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Grimsby Culture and History

Grimsby is a large seaport town in Lincolnshire, England. Also known as Great Grimsby, the towns culture revolves around the seaport, which was home to the largest fishing fleet in the world in the 20th century.

Times have changed, and the fishing fleets have pulled in their nets and slowed their activity.

But the town’s seaport and coastline are very much a part of everyday life for locals. Tourists from across the world come to Grimsby to visit the docks and learn about the rich past of the town.

Historians have found evidence that a small Roman town existed in the area during the second century.

The findings add new life to the town’s history.

Even 700 years before the Vikings, the Romans exploited the town’s rich fishing in the North Sea. The location was ideal for ships that needed to seek shelter from approaching storms.

Vikings Settle Grimsby in 9th Century AD

The Vikings founded Grimsby in the 9th century AD. The town’s name derives from the Old Norse word for fishing: “Grim.” Historians consider the description of Grimsby’s founding in Lay of Havelock the Dane as myth.

Numerous books mention the town, with the Domesday Book stating the town’s population reached 200.

Medieval Grimsby

Grimsby transitioned into a medieval town in the 12th century. The town’s coastline allowed it to grow into a fishing and trading post. The town’s importance and revenue grew quickly, allowing it to be one of the most important towns in terms of tax revenue to the Crown.

The first mayor of the town was instated in 1202.

King John granted the town’s charter a year prior in 1201.

A ditch helped protect the town, as it was too small to build a wall around. Marshy landscape also acted as a protectant.

There were two main churches in town:

  • St. Mary’s
  • St. James

St. James remains as Grimsby Minster. Edmund de Grimsby, a senior Crown official, helped bring the town into prominence in the 14th century. A long period of decline in the 15th century hit the city.

The city’s population shrunk to 1,524 occupants by 1801, reaching near-medieval population levels.

The decline was due to ships in the Humber not being able to dock because of the silt up in The Haven.

Rise of the Fishing Industry

The resurgence of the fishing industry began in May 1796 when an Act of Parliament formed the Grimsby Haven Company. The company’s formation was to improve, deepen, widen and enlarge the town’s Haven and the Port of Great Grimsby.

The port revival led to a population boom in the early 19th century.

Locals made a living on the port just like the distant Vikings did. Goods imported into the port included:

  • Iron
  • Timber
  • Flax
  • Hemp
  • Wheat

Expansion led to new docks being built. The new docks were ushered in with the Grimsby Docks Act of 1845. Commercial fishing grew rapidly with the arrival of the railway in 1848 that connected the Billingsgate Fish Market to London.

Numerous docks were completed between 1851 and 1879, including:

  • Dock Tower
  • Royal Dock
  • No. 1 Fish Dock
  • No. 2 Fish Dock
  • Alexandra Dock
  • Union Dock

The town’s shipping fleet grew from 22 vessels in 1857 to 112 by 1863. A tenth of the fish in the United Kingdom derived from Grimsby by 1900. The population grew to 92,000 people by 1931. By the 1950s, the town of Grimsby was the largest fishing port in the world.

Great Depression Takes Aim at Employment

The Great Depression led to Grimsby’s employment plunging. Restructuring of the fishing industry caused declining employment despite the population remaining stable. The Second World War caused the Royal Dock to be a base for minesweepers.

The town was bombarded on 14 June 1943, with thousands of bombs falling in the Grimsby area in one night. The bombing led to 99 deaths in Grimsby.

Following the war, the Cod Wars began.

Trawlers abandoned their operations, and the demise of the fishing industry began.

The Fishing Heritage Centre stands as a reminder of Grimsby’s thriving past. Few fishing trawlers operate from the once-famous docks. The fish markets in Grimsby are still important to the town and are some of the most important in the Eurozone.

Cultural Revival of Grimsby

Grimsby’s economy has struggled since the industrial boom. The town has had a difficult time finding its place outside of the fishing industry. But a revival is occurring, with national pub chains and new outlets being built.

The Grimsby Auditorium was built in 1995, adding a touch of life to the town.

Caxton Theatre also opened and provides entertainment for adults. The town’s population in 2011 hit 88,200, slightly below the town’s population nearly a century earlier.

Grimsby is now the “worst place to live” in England, according to the Live Here UK. The voting took place on Facebook with thousands of participants.