile southward from the new docks. It acquired several new well-built streets at and after the formation of the old docks; it now includes a new town in the neighbourhood of the docks; and it is traversed, through nearly its entire length, by a main thoroughfare, which formerly was called Loft Street, but now is called Victoria Street. Many of its old and low houses have given place to spacious buildings and fine shops; and many parts of it, both old and new, have, in recent years, become occupied by substantial or handsome edifices. The Town Hall was built, in 1863, at a cost-together with the free grammar schools-of about £11,000; is in the Italian style, with front elevation of centre and two wings, 117 "feet long; has an Ionic portico of eight rusticated columns; and includes a court-room, a council chamber, and several ante-rooms for the corporation officials. In front is a large balcony from which the result of the parliamentary elections are made known. In 1888 a noble staircase, council chamber, cbanquet, and retiring-rooms were added at a cost of £6000. The Corn Exchange (1854) is of red brick with stone dressings, in the Tudor style, and has a hexagonal entrance, sur- mounted by a tower and bell-turret. The Mechanics' Institution (1856) is an edifice of coloured bricks and stone in the Italian style, and has a lecture-room of 50 feet by 30, a large news-room, and a library and reading-room. There are also an Oddfellows' hall, a friendly society's hall, a temperance hall, a masonic hall, a large custom-house, and two theatres. The constitutional club, erected in 1892, is a fine building of red brick and contains a large lecture-hall. The Liberal Club was opened in 1885. It is in the English domestic style of architecture, built of red brick. St James' or the parish church is an ancient cruciform building of stone in the Early English style, consists of nave, aisles, choir, and transept, with large central tower, appears to have been erected about 1365. It has suffered great neglect, was restored in 1859, and further restored and improved in 1874 and 1882, and contains an octagonal font and effigies of Sir T. Hasterton, of the time of Henry III. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Lincoln; net yearly value,, £590 with residence, in the gift of the Bishop of Lincoln. St Andrew's is an ecclesiastical parish formed from the mother parish in 1871. The church, erected in 1870 at a cost of £8500, is a large building of stone in the Early English style. The living is a vicarage of the net yearly value of £303 with residence, in the gift of the Bishop of Lincoln. There are, in addition, six mission churches, dedicated to St Barnabas, St Hugh,, St Luke, St Paul, St John, and All Saints, and a fishermen's church, dedicated to St John the Divine, which was erected in 1892. Other places of worship are a Roman Catholic chapel, which is a building of red brick in the Early English style, two Baptist chapels, a Congregational chapel, a Presbyterian chapel, six Primitive Methodist chapels, a United Free Methodist and five Wesleyan chapels, a Scandinavian chapel, a meeting-house for the Brethren, a Jewish synagogue, and several mission halls. The park of 27 acres, given to the borough by the Bight Hon. Edward Heneage, M.P., was opened in 1883. It is a pleasant resort, and is surrounded by a carriage drive. The borough cemetery was opened in 1855; comprises about 9 acres, and has two chapels, the one Early Decorated English, the other plain Early English. The new cemetery lies back 520 feet from Scartho Road, and the intervening space is laid out and planted with ornamental trees and shrubs. It covers an area of 23 acres. There are two chapels built of thin red bricks with Ancaster stone dressings. The style is Early English. A cemetery was also formed for Clee parish in 1877, consisting of 8 acres. The Corporation Free Grammar School was founded about 1547, includes preparatory schools, affords free education to the children of the freemen of the town, has an endowment derived from part of the revenues of Raynard's Charity in St James' Church, and from certain lands, and is supported by the corporation. There were at one time a grey friary, an Augustinian priory, a Benedictine nunnery, a Franciscan convent, and perhaps, on Spittal hills, an establishment of the Rnights of StJohn. The " ducking-stool" was in use at Stonebridge till 1796.

