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 and Norwegian 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.
The River Freshney passes to the west of the town, towards the A46. The A46 terminates near Grimsby in Cleethorpes at the junction with the A16 just north of Oasis Academy Wintringham.
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 (in translation):
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 moose [= ship] resound merrily 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 known as Grimsby Minster, 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.
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.
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. In a rare reversal of the usual trends, large numbers of fishermen from the South-East and Devon travelled North to join the Grimsby fleet. Over 40% of these newcomers came from Barking in East London, and other Thames-side towns.
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. Rail links direct to London and the Billingsgate Fish Market allowed for fresh ‘Grimsby Fish’ to gain renown nationwide. The demand for fish in Grimsby grew to such an extent that, at its peak in the 1950s, Grimsby laid claim to the title of ‘the largest fishing port in the world’. Following the pressures placed on the industry during the Cod Wars, many Grimsby firms made the decision to cease trawling operations from the town. The sudden demise of the Grimsby fishing industry brought to an end a way of life and community that had existed for generations. Huge numbers of men were now made redundant, highly skilled in a job that did not exist, and facing the daunting prospect of finding work ashore; a complete change of life for a Grimsby trawlerman. The change in events, as seen in the case of Ross Group, allowed some firms to concentrate on other expanding industries within the town, such as food processing. Grimsby’s trawling days are remembered through the artifacts and permanent exhibits seen at the town’s Fishing Heritage Centre where the preserved 1950s trawler, Ross Tiger, is also to be found. Very few fishing vessels still operate from Grimsby’s once thriving docks, although the town does maintain a substantial fish market, ‘recognised as being one of the most important fish markets in Europe’.
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, moored was, since the mid-1980s, moored in Alexandra Dock. She was used during this time as a pub\restaurant, but despite the uniqueness of her design and status as Britain’s last coal fired paddle steamer at the time of her withdrawal, she was controversially broken up in 2010. Remaining berthed in the Alexandra Dock is the Ross Tiger, the last survivor of what was once the world’s largest sidewinder trawler fleet, which can be toured throughout the year as part of the Fishing Heritage centre.
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. Large numbers of trawlers were requisitioned by the Admiralty to serve as minesweepers for the Royal Naval Patrol Service. They were crewed in many cases by ex-trawlermen as well as men from the Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Navy volunteers. Trawlers would use the winches and warps used in fishing operations to tow a paravane through the water. This device, which acts similarly to a ‘trawl door’ in a trawl, carries the warp from the winch out and away from the ship. This warp then strikes against the mooring cables or chains that extend from the bottom of mines to their ‘sinkers’ on the sea bed. As the mine sweeper moves through the water, eventually the paravane at the end of the warp makes contact with the mines sinker cable. A steel cutting jaw in the paravane then parts the sinker cable and the mine is broken free. As the mine comes to the surface is can be shot at with rifle fire and armour piercing bullets from the crew of the minesweeper to sink it. Another role of the Royal Naval Patrol Service was anti-submarine work or ASDICS. This involves scanning the seas for submarine activity and deploying depth charges in suspect areas. According to Patrol Service Veteran Jimmy Brown in his 1994 book, the Patrol Service lost ‘over 500 vessels in all – a grim count that exceeded the losses in any other branch of the Royal Navy and totalled more than the combined losses of destroyers, sloops, corvettes, frigates, fleet sweepers, motor torpedo boats and motor gunboats.’ 2385 men lost their lives whilst serving with the Royal Naval Patrol Service. To ensure that the immense bravery and sacrifice made by these men aboard these ships is never forgotten a memorial, financed through the efforts of the Royal Naval Patrol Service Veterans, has been constructed by the Queen’s Steps at the lock pits. It is seen by all vessels that enter the port of Grimsby and sits in the shadow of the Dock Tower.
In reference to modern-day minesweeping, HMS Grimsby is a Sandown class minehunter (commissioned in 1999) currently in service in the Royal Navy. Grimsby class sloops saw service from the 1930s until 1966.
