Ours – The story of Freeman Street, Grimsby

Ours – The story of Freeman Street, Grimsby

The banners on Freeman Street were installed in 2022, the result of a programme of community engagement run by Our Big Picture with local people. You can read the story behind them below.


1201: The Royal Charter

Grimsby was amongst the first places in England, to be granted a Royal Charter. The Carta de Grimesby, gave freedoms, rights and privileges to the Burgesses and freemen of Grimsby. All this was happening a full 14 years before the signing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede. The common people however, were not included in this.

The seals of King John and the Burgesses of Grimsby, were used to seal the charter, at a Royal Court at Nottingham. This was a kickstarter and things were on the up for our borough forebears.

The Enrolled Freemen of Grimsby still own and manage what is now Freeman Street – land granted to them by later royal charters following on from the Carta de Grimesby. Find more of their history at enrolledfreemenofgrimsby.org.


1890: Heyday

Gladys is a thoroughly modern lass, sat astride her new bicycle, on her way up the street to St. Andrews, where she was going to help arrange the flowers for her friend Vi’s wedding. Freeman Street is bustling with people, all going about their own business, as this is what would become known as our communities heyday. The railway had arrived just over forty years ago, bringing lots of newcomers to build the new docks, work on the docks or out in the North Sea, in the fast growing fishing fleet.

People wander into the road, with little danger of being run over, with no cars yet, although you needed your wits about you and your ears pinned back to listen for approaching trams.

The prosperity of the town was on the up, though most people had it hard, as Gladys’s father would say, “they’ve nay two brass farthings to rub together.” Yet there was plenty of work and what with all the new-fangled inventions, life was slowly improving.

The coal fire smoke obscured the detail of the new docks tower in the distance and there was a definite pong of fish, but Gladys had her eyes on St. Andrews and her mind her on her friend’s wedding to Albert, a young skipper.


1950: Pontoon

The busiest, noisiest part of Grimsby in 1950. With lumpers bringing the fish out of a trawlers fish room. Working together, these steadfast blokes carried out their daily task in their unbending stride, alongside the Grimsby Fish Dock.

Lumpers were contracted to trawler owners, but worked for the National Dock Labour Board. Baskets of cod and haddock, were divided into into kits, a kit being 10 stone equal to 140 pounds. This is a scene, we will never see the likes of again. 

Dale Mackie is a Grimsby fine artist, who centres much of his work, in and around our town, documenting its people and memories, but not exclusively. He has recently exhibited an impressive collection of paintings, under the title, Unsung Heroes WW2. His work is nostalgic, but with that real world grit and determination of our towns folk.

In this painting, he has caught the bustle and organised chaos of the lumper’s task and conveys it matter of fact, through the years, for us to experience a part of our forebears’ lives.


1960: Take a walk down Freemo

Peter Cullum’s poem gives you an accurate picture of how Freeman Street was in 1960, before the redevelopment and demise of the fishing industry. He’s just one of the brilliant poets who call our town home.

Take a walk down Freemo

Lee used to deliver to Freeman Street
Went to market several days a week
You had to be early for supplies.
Shoppers would be there from sunrise.
I said, “Hey Lee, where does everybody go
He said, “Hey friend, take a walk down Freemo”

Rowland recalls the market in 1960
They looked after you like you were family
Place was busy when trawlers came home
A spirit here where you were never alone
I said, “Hey Rowland, where does everybody go?”
He said, “Hey friend, take a walk down Freemo”

Joy’s Mum lived on Garibaldi during the war
At the raid shelter she’s stopped at the door
Shelter one full, go try over there
Shelter one’s blown up, wars just not fair
I said, “Hey Joy, where does everybody go?”
She said, “Hey friend, take a walk down Freemo”

Joy’s Mums a bus conductress in another air raid
A strange thing happened that can’t be explained
The air raid stopped and this is the truth
She arrived home to find her mattress on the roof
I said, “Hey Joy, where does everybody go?”
She said, “Hey friend, take a walk down Freemo”

Christine went to the market when school was done
To help Mum with the shopping on the way home
A helpful hand here, a friendly face there
It seemed everyone had time to spare
I said, “Hey Christine, where does everybody go?”
She said, “Hey friend, take a walk down Freemo”

Lynn from Nelson House has played her part
Everybody called her The Queen Of Hearts
She was once named volunteer of the year
For helping out all the folks around here
I said, “Hey Lynn, where does everybody go?”
She said, “Hey friend, take a walk down Freemo”

So when you wonder, where does everybody go?
Just meet your friends and take a walk down Freemo


1980: Resentment

Resentment holds all the elements to love and cherish in a John  Hopkinson painting. He was one of us, Meggie, yet Grimbarian as well, capturing the every-day, filled with ordinary folk and that’s what he was, a folk artist. He absorbed our town, took it in by a process of acute observation and osmosis. Using diaries as sketchbooks, taking one with him everywhere, ready to capture anything of interest, that caught his eye.

