The resort of Cleethorpes blends seamlessly into the port of Grimsby. There are many placenames in the east and north-east of England ending in –by. This dates from the time of the Viking invasions: the word ‘by’ is an Old Norse word meaning ‘village’. Thus Grimsby was Grim’s village, Grim being the Danish king who is thought to have founded the town in the 9th century AD, although there is evidence of Roman occupation prior to this. Grimsby is an important fishing port, in fact during the 1950s, Grimsby was the largest fishing port in the world, and it is still the centre of the UK’s fish processing industry today, although in 2006 the town was delivered a blow when Unilever decided to shut its Birds Eye factory in Grimsby, with the loss of 600 jobs. There is an old building in the Docks which belonged to the Grimsby Ice Company, which used Norwegian ice to keep fish fresh, which had its moment of Hollywood fame when it was used for the Dunkirk street scenes in the film Atonement starring Keira Knightley. The Fishing Heritage Centre in Alexandra Dock tells the story of Grimsby’s maritime history.
In May 1915, several trawlers from Grimsby found themselves unexpectedly caught up in the First World War when they were among eleven trawlers sunk by a German submarine which suddenly appeared in their midst. The crew members just had time to gather their belongings and make their escape in small boats before the trawlers were sunk; some of the Grimsby crew members were picked up by another trawler. During the Second World War, the main threat to the town came from the air, Grimsby’s importance as a fishing port making it a major target for the Luftwaffe. The town was the first place in Britain to have the Luftwaffe’s Butterfly Bomb used against it, causing major destruction. The distinctive Grimsby Dock Tower, whose Italianate appearance is based on the tower of the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena, acted as a useful landmark for the invaders.
For a list of events in Grimsby, see here.
Map of the area.