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 did not meet with favourable comment among local residents, and the Council Leader dropped the idea a year later.
Grimsby, Immingham and Cleethorpes, together form the economic area known as Greater Grimsby. The main sectors of the Greater Grimsby economy are food and drink; ports and logistics; renewable energy; chemicals and process industries and digital media.
Grimsby is indelibly linked with the sea fishing industry, which once gave the town much of its wealth. At its peak in the 1950s, it was the largest and busiest fishing port in the world. However as a result of the Cod Wars with Iceland this industry has been in decline for many years. It is still home to the largest fish market in the UK although most of what is sold is now brought overland from other ports or Iceland via containerisation.
Today, Greater Grimsby is home to around 500 food-related companies making it one of the largest concentrations of food manufacturing, research, storage and distribution in Europe. As a result the local council has promoted the town as Europe’s Food Town for nearly twenty years.
Grimsby is recognised as the main centre of the UK fish processing industry. In recent years, this expertise has led to diversification into all forms of frozen and chilled foods and consequently the town is one of the single largest centres of fish processing in Europe. More than 100 local companies are involved in fresh and frozen fish production, the largest of which is the Findus Group, comprising Young’s Seafoods and Findus and whose corporate headquarters are in the town. Young’s is a major employer in the area, with some 2,500 people based at its headquarters. From this base, Young’s has a global sourcing operation supplying 60 species from 30 countries.
Media interest has surrounded Traditional Grimsby smoked fish, which was awarded a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) by the European Union. This award safeguards the unique and specialist process of traditional fish smoking developed in the town. The traditional process relies on a natural method of slow smoking as opposed to the more widely used mechanical method. Producers that wish to call their product Traditional Grimsby smoked fish must adhere to strict quality standards laid down by the Grimsby Traditional Fish Smokers Group. As a regional food it has been commended by celebrity chefs Rick Stein, Mitch Tonks and Minister for Food and the Environment Jim Fitzpatrick in 2010.
Other major seafood companies include the Icelandic-owned Coldwater Seafood, employing more than 700 people across its sites in Grimsby and Five Star Fish, a supplier of fish products to the UK foodservice market. The £5.6 million Humber Seafood Institute opened in 2008 and is the first of its kind in the UK. Backed by Yorkshire Forward, North East Lincolnshire Council and the European Regional Development Fund, the HSI is managed by the local council and tenants include the Seafish Industry Authority and Grimsby Institute of Further & Higher Education. Greater Grimsby is a European centre of excellence in the production of chilled prepared meals, and the area has the largest concentration of cold storage facilities in Europe.
The food production and seafood heritage links are perpetuated in a UK 2006 Young’s television advertising campaign emphasising Grimsby as the source of its seafood products. In the campaign, Grimsby Docks are briefly shown, at dusk, lit and shot somewhat romantically. In 2008 this was followed up by further commercials paying reference to the town and its main industry as the company launched a range of Great Grimsby fish-based frozen meals.
The Port of Grimsby and Immingham is the UK’s largest port by tonnage. Its prime deep-water location on the Humber Estuary, gives companies direct access to mainland Europe and beyond. Benefiting from a prime deep-water location on the Humber Estuary, one of Europe’s busiest trade routes, it plays a central role in the commercial life of the UK. The port is operated by Associated British Ports (ABP), the UK’s largest and leading ports group. Grimsby and Immingham, and ABP’s 19 other ports, form a UK-wide network capable of handling every conceivable type of cargo.
The Environment Agency has awarded Sheffield-based telemetry company CSE Seprol a contract to supply flood warning devices for risk areas in East Anglia. CSE Seprol provides outstations that control the risk area’s flood warning sirens to alert local people of impending severe flooding. The control and monitoring of the sirens is linked by a Seprol S250 telemetry outstation to the Environment Agency’s Regional telemetry system.
