Gainsborough is a town 15 miles north-west of Lincoln on the River Trent within the West Lindsey district of Lincolnshire, England. At one time it served as an important port with trade downstream to Hull, and was the most inland in England, being more than 55 miles from the North Sea.
Gainsborough, Lincolnshire in "A Topographical Dictionary of England" edited by Samuel Lewis (1848)
GAINSBOROUGH (All Saints), a parish, markettown, and port, and the head of a union, in the wapentake of Corringham, parts of Lindsey, county of Lincoln; comprising the townships of Morton, East Stockwith, and Walkerith; and containing 7860 inhabitants, of whom 6948 are in the town, 18¼ miles (N. W. by N.) from Lincoln, and 147 (N. by W.) from London. This place appears to have been inhabited by the Saxons soon after their first invasion of Britain, and, under the heptarchy, to have formed part of the kingdom of Northumbria, and afterwards part of that of Mercia. In 868, Alfred the Great celebrated his nuptials with Ealswitha, daughter of a Saxon noble, here. In 1013, the Danes, under the command of their king Sweyn, landed at the place, and commenced their sanguinary career of devastation, which terminated in the final subjugation of the kingdom. Sweyn, while revelling with his followers, was assassinated here, according to Matthew of Westminster; but other historians describe that event as having occurred at Thetford, in the county of Norfolk. Upon the death of Sweyn, his son Canute was chosen king of England by the Danes; but he did not long enjoy that honour; for Ethelred II., who, during the devastation of the kingdom, had taken refuge in Normandy, returning with a powerful retinue, attacked and defeated the Danes at this place, and compelled Canute and his followers to evacuate the country. Subsequently to the Norman Conquest, the manor of Gainsborough was granted to Geoffry de Wirce, from whom, in the reign of Henry I., it passed to Nigel de Albini, and in that of Stephen to William de Laci, Earl of Lincoln. After being owned by the Talbots, Percys, and others, it came to Sir Thomas Burgh, whose descendant, created Lord Burgh in the reign of Henry VIII., sold it to William Hickman, Esq., of London, who received the honour of knighthood from James I., and whose son was made a baronet by Charles I. It is now the property of his descendant, H. B. Hickman, Esq. At the commencement of the war in the reign of Charles I., the town was garrisoned for the king, by the Earl of Kingston, but being attacked by the parliamentarians, the earl was made prisoner, and ordered to be taken to Hull; in crossing the Humber, the boat was observed by a party of royalists, who, in an attempt to rescue him, fired some shots, by one of which he was unfortunately killed. The royalists, under the command of the Marquess of Newcastle, soon after regained possession of the town, which was placed under the government of Col. St. George; and in 1643, Cromwell, on his route to York, encountered and defeated a party of troops near the town under the command of General Cavendish, the brother of the marquess, and Col. Markham, of Allerton, both of whom fell in the conflict.
The town is pleasantly situated on the eastern bank of the river Trent, along which it extends for more than a mile; and is connected with the county of Nottingham, on the opposite side, by a handsome stone bridge of three arches, erected in 1791, by a proprietary, at an expense of £10,000. The streets in the more ancient part are irregular, but those portions which have been built within the last twenty years are handsome and of uniform character, consisting of regularly formed streets, and terraces of pleasing appearance. The town is well paved, and lighted with gas; and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water from the Trent, by an engine constructed for that purpose. A theatre has been formed out of part of a building called the Old Hall, said to have been the residence of John of Gaunt; it is opened for six weeks during the October mart, and a room in the town-hall is occasionally used for assemblies and concerts.
The port, which was a creek under that of Hull, was, on a memorial presented by the merchants of this place to the Lords of the Treasury, setting forth the great increase and importance of the trade of the town, made distinct and independent in 1841; and a custom-house, with a collector, comptroller, and other officers, was established here. The limits of the port, as determined by a commission of the exchequer, on the 7th of March, in that year, comprehend the whole of the river Trent, and all streams flowing into it, throughout its course from Trent Ness, near its confluence with the Ouse, to Gainsborough, including a distance of about 30 miles. The navigation admits of vessels not drawing more than 14 feet water at spring tide. The tide is very rapid, producing that rush of water called the Hygre, which rises to the height of six or eight feet above the level of the river, and extends from its mouth to a considerable distance above the town. The bonding-trade is very considerable, and consists chiefly of hemp, flax, timber, deals, staves, tobacco, and most articles of East India produce; the last being removed from places at which those articles of trade are allowed to be imported. The principal exports hitherto have been coal, salt, and materials for the construction of railroads; but an increase in other articles is likely to arise from the facilities which the port affords to the neighbouring towns of Lincoln, Nottingham, Retford, Newark, &c., for the exportation of their manufactured produce. The number of vessels that entered inwards with cargoes in a recent year, from foreign ports, was 29, and the number that cleared outwards 11; the number of vessels employed in the coasting-trade in the same year was 828: the amount of duties paid at the custom-house for cargoes imported from foreign ports direct, was £2153, and for goods and merchandise bonded, £24,261. There are three extensive yards for building ships, several of which, of from 200 to 700 tons, have been built, though those generally used in the coasting-trade seldom exceed 200 tons' burthen; also a dry-dock for repairing vessels, three rope-walks, numerous large timber-yards, commodious wharfs and warehouses, several brass and iron foundries, and four mills for crushing linseed. Great facilities of communication are afforded by steampackets, sailing vessels, and by land conveyance with the towns adjacent. An act was passed in 1845 for the construction of a railway to Great Grimsby, with a branch to Lincoln, and another branch to New Holland, opposite Hull; and in 1846 two acts were obtained, one for a railway from Gainsborough to Newark, and the other for a railway to Sheffield. The market, which is amply supplied with corn and provisions of all kinds, is on Tuesday; there is a great market for fat-stock every alternate Thursday: fairs are held on Easter-Monday and the 20th of October, and a statute-fair on the 5th of November. The town is governed by officers appointed annually at the court leet of the lord of the manor; and a court baron is held at Easter and Michaelmas, under the steward of the manor. There are petty-sessions every alternate Thursday. The powers of the county debt-court of Gainsborough, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Gainsborough. The town-hall is a plain building of brick, situated in the market-place; and near the bottom of Church-lane is the prison.