Wherever his fellows were, there was John. The football crowd on the way to a Mariner’s match at Blundell Park, muckers chinwagging on the lotties, people in the street, or on the docks or shipyards. Workers having a mug of tea and some snap and a good ol’ natter, in the fish workers’ canteen. Kids on a school playground, snowballing, or punters in the pub, enjoying a pint or two, while someone tickles the ivories, magicking up a tune.

This piece, ‘Resentment,’ encompasses that love-hate relationship that we have with our town and its heritage. It’s also a good example of one of John’s signature calling card features: the big hands, something I love him for. If you get a chance, check out any of his line drawings. They are a treat in themselves, each telling and fleshing out a whole story with characters, using just the right amount of lines.


1998: The Double, Town fans favourite moment

For anyone with their feet firmly set as fans of togger (soccer) there was one season to remember for the Mariners. It will always remain glorious and fixed deeply within the hearts of loyal Grimsby Town fans, as one of those pivotal moments.

It was the season of 1997/8, when this valiant, plucky little town, sat on the south side of the Humber’s mouth, had a double whammy, a triumph and prestige that will remain forever immortal. Town had never experienced the honour of playing on the sacred turf of Wembley, but within the space of just six weeks, our lads were to do a double.

That first match was the Football League Trophy Final, for teams from the second and third division. This was played on 19th April 1998. Towns opponents were the south coast team Bournemouth. The match went into extra time, with the score at 1-1. Wayne Burnett scoring the winning goal.

With a taste for Wembley firmly under their belt and the reverberation of their fans still echoing loudly in their ears, Town returned to Wembley, just six weeks later, on the 24th of May, for the Second Division play-off Final. This time they were matched against Northampton Town. A match set in history, with Kevin Donovan scoring the only goal, nineteen minutes into the match, putting the ball well and truly in the back of Northampton’s goal.  I have only one regret, that Charlie Ekberg never lived to see this glorious day. 


2021: Our green future

Here is a children’s drawing from Saint Mary’s Catholic Primary Voluntary Academy, its subject, renewable energy, in the form of wind turbines. These children will become the people who will have to live in a zero-carbon world. 

Why is this picture of relevance here in Grimsby? Well, our town is part of a region, that includes Hull, across the Humber, that is spearheading the renewable economy. For one thing, businesses here have over a hundred joined up to, The Grimsby Renewables Partnership, putting our town at the core of a renewable energy revolution, in solar energy.

Just down the road at Flixborough, a green energy park has been set up. While back here again in Grimsby, the Grimsby Institute, is training the skilled workforce that will be needed for work on renewable energy. A range of skills are needed in the disciplines relevant to the construction and operation of wind turbines. There is also an offshore wind-to-hydrogen project, for hydrogen production and fuel cells, so all in all, our town is gearing up, with children who are now drawing pictures, who could become part of this revolution.


2022: Freeman Street – Best Small Indoor Market

Freeman Street Market Grimsby sets out its stall and lands the NABMA award for Best Small Indoor Market 2022

Chris New, NABMA’s Member Services Consultant said “This is a Lincolnshire market that is both traditional (being 150 years old!) and yet totally up to date with its innovative new traders. The management are keen on social media, marketing methods and its integration of a great community following.”

The market has benefited from great ideas including: –

  • Introduction of a very successful Food Court
  • Support for new and existing traders through free of charge stall upgrades, marketing sales packs and social media connections
  • Introductory offer of discounted rents over an initial three-month period of trading
  • No fixed term contracts for traders
  • Extra opening hours and catering for evening deliveries
  • Street Food Events, including The Great Grimsby Food Fight bringing together 15 local street food businesses
  • Free Family Fun days, theatre productions and Film Nights
  • Great community support, health and wellbeing services, jobs fairs and work placement opportunities

Community involvement is one of the highlights of the market and a key reason for its success. It hosts Flourish – an autism group that, amongst other things, arranged a Flash Mob performance from the Greatest Showman. Community projects by a local group of volunteers ‘East Marsh United’ and charity space to support their objectives. Cooking demonstrations by different cultural groups and free family events.

Market Manager Sean McGarel is also a Young Enterprise Humber advisor, supporting young people with business development and accommodating youth markets. He also supports the youth theatre group Lowercase who produce plays and performances on the market and GAP – a performance group for the under-16s whose events bring extra custom into the market. Children and young people performing at the market to bring in their parents, friends and grandparents are all good for passing trade.

The market team’s innovative ideas, hard work and internet marketing has resulted in continuously rising footfall for the market, with its combination of traders who have been trading there for over thirty years through family generations and its new traders and community innovations.