Grimsby, Great (St. James)

GRIMSBY, GREAT (St. James), a borough, sea-port, market-town, and parish, in the union of Caistor, wapentake of BradleyHaverstoe, parts of Lindsey, county of Lincoln, 16 miles (S. E.) from Hull, 35 (N. E. by N.) from Lincoln, and 161 (N.) from London; containing 3700 inhabitants. This place is advantageously situated near the mouth of the Humber, and is supposed to have been the spot where the Danes landed on their first invasion of Britain towards the close of the eighth century. Camden treats as fabulous a tradition that the town was founded by a merchant named Gryme, who derived great riches from having brought up an exposed child, called Haveloc, that proved to be of the blood royal of Denmark, and after being scullion in the king's kitchen obtained the king's daughter in marriage. To this romantic story, whatever may have been its origin, there is a reference in the device of the ancient seal of the corporation. Gervase Hollis, in his folio MSS. in the Harleian collection, attributes the foundation of the town to Grimus, a Norwegian pirate, and a man of vast stature, who was slain in single combat by Haldanus, a Danish prince, in the reign of Frotho, King of Denmark. In the reign of Edward III., Grimsby was a considerable sea-port, and in 1346 supplied the king with eleven ships and 170 mariners towards his armament for the siege of Calais. The harbour was formerly defended by two block-houses, and the commerce of the port was very extensive, till the haven became obstructed by the accumulation of sand and mud deposited by the Humber, which prevented the access of any vessels larger than sloops; in which state it continued till the beginning of the present century.

The town consists of several good streets; the houses are well built, and great improvements have taken place within the last few years in its general appearance. It has also recovered somewhat of its commercial importance, chiefly through the spirited exertions of some of the proprietors of land in the neighbourhood, who raised a subscription for improving the harbour, and obtained an act by which they were incorporated under the title of "The Grimsby Haven Company." A very capacious and excellent dock was constructed at an expense of £70,000, and opened in December, 1800, since which time many warehouses, mills worked by steam for crushing bones and linseed, and other buildings, have been erected, chiefly in the vicinity of the haven. An act was passed in 1845 for making additional docks, and other works; and in 1846 an act was obtained for lighting the town with gas. Grimsby is a warehousing port for all merchandise except East India goods and tobacco, and since 1800 has had a custom-house establishment. The foreign trade consists principally of timber, deals, tar, and other produce of the countries bordering on the Baltic, also of bones and corn; and the home trade mostly of corn and coal. Two steampackets ply daily to and from Hull. In 1845 an act was passed for a railway hence to Gainsborough, there to join railways to Lincoln and to Sheffield; and in 1846 an act was obtained for a railway to Louth and Boston. The market, which is very considerable for corn, is on Friday; two fairs, held respectively on the 6th of June and the 15th of September, have been discontinued.

This place is a borough by prescription, and one of the most ancient in the kingdom; and the number of charters, grants, and acts of regulation, still extant, prove that it was formerly a town of great trade. The corporation, previously to the passing of the Municipal act, consisted of a mayor, high steward, recorder, twelve aldermen, two chamberlains, two coroners, twelve common-councilmen, two bailiffs, a town-clerk, and other officers; the government is now vested in a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors, the offices of high steward, bailiff, and town-clerk being continued. A commission has been issued by the crown, empowering ten gentlemen to act as justices of the peace. A court, styled the Foreign Court, is held weekly before the bailiff, the jurisdiction of which extends to controversies and actions between non-freemen. The mayor and bailiff, as lords of the manor, with the high steward or his deputy, hold a court leet and view of frankpledge, and a court baron at Michaelmas. The borough magistrates meet twice a week at the town-hall for the general administration of justice; and the magistrates of Lindsey hold pettysessions here for the wapentake of Bradley-Haverstoe on the first and third Tuesday in every month. The powers of the county debt-court of Grimsby, established in 1847, extend over the sub-registration-district of Grimsby and 4 adjacent parishes. A common gaol for debtors and offenders was granted by Edward II. The borough regularly returned two members to parliament from the 23rd of Edward I. to the 2nd of William IV., when it was deprived of one: the right of election was formerly vested in the freemen paying scot and lot, about 390 in number, but is now enjoyed by the £10 householders of several parishes, which for elective purposes, were made to constitute the new borough, containing 14,991 acres; the mayor is returning officer.

The town formerly contained two churches, but in 1586 the parishes were united, and the church of St. Mary, then dilapidated, was suffered to fall to decay. The living is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £14. 18. 4. for the two parishes; net income, £532; patron and impropriator, G. F. Heneage, Esq.: the tithes were commuted for land and cornrents, under an inclosure act of the 7th and 8th of Geo. IV. The church, which is dedicated to St. James, is a spacious and handsome cruciform structure, principally in the early English style, with a central tower, and a western entrance in the Norman style; it was originally larger than at present, part of the choir having fallen about the year 1500, when, also, it became necessary to take down an adjoining chantry: the font is of large dimensions, and in the early English style, as is also a mutilated cross in the churchyard. There are places of worship for Baptists, Primitive Methodists, and Wesleyans. The free grammar school was founded in 1547, by letters-patent of Edward VI., who endowed it with the revenue of an ancient chantry of small amount: it is chiefly supported by the corporation, who allow a salary of £150 to the head master, and £60 to the second master; also £100 a year to the master of a preparatory school, and £14 to the mistresses of two schools for girls.

There were several religious houses in the parish. Wellow Abbey was founded by Henry I. about the year 1110, for Black canons; the revenue, at the Dissolution, was, according to Dugdale, £95. 16. 1., and to Speed, £152. 7. 4., and the site was granted to Sir Thomas Heneage. Among the other houses, were, a Benedictine nunnery, founded prior to 1185, and which was valued at the Dissolution at £9. 14. 7., and granted to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, and subsequently to Trinity College, Cambridge; a house of Augustine friars, founded about 1304, and granted on its dissolution to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, and afterwards to Augustine Porter and John Bellow; and a convent of Franciscan or Grey friars, founded about the year 1307, and granted on its dissolution, first to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, and afterwards to John Bellow and Robert Brokesby. Spittal Hill is supposed to have been the site of an establishment of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem. In preparing the ground of a paddock belonging to Lord Yarborough, for the purpose of erecting stables, the foundation of an ancient stone wall was discovered, in which were some carved stones, fragments of pillars, and part of the span of an arch, thought to have been brought in the reign of Henry VIII. from the dilapidated church of St. Mary, the materials of which were used in the repair of private houses. Near this spot was a house anciently occupied by one of the priests of Rayner's chantry, founded in the time of Edward III., and endowed in the 19th of that reign by Edmund de Grimsby with two dwelling-houses, one of which occupied the site above mentioned, and the other that of the present free school. In the vicinity of Grimsby are several deep circular pits called Blow wells, the water of which rises even with the surface of the ground, but never overflows. Dr. John Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury, was born here in 1530; and Dr. Martin Fotherby, Bishop of Salisbury, and his brother John, Dean of Canterbury, in the reign of James I., were also natives of the place.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.