Grimsby in days gone by was probably one of, if not the premier fishing port in the United Kingdom. 100’s of trawlers sailed from Grimsby to fish the North Sea and Icelandic waters. Sadly those days are long gone and I believe there are only 4 vessels working from Grimsby these days. Grimsby however is still a major player in the fish industry but these days it is in fish processing, the fish is brought to Grimsby by lorry and the occasional trawler lands its catch here.
To honour Grimsby’s great fishing past The Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre was build and opened in 1991. The heritage centre is a museum build at Alexandra Docks and it allows visitors to experience the sights, sounds and smells of the fishing industry. There is also a trawler “Ross Tiger” berthed in the dock that is part of the exhibition.
Although not a massive museum you should allow about three hours for your visit. There is a pay and display car park and parking costs only £1 per hour, this is refunded when you purchase your entry ticket to the Heritage Centre. Tickets are reasonably priced at £6 Adult, £2 children, a family ticket for 2 adults + up to 5 children costs only £12, alternatively you can purchase an annual pass for only £12 that gives access to the centre for a full 12 months, visit as many times as you want.
On the day of my visit it was a Sunday so fairly quiet. This was brilliant because it gave us time to walk around and see all the attractions at our own leisurely pace without crowds of other visitors pushing along behind and crowding the galleries or viewing areas.
Set on three levels. We started at the top and worked our way down. The second floor, level three is small and on display are an assortment of painting depicting scenes of the sea, working down to level two via a spiral staircase and here are some very interesting displays of model ships and what was personal belongings and art work of sailors including clothing. Again working down to ground level via a route indicated by footsteps painted on the floors you are taken through the various displays portraying the fishermen’s life at sea and both his home and leisure activities. You get to experience the sights, sounds and even the smells of a fisherman’s life in the 1950’s. As well as displays of the various parts of the trawler where the men worked there are even displays with life size models of a family sitting room, the fish and chip shop (fish & chips 1/6d), even the local pub The Freeman’s Arms is there. All are life size displays and they are pretty realistic too. Leaving the Freeman’s Arms you then see a representation of the dockside and its shops. Nearly all of the exhibits are interactive and all cater for children’s inquisitiveness. All very Interesting but there is more … Part of the visit can be a guided tour of a trawler “Ross Tiger”.
Ross Tiger was build in1957 and retired in 1992; she weighs in at 355 tonnes, is 127.6 ft. long, has a beam of 26.5ft and a depth of 13ft and was powered by a 7 cylinder diesel engine.
Because Ross Tiger is a trawler there are of course some limitations to a tour of the Tiger, people with walking or climbing disabilities would not be able to complete the tour and this is a shame because in my opinion the tour of Ross Tiger is probably the best part of the visit.
Our tour guide was John Vincent. John, a retired fisherman actually worked on Ross Tiger when she was a working trawler. John was able to give a very interesting detailed description of every part of the trawler and life on board, detailed descriptions not only of life on board but life at home as well. For instance it was not unusual for the men to work 18 hour days with 6 hours sleep whilst catching fish. Also, how about spending 15 days at sea and never washing, there simply weren’t the facilities. I can only imagine they must have ponged a bit when they went home to their wives after the trip. Wages were paid depending on the size of the catch, catch very little fish and hardly any or no wages catch plenty and if other trawlers had good catches there may be a glut on the market so prices fell, the result again a low wage. John tells that for a 120 hour week he would probably be paid £6 12s 6d, that was in 1960. The trawlers had to self-finance, no profit no wages only the owners made money. When John isn’t the guide the replacement guide is a man who once captained the Ross Tiger, we haven’t met him but he must also have plenty of tales to tell and a vast amount of knowledge to pass on to visitors.
All in all a visit to Grimsby’s Fisherman’s Heritage Centre is highly recommended. It is good value for money with excellent exhibits and very knowledgeable helpful staff. Also unusual is that photographs are allowed of all the exhibits but note if there are children around, the centre says that you must not photograph any children unless you have the parents or guardian’s permission. There is also a small cafe and a souvenir shop.
Additional information can be found here “Fishing Heritage”:https://www.fishingheritage.com/