The town has a head post office and several branch offices, five banks, and several good hotels; is the head of a petty sessional division and county court district; a polling-place for the North Lindsey division of the county; a coastguard station, and publishes three newspapers. A market for the sale of cattle is held on Mondays, another for the sale of agricultural produce is held on Fridays, and on Saturday evening a market for the sale of provisions is held in the Central Market Place. Two annual fairs for the sale of live stock are held, the first on the first Monday in April and the second on the Monday before 11 Oct. Gas is supplied by an incorporated company, having a capital of upwards of £100, 000, and four artesian wells furnish an ample supply of good water. Among the industries carried on are brewing, brickmaking, rope-making, seed-crushing, and creosoting, and there are corn mills, bone-crushing mills, sawmills, shipyards, ship chandleries, block and mast works, and wharves for timber and coal. A fine fleet of 14 steamers, now owned by the M. S. & L.E., leave here daily for Hamburg, Sundays excepted; to and from Antwerp and Great Grimsby, Wednesday and Saturday; Grimsby to Rotterdam every Wednesday and Saturday. Most of the steamers are fitted with electric light The steamers of the Angle-French Transit Co. start twice a week for Dieppe, and steamers belonging to Messrs Thomas Wilson & Sons, Limited, trade weekly between Grimsby and Mahno, Helsingborg, and Gothenburg, and there is also a steamer every week-day to and from Hull. The harbour lies on the edge of a channel of deep water, can be entered by coasting steamers at all states of the tide, admits the largest steamers to the docks at all times between high-water and half-ebb, and gives them floating accommodation alongside the landing piers, within the basin, between half-tide and high-water. There are five docks:-(1) The Royal, with an area of 25 acres, the first stone of which was laid by H.R.H. The Prince Consort in 1849, and opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 1854. It is entered by two large locks, and is capable of admitting the largest war steamers. A whole fleet of war ships could lie in it and reach the German Ocean in half an hour. Immense sheds lie along the quays, and all the powerful cranes are worked by hydraulic pressure. A hydraulic tower, 300 feet high, contains a tank for working the hydraulic machinery by which the mechanical operations are carried on. (2) The Alexandra, with an area of 48 acres; (3) the Old Fish dock, with an area of 13½ acres; (4) the New Fish dock, with an area of 9¼ acres; and (5) the Union dock, with an area of 1½ acre. There are also three graving docks and a large timber dock. In 1893 there were 279, 147 trees imported. The fishing trade is the most important of the port, and as a fishing harbour it is not only the first in England but the first in the world. Nearly 900 fishing smacks belong to this port, and it is largely used by boats belonging to other ports. As soon as the boats enter the harbour with their catch, the fish is conveyed into the sheds alongside the quay, where it is sold, sorted, cleaned, packed, and wheeled off in barrows to the railway trucks. Special fish trains leave every afternoon for the northern and midland counties, and for London and places south about 9 o'clock in the evening. The amount of fish exported in 1854 was 453 tons; and in 1893, 80, 134 tons. Immense quantities of ice are also imported from Norway for '.local use and for conveyance inland, the importation for 1893 being 62, 378 tons; and there is a large and increasing trade in coal, the shipment for 1893 being 584, 765 tons. The number of vessels belonging to the port of Grimsby in 1894 was 866 (72, 876 tons). The number of all kinds of vessels using the port in 1893 was 23, 406, with a tonnage of 1, 908, 751. The customs revenue in 1893 was £68, 457. The port of Grimsby extends from Skittemess, in Goxhill parish, which is the eastern limit of the port of Hull, to Trusthorpe drain on the south, which is the northern limit of the port of Boston. The fishing boats bear the distinguishing letters G. Y.

Great Grimsby is a borough by prescription; sent two members to Parliament from the time of Edward II. till the act of 1832; sends now one member to Parliament, and is governed by a town council, consisting of a mayor, 12 aldermen, and 36 councillors. It has also a commission of the peace, comprising the mayor, recorder, and 26 borough magistrates. Petty sessions for the borough are held every Monday and Thursday in the Town-Hall, and for this part of the county every alternate Tuesday. The borough has an area of 3120 statute acres; population, 51, 934. The parliamentary borough includes also the parishes of Bradley, Clee-thorpes, Clee with Weelsby, Great Coates, Little Coates, Lace-by, Scartho, and Waltham. The area of the parliamentary borough is 16, 371 acres; population, 58, 661. New Clee and Weelsby, which are in the parish of Clee, are suburbs of Great Grimsby on the east, and were incorporated in 1889. New Clee was made a separate ecclesiastical parish in 1879. The church, erected in 1878, is a building of brick and stone in the Early English style. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Lincoln; net yearly value, £295 with residence, in the gift of the Bishop of Lincoln. The charities of Grimsby are few in number and inconsiderable in amount, but there is a large hospital, originally opened in 1866 and subsequently enlarged in 1876 and 1888, which is supported by voluntary contributions. A new ward (Princess May Ward) was erected in 1893. Archbishop Whitgift and Bishop Fotherby were natives.

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 parishGrimsby St. James 
Poor Law unionCaistor 

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 Grimsby:

All Saints1888-1911 1905-19111898-1911
St Andrew1870-1911 1871-19111871-1910
St Augustine1905-1911   
St Barnabas1876-1911   
St Hugh1911-1911   
St James1625-19111654-17951616-19111616-1910
St Luke1877-1911   
St Paul1888-1911 1908-1911 

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Great Grimsby from the following:

Newspapers and Periodicals

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

Villages, Hamlets, &c

Wellow or Welhove