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 in the 9th century by Grim, a Danish fisherman.
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; 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 legend of the founding of Grimsby is completely unsupported. A Grim and Havelock Association claims to have 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 travelling incognito amongst mortals, as in the short poem known as 'Grimnir's Sayings' (Grimnismal) in the Poetic Edda. The intended audience of the Havelock tale (recorded much later in the form of The Lay of Havelock the Dane) may have 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), Grimsby is unlikely to have a different derivation.
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.
Fishing and maritime industry
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 decided 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 became redundant, highly skilled in jobs that no longer existed, and struggled to find work ashore. As seen in the case of Ross Group, some firms concentrated on other expanding industries within the town, such as food processing. Grimsby's trawling days are remembered through the artifacts and permanent exhibits at the town's Fishing Heritage Centre. The preserved 1950s trawler, Ross Tiger, is located here. Few fishing vessels still operate from Grimsby's once thriving docks, although the town maintains a substantial fish market, of European importance.
The population of Grimsby grew from 75,000 in 1901 to 92,000 by 1931. Given the effects of the Great Depression and the restructuring of the fishing industry, many jobs left the area, and the poplulation was fairly stable for the rest of the 20th century.
Since the mid-1980s, the former Humber ferry, PS Lincoln Castle, was moored in Alexandra Dock. She was used during this time as a pub\restaurant. Although her design and status as Britain's last coal-fired paddle steamer was unique, the ship was no longer profitable and was broken up in 2010. Berthed in the Alexandra Dock is the Ross Tiger, the last survivor of what was once the world's largest fleet of sidewinder trawlers.
World War II
During World War II, Grimsby's status as a major port made it a target 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). Later study of German records found 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. Numerous air raids destroyed areas of Grimsby; it was struck by Butterfly Bombs in 1943. The bombing caused the deaths of 197 people..
− The dangers faced by the 'Patrol Service' ensured that it lost more vessels than any other branch of the Royal Navy during the Second World War with 2385 lives lost. Grimsby’s Royal Naval Patrol Service veterans financed the construction of a memorial beside the Dock Tower to ensure that the bravery and sacrifice of their comrades is never forgotten.