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Brigg (/’brɪg/) is a small market town in North Lincolnshire, England, with a population of 5,076 in 2,213 households (2001 UK census). The town lies at the junction of the River Ancholme and east-west transport routes across northern Lincolnshire. As a formerly important local centre, the town’s full name of Glanford Brigg is reflected in the surrounding area and local government district of the same name.
The area of present–day Brigg has been used for thousands of years as both a crossing point of the Ancholme and for access to the river itself. Prehistoric boats of sewn–built and dugout construction have been found in the town, both dating to around 900 BCE. A causeway or jetty also stood on the riverside during the early Iron Age, although its exact use is uncertain.
During the Anglo-Saxon period the area became known as Glanford. The second element of the name is not disputed, but the origin of the first element is unclear. It is possibly derived from the Old English gleam meaning joy or revelry, and thus the full word is interpreted as “ford where sports are held”. Another suggestion is that the first element refers to a ‘glamping’ track—a walkway formed by placing interlocking planks or logs over boggy ground—and thus describes a ford crossed in this manner. A third possibility is that it means “smooth ford” although its etymology is not specified.
Glanford Brigg was founded as a new town at the crossing place of the Ancholme before 1183, its first mention being a Pipe roll entry for that year. The town’s formal charter for a weekly market and yearly fair date from a royal grant to Hugh Nevil in 1205, in which the founder’s name is given as his father–in–law Stephen de Camera. The fair began on 25 July—the feast of Saint James—and continued for three days afterward. The grant of a market and fair were subsequently reconfirmed to Hugh’s son Ernisius in 1235. The second part of the town’s full name dates to this time, coming from the new bridge built to replace the existing ford. Its non–standard form of Brigg is due to influence from Old Norse bryggja, which although usually describes a jetty or quay here refers to a bridge.
Brigg originally sat at the meeting point of four parishes—Broughton, Kettleby, Scawby, and Wrawby—although it lay mainly in the last, and was officially regarded as part of that village. In the 1190s, the lord of the manor of Broughton, Adam Paynel, founded a hospital for the poor within the town. Several small chapels also existed during medieval times, with another hospital and chapel founded by William Tyrwhitt in 1441.However, the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536–41 also affected hospitals and chapels, leaving the town without ecclesiastical coverage except the parish church in nearby Wrawby.
Due to its strategic position, Brigg was fortified by Royalist forces during the civil war. After the Battle of Winceby in 1643, Parliamentarian forces attacked and seized the garrison on their way to help relieve the siege of Hull. Sir John Nelthorpe, a local landowner who had fought in the civil war for Parliament, bequeathed some of his estate in 1669 for the foundation and maintenance of a free school in the town. Four other local gentlemen established a chapel of ease in Bigby Street in 1699, restoring church presence in the town after 150 years of absence.
The town was substantially improved and rebuilt in the late 1700s and early 1800s, partly through the demands of the Elwes family, the largest landowner in the town. Later in 1842–43, the chapel of ease was replaced by a full–sized church dedicated to St John the Evangelist, and a cemetery was established on Wrawby Road in 1857, following significant controversy over the burial of non–conformists. The ecclesiastical parish was finally separated from Wrawby in 1864.
The workhouse at Brigg is one of the best known and best documented of its type, probably because of the national interest that arose after Percy Grainger collected traditional songs from the inmates. It was designed by William Adams Nicholson who also designed the similar building in Lincoln, and was built in 1835, replacing an earlier alms house dating back to 1701. The workhouse was the responsibility of the Glanford Brigg Union. An infirmary was later built attached to the workhouse, and this portion remained open as a hospital until 1991.
Brigg sits on a spur of the Lincolnshire Wolds that juts out into the valley of the Ancholme, historically providing a narrow crossing point of the river and its flood plain. The Wolds proper rise to the east, reaching a maximum of roughly 100 metres (330 ft) about 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) from the town, although with a lower pass at the Kirmington Gap. To the west the land gently slopes up to roughly 70 metres (230 ft) on the Lincolnshire Edge about 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) away.
Between these low ranges of hills the Ancholme river runs south to north through its flat, low–lying flood plain, with a north–south height difference of only a few metres. The town sits on alluvial soils of the Ancholme, and the area surrounding the town was previously a semi–flooded marsh known as carrs. A series of drainage improvements from the 1630s to the 1820s transformed the whole of the valley into arable land. The largest of the drainage channels is also a canal known as the New River Ancholme. The original course of the river has been obliterated in places by the drainage works, but its discontinuous surviving length is known as the Old River Ancholme.
The town itself lies mostly on the east bank of the old river, with a small amount to the west. A portion of the west bank is cut off from the rest by the new river, forming an island–like piece of land known as Island Carr. Due to nearness of the river, the town regularly suffers minor flooding, and concerns over flood plain development are a major issue in local planning. The only other watercourse of reasonable size is Candley Beck, which runs through the very southern parts of the town. There are also about half a dozen clayponds along the riverside in Brigg where clay was formerly extracted for brick–making.
The old town is centred on the marketplace and the adjoining streets of Bridge Street, Wrawby Street, and Bigby Street. The marketplace and Wrawby Street, where much of the town’s retail is located, were pedestrianized in the early 1990s. A significant number of buildings in the town centre date to the late 1700s or early 1800s and are listed, with the old town as a whole designated a Conservation Area. The marketplace is dominated by the Buttercross and the Angel, a former coaching inn with an early mock Tudor façade, which is now home to Brigg Town Council. Another former coaching inn, the Exchange, stands in Bigby Street, opposite the former manor house of the Elwes family. The Anglican church of Saint John the Evangelist, built in 1843, also lies on Bigby Street. Its style is of the Gothic Revival architecture popular at the time, but Pevsner notes the curious construction where the stone has first been carved into the shape of bricks before being laid in courses.
