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.
There is some evidence of a small town of Roman workers sited in the area in the second century. 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 to exploit the rich fishing grounds in the North Sea.
According to legend, Grimsby was first founded by Grim, a Danish fisherman. The settlement of Grimsby being established by Danes sometime in the 9th century AD. The name Grimsby originates from Grim's by, derived from the name Grim, the Danish Viking, and the suffix -by being the Old Norse word for village. The legendary founding of Grimsby is described in 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 mid-14th century it benefited from the generosity of Edmund de Grimsby, a local man who became a senior Crown official and judge in Ireland.
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
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". In the early 19th century, the town grew rapidly. 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 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 first true fish dock opened in Grimsby in 1856 and from then on, Grimsby was at the forefront of the development of the fishing industry. In 1857 there were 22 vessels in Grimsby. Six years later there were 112. The first two legitimate steam trawlers ever built in Great Britain were based in Grimsby and by 1900, a tenth of the fish consumed in the United Kingdom was landed at Grimsby, despite the many smaller coastal fishing ports and villages that were supplying the nation. 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 an end to a way of life and community that had lasted 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 artefacts 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, employment declined. The population 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.
Second World War
The Royal Dock was used as the UK's largest base for minesweepers to patrol the North Sea. The Admiralty requisitioned numerous trawlers to serve as minesweepers for the Royal Naval Patrol Service. In many cases, their crew were 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 with a cutting jaw through the water in what was known as a 'sweep' to bring mines to the surface and allow for their removal.
− 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.
On 14 June 1943, an early morning air raid by the Luftwaffe saw several 1,000 kg bombs, 6,000 incendiary bombs and more than 3,000 Butterfly Bombs fall in the Grimsby area. That night 99 of the 196 killed by WWII bombing raids in Grimsby and Cleethorpes lost their lives and 184 people were seriously injured. The Butterfly Bombs, which littered the area, hampered fire-fighting crews attempting to reach locations damaged by the incendiary bombs and the search for them continued for a month after the raid.
Since 1977 Austin Mitchell (Labour) has been the Member of Parliament for the Great Grimsby constituency. The constituency of Great Grimsby is generally considered a Labour stronghold although Austin Mitchell only narrowly held the seat in the 1983 and 2010 general elections, both times with a majority under 800.
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.
North East Lincolnshire Council has eight Council Wards within the area of Grimsby.