The contributions of one of the most prominent and influential figures to the history of the area is to be celebrated and preserved thanks to an exciting project led by The Watkin Society, in collaboration with Grimsby Local History Library and North East Lincolnshire Archives.
Sir Edward Watkin, also known as ‘Mr Grimsby’ and ‘The Railway King’, a pioneer and visionary during the Victorian era, made significant contributions in shaping present-day Grimsby and Cleethorpes.
Funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund will see the stories brought to schools in the area through partnership with Heritage Lincolnshire.
Geoff Scargill, Chair of The Watkin Society, said: “I sometimes say I’m a registered Watkin addict under the National Health Service! I really am passionately interested in this man – mainly because he has been forgotten and part of me wants people to remember him for his fascinating character.
“Watkin spotted the potential in Grimsby and turned it from a small port into what became the biggest fishing port in the world. He made a statement by building the railway station at Cleethorpes two minutes from the sand – he was saying ‘this is going to be a family holiday resort!’”
Although based in Northenden, Manchester, Geoff has made several trips to the area over the past year after commissioning Grimsby Local History Library and North East Lincolnshire Archives to conduct the research.
This has been a fascinating project to work on! I’d never heard of Watkin before Geoff’s phone call, and each time he came (or in the intervening time), I’d find more and more references to his impact on the area.Anna Murphy Customer Service Assistant, Grimsby Local History Library
“I started by looking at our book and pamphlet collections from early 1850s to 1900s, as well as newspaper cuttings and photographs from the same time. The topics spanned anything from Sir Edward Watkin to the development of Grimsby Docks and Cleethorpes transformation into a seaside resort, Ross Castle, Cleethorpes Railway Station, the Pier and the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company (MS&L) of which Watkin was Chairman.”
As part of the funding, The Watkin Society will preserve this research as part of a digital library, with everything about Watkin available in a single space, easily accessible anywhere in the world.
Geoff added: “I’m hoping to be contacted from people in the area with an interest in local history, who may have never heard of Watkin. If they want to do some research, we will help them in any way we can. If they want to produce something, we can include it in our digital library.
“I think the Grimsby Local History section is a terrific library! It’s been great working alongside Anna and Tracey and I can’t wait to see the final report!”
An illustrated talk titled ‘The Amazing Life of ‘Mr Grimsby’ and ‘Mr Cleethorpes’ - Sir Edward Watkin MP – The Railway King’, will take place at Grimsby Town Hall on Thursday, July 21, from 7:30pm. Admission £3 to non-members of the Civic Society, including light refreshments.