Much of the town’s poorer housing formerly lay in a series of narrow yards that ran northward from the marketplace and Wrawby Street. The yards were considered unsanitary slums by the late 1800s, but were not finally vacated and demolished until the 1950s. However, the yards themselves remain in use, with the larger ones repurposed for retail and services, and the smaller for public passageways.
The A18 bisects the town, running just north of the town centre. To the north and east of this road, housing development throughout the 1900s expanded the town significantly in size. To the west beyond the New River Ancholme, the town’s urban area continues into the neighbouring hamlet of Scawby Brook.
Brigg has several pubs, including the Black Bull and the White Horse Inn on Wrawby Street, the Exchange Hotel, the Woolpack Inn and the Dying Gladiator on Bigby Street, and the Nelthorpe Arms, the White Hart and the Yarborough Hunt on Bridge Street.
Brigg is home to Brigg Town Football Club, known locally as the Zebras for their black and white striped home kit. Established in 1863 the team is the oldest association football club in Lincolnshire and among the oldest surviving clubs in the world.The team has won the FA Vase twice—once in 1996 and again in 2003.Nearly as old as the football club is the Ancholme Rowing Club which is based in Manley Gardens. It was founded in 1868 and still operates today. The town also holds an annual triathlon event – cycling, canoeing and running.
The town hosts a yearly horse fair on the first Saturday of August. Large numbers of Romani and Irish Travellers come from across England to attend the event. The fair is partly an opportunity to buy and sell horses, but also presents a significant opportunity for community socializing. For several decades local volunteers organized the official fair and promoted it as a tourist event, but in recent years it has been left unorganized and unofficial.
The fair has been claimed to be the second largest horse fair in England, after Appleby Horse Fair. It is also the surviving continuation of the medieval fair which was in existence at least as early as 1205, meaning it is now over 800 years old. The difference in date—from 25 July to early August—is a result of the eleven days ‘skipped’ upon the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1752. The fair is also the subject of a well–known folk song Brigg Fair.
Brigg is the source of several early recordings of English folk song, which subsequently inspired other composers. At competitions arranged by Gervase Elwes in 1905-06, several folk singers from the surrounding area—including Joseph Taylor and George Gouldthorpe—sang for the composer Percy Grainger songs such as Brigg Fair and Lisbon. He also collected Horkstow Grange at nearby Redbourne. These songs inspired Grainger’s work Lincolnshire Posy and subsequently Frederick Delius’s own Brigg Fair.
The economy of Brigg is substantially retail and service based, according with its traditional position of a market town, and acts as a service centre for the surrounding rural area. The main shopping street is Wrawby Street, although retail is present throughout much of the old town. Many of the businesses are independent, retaining the character of the traditional high street. A general market is held on Thursdays and Saturdays, and in recent years a farmers’ market has developed, held on the fourth Saturday each month selling local produce from pork and organic vegetables to ostrich meat, and locally produced condiments.
Past industries included Spring’s jam factory and the beet sugar factory to the west of the town. The sugar factory site to the south-west now contains a power station owned by Centrica. The jam factory, and the neighbouring livestock market, have been replaced by supermarkets (Tesco). The town is also home to the Falcon Cycles factory, the company having moved to Brigg from nearby Barton-on-Humber in the early 20th century.
A significant number of residents commute to work in nearby Scunthorpe and Grimsby, although the town is not characterized as a dormitory Brigg lies within the historical English county of Lincolnshire, but was included as part of Humberside on the creation of that county in 1974. Within Humberside, Brigg was the centre of Glanford borough, named after the town. The dissolution of Humberside in 1996 saw the town transferred to North Lincolnshire. Throughout these local government changes, the area has remained a part of the ceremonial county of Lincolnshire. Within North Lincolnshire the town is part of the Brigg and Wolds electoral ward, and is represented by three councillors.
The town also has a civil parish governed by Brigg Town Council, with nineteen elected members. However, part of the town’s urban area lies in Scawby Brook, which is split between the civil parishes of Scawby and Broughton.
Brigg is part of the Brigg and Goole parliamentary constituency. Boundary changes will place the town with nearby Cleethorpes and Humberston before the next general election.
The M180 bypassed the town in 1977. The A15 Brigg & Redbourne Bypass (the extension to the M180 from Hibaldstow) opened in 1989. The A15 south, towards Lincoln, allows access to the A1(M) near Newark. The A18 passes east-west through the town, with the A1084 (Bigby Road) heading south-east to Caistor. Brigg also had the A15 north-south route passing through the town.
Much of the old and somewhat tidal River Ancholme was canalised and lock gates were constructed at South Ferriby, its confluence with the Humber. A natural looping meander of the Old River Ancholme flows through Brigg, while the canalised section of the New River Ancholme allowed for the addition of Victorian wharfage for river-side industries to develop further west from the town centre.
Brigg railway station is on a branch of the Sheffield to Lincoln Line (Grimsby Branch), receiving six trains a week, all on Saturdays. There is a level crossing over the A1084. Brigg has access to North Sea ferry crossings from Hull, 15 miles away. Humberside International Airport, near the village of Kirmington, is about 5 miles away.