Grimsby turns 820 – but did you know about the town’s vibrant history?

Grimsby turns 820 – but did you know about the town’s vibrant history?

Grimsby will fly its borough flag over the Town Hall on Thursday 11 March to celebrate the 820th anniversary of the issuing and sealing of its first Royal Charter in 1201.

It is said that the Royal Charter document was sealed in Clipstone, Nottinghamshire, witnessed by King John and his Royal entourage, who had visited Grimsby two months earlier.

The 13th century Royal Charter allowed Grimsby to govern itself and set its own taxes. At this time, Grimsby was one of just seven areas in England to be granted this responsibility. 14 years later, the infamous Magna Carta document was signed, which gave the same level of control to other parts of the country.

In the charter, the responsibility for Grimsby was handed over to the “burgesses”, local people who became ‘Free Men’. Today, the registered charity ‘The Enrolled Freemen of Grimsby’ has over 1,000 local men and women who are the direct descendants of the original burgesses.

This descent can be from birth, through marriage or through apprenticeships. In those days, apprentices tended to be boys who signed up with a ‘master’ for seven years to qualify as ‘Journeymen’. More about the requirements to join the charity can be found here.

Four days after the Royal Charter document was sealed, King John granted a second charter which allowed Grimsby to hold an annual fair, to run for 15 days from 25 May.

The Burgesses were also granted permission to set up markets in the town, and today, the Enrolled Freeman of Grimsby still hold ownership of Freeman Street Market. This one and Top Town Market are still operated under the provisions of the Charter.

Unfortunately, Grimsby’s first Royal Charter was lost, but 14 other Royal Charters and Letters Patent are kept in storage in the town.

These include the Charter of 1256, which reduced Grimsby’s contribution to the Exchequer (fee farm rent) to £50, Henry VIII’s Royal Letters of 1510, which covers the holding of judicial sessions in Grimsby, and The Charter of Incorporation of 1688 by James II, which made the Burgesses of Grimsby a corporate body.

Cllr Callum Procter, Cabinet member for Economic Growth, Housing and Tourism, said: “Our past will always shape our future and that is why heritage is so important. We are working hard to re-invigorate the town’s urban areas and that includes a variety of cultural and arts projects, which will offer reminders of that past.

“The anniversary of Grimsby’s first Charter is something we should be extremely proud of and I personally would like to see March 11 become an annual day on our town’s calendar in the future,” he added.

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