The 18 sirens, at various locations around the flood risk area of Grimsby and Cleethorpes, should reach 25,500 households to warn them of portending floods. The sirens will only be sounded in the event of the Environment Agency issuing a severe flood warning for tidal flooding or if there is a likelihood of the sea defences being breached. The sirens make a variety of sounds, from the traditional wailing sound to a voice message. The alarms are said to sound like World War II air raid sirens, with an ‘all clear’ system in place.
In the event of flood siren activation, which can give up to six hours notice of pending floods, residents are advised to go indoors and listen to local radio stations BBC Radio Humberside or Viking FM.
Testing of the sirens takes place annually on 26 October, and residents are not required to take any action.
Places of interest and landmarks:
- Corporation Bridge
- Fisherman’s Memorial
- Freshney Place Shopping Centre
- Grimsby Docks
- Grimsby Dock Tower
- Grimsby Institute
- Grimsby Marina
- Grimsby Parish Church
- Grimsby Town Hall
- Humber Forts
- National Fishing Heritage Centre
- People’s Park and Floral Hall
- Waltham Windmill
- Weelsby Woods
- Welholme Galleries
- Grimsby is the site of a Blue Cross Animal Hospital, one of only four in the country, the other three being situated in London. The Grimsby hospital was previously in Cleethorpe Road, but in 2005 it moved to a new building called ‘Coco Markus House’ in the town’s Nelson Street.
The award-winning Freshney Place Shopping Centre in the heart of the town boasts over 70 stores including Marks and Spencer, House of Fraser and BHS. It was originally constructed between 1967 and 1971 in a joint venture between the old Grimsby Borough Council and developers Hammerson’s UK Ltd. and was known as the Riverhead Centre (so named as the development was adjacent to where the two local rivers, the Freshney and the Haven, meet). Victoria Street is the main shopping street.
The Riverhead Centre development caused some controversy at the time as it followed the 1960s trend of replacing old architecture with new; in this case it involved the wholesale demolition of much of the old town centre including the historic Bull Ring (which is now where Wilkinson’s, the Halifax Bank and the St James Hotel are based) and streets going back many centuries including Flottergate (located at the present day entrance to Freshney Place between British Home Stores and the market), Brewery Street (located at the present day entrance to Freshney Place between the branch of Barclays Bank and the offices of the Cheltenham and Gloucester) and East St Mary’s Gate (no trace remains). During this reconstruction the ornate Victorian branch of the Midland Bank was demolished and rebuilt into a contemporary design that was incorporated into the new shopping centre. In 1985 Marks and Spencer purchased the local department store Lawsons and Stockdale whose frontage ran along Victoria Street; like the Midland branch this was demolished and a new store, linked to the centre, was constructed.
In 1990 the council agreed to sell the area around the shopping centre, used for surface car parking, to Hammerson’s UK Ltd. The development owner and Humberside County Council, the highway authority at that time, agreed to the sale of the area of Baxtergate, the road which ran to the rear of the shopping centre, between the shopping centre and the surface car park. Baxtergate was relocated alongside the River Freshney and became phase one of the Peaks Parkway. Hammerson’s UK Ltd began a £100 million redevelopment of the site which saw it double in size. The centre was also covered in a glass roof and (where the new extension was built) two multi-storey car parks were constructed at each end of the centre, effectively privatising, roofing and enclosing the old Top Town area of Grimsby. Servicing to the stores was made available from a first floor service area, accessible even by large vehicles, using a ramp at the western end. The ramp also provided access to the car park on the roof of the indoor market which is operated by the local council. In recognition of the design of the new facilities, the Royal Town Planning Institute awarded the scheme a commendation in 1992.
Other developments near the town centre include a new Tesco Extra (the second in the area), the Victoria Mills Retail Park which is home to several chain stores including Next and a B&Q Depot off the Peaks Parkway A16.