The parish comprises about 7210 acres, of which 3530 are in the township; the land is generally fertile, the surface well wooded, and the scenery pleasingly diversified. The Old Hall, already referred to, the seat of the Burgh and Hickman families, forming three sides of a quadrangle, though now converted into different tenements, retains much of its ancient character. The front is chiefly of timber frame-work; on the north side is a handsome structure of stone in the early English style, which was probably the domestic chapel, and at the north-western extremity is a tower of brick 80 feet high, commanding extensive views of the Trent, reaching nearly to its junction with the Humber. Thonock Hall, the seat of Mr. Hickman, is situated in the hamlet of Thonock, two miles from the town, on an eminence surrounded by woods and thriving plantations; the demesne is tastefully laid out, and combines much variety of scenery. The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £22. 16. 8.; net income, £529; patron and appropriator, the Bishop of Lincoln. The tithes were commuted for land and corn-rents, under an act of inclosure, in 1795; the appropriate tithes for 495a. 3r. 30p., and a corn-rent of £70. 14. 10½.; and the vicarial for 428a. 2r. 2p., and a corn-rent of £40. 2. 4¼. The church, which appears to have been originally founded and endowed by the Knights Templars, about 1209, was, with the exception of the tower, rebuilt in 1748, at an expense of £5230, raised by a duty upon coal brought to the town, and by a parochial rate; the ancient tower, a fine specimen of the early English style, forms a striking contrast with the modern portion of the edifice, which is Grecian. A district church dedicated to the Holy Trinity, of which the first stone was laid by Mr. Hickman in September, 1841, has been completed at Southolme, at an expense of upwards of £3000, towards which the Church Commissioners granted £600 and the Incorporated Society £300, the remainder being raised by subscription, in aid of which Mr. Hickman contributed £500; it is a handsome structure in the early English style, with a spire, and contains 900 sittings, whereof 540 are free. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Bishop, with a net income of £150. At Morton and East Stockwith are other incumbencies. There are places of worship for the Society of Friends, Independents, Primitive Methodists, Unitarians, and Wesleyans.
The free school was originally founded as a free grammar school, by charter of Queen Elizabeth, in 1590, and was most probably endowed with funds for its support; but during the parliamentary war, in which the town suffered severely, the deeds of this and other charities are supposed to have been destroyed, and the school fell into decay, till, in 1704, Sarah Mott, of Doncaster, bequeathed property now producing £53, and in 1731 James Wharton property producing £107, per annum, for its support. A new schoolroom, with a dwelling-house for the master, was erected in 1795, by a tontine subscription of £400, and £300 from the bequests. Parochial schools were established in 1784, by subscription; and in 1813, Mrs. Hickman purchased the site of the buildings, and granted land for the erection of two more extensive schoolrooms, with houses for the master and mistress: about 200 boys and 80 girls are instructed, and many of them are clothed from the funds of the Mott and Wharton charities. £140 from bequests are annually distributed among the poor. The union comprises 49 parishes or townships, of which 7 are in the county of Nottingham, and includes a population of 25,855, under the superintendence of 50 guardians: the workhouse is situated on the south side of the town. Near Southolme is a spring posessing tonic qualities, similar to the Buxton waters, but of different temperature. Among the most distinguished natives of the place, have been, William de Gainsborough, a zealous advocate of the infallibility of the Pope, who was advanced by Boniface VIII. to the see of Worcester, and who died here in 1308; Simon Patrick, Bishop of Ely, who was born in 1625; and his brother John Patrick, one of the translators of Plutarch. Gainsborough gives the title of Earl to the Noel family.