Unlike many other towns that have shopping facilities on their outskirts, these (and other similar developments) can be found in and around Grimsby’s town centre, making shopping far easier for pedestrians and public transport users, reflecting Grimsby’s relatively cheap central commercial land. Other major retailers include the supermarket chains Tesco, Marks & Spencers, Sainsbury’s, Asda on Holles Street and Morrisons. The Morrisons store is located just outside the town boundary, in the parish of Laceby, and is peculiarly known as Morrisons Cleethorpes. This is an anomaly arising from when the area was part of the now defunct Cleethorpes Borough. Most major supermarkets in the town have expanded somewhat in the last few years, including a massive extension built at Asda, and more recently another floor was built at Tesco at Hewitts Circus (although this store is technically in the neighbouring conurbation, Cleethorpes).
There are also a number of local, independent specialist stores and the Abbeygate Centre (off Bethlehem Street) is where many are located. Once the head office of local brewers Hewitt Brothers it was renovated in the mid-1980s and is home to a number of restaurants and designer clothing stores. The town also has two markets, one next to Freshney Place and the other in Freeman Street (B1213), itself once a dominant shopping area in the town with close connections to the docks but one that has sadly struggled since the late 1970s.
The area has a developed, if somewhat corporate, nightlife. Aside from the nightclubs in nearby Cleethorpes, the town centre has undergone a renaissance in the last decade. A number of national pub chains have redeveloped or opened new outlets, including a specially-built complex at the Riverhead which is home to three (originally five) such operations. Prior to the late 1960s many public houses in the area were owned by the local brewer Hewitt Brothers and gave a distinctive local touch but following a takeover in 1969 by the brewer Bass Charrington these have been re-badged (many times), closed or sold off; examples are the Yarborough Hotel.
Musical entertainment is found at the Grimsby Auditorium, built in 1995, on Cromwell Road in Yarborough near Grimsby Leisure Centre. The smaller Caxton Theatre is on Cleethorpe Road (A180) in East Marsh near the docks. The Caxton Theatre provides entertainment by adults and youths in theatre. A notable theatre company in the area is the Class Act Theatre Company run by local playwright David Wrightam. The company produces strong factual drama and premiere award-winning productions.
North East Lincolnshire Council have installed a Wi-Fi network covering Victoria Street in central Grimsby. The service provides access to the Internet for the general public on a yearly subscription.
The constituency of Great Grimsby is considered a Labour stronghold although Austin Mitchell held the seat in both the 1983 and 2010 general elections with a majority of less than 800.
Grimsby also has rail links via Grimsby Town railway station and Grimsby Docks railway station. There is a level crossing in the centre of the town across Wellowgate. TransPennine Express provide direct trains to Manchester Airport via Doncaster and Sheffield whilst Northern Rail operate services to Barton-upon-Humber (for buses to Hull) and a Saturday only service to Sheffield via. Retford. Lincoln and Newark are served by East Midlands Trains services which can go on to Nottingham on Sunday in the Summer months. The service to Cleethorpes runs at least hourly during the day, along a single track, passing stations at Grimsby Docks and New Clee.
Grimsby was home to two tramway networks: the Grimsby District Light Railway and the Grimsby & Immingham Electric Railway. The Grimsby Electric was a normal gauge tramway opened in 1912 between Corporation Bridge at Grimsby and Immingham. There was no physical connection with the railway system. The tramway served the town with a passenger service between Grimsby and Immingham until closure in 1961. It is claimed that once this was controlled by the Corporation, they were more interested in supporting the motorbus service, now number 45.
The Grimsby Light Railway opened in 1881 using horse drawn trams. In 1901, these were replaced with electric tramways. In 1925 the Grimsby Transport Company bought the tramway company and in 1927 moved the depot to the Victoria Street Depot, an old sea plane hangar. This system closed in 1937. The depot continues to be used by Stagecoach, though the old Grimsby Tramways livery is still visible on the front of the building.
Operating in the area until the 1950s was a network of electrically operated trolley buses which received their power from overhead power lines.