Grimsby Branch History

Branch History

Chris Wrigley, last updated: 24th January 2011

The Grimsby branch is currently inactive but we would appreciate any support to relaunch it - please contact us on if you might be able to help.

The most recent Grimsby branch dates from May 1962. However, there was an earlier branch, formed in September 1927.

The early Grimsby branch was one of many whose inaugural meeting was organised by F.S Marvin (1863-1943).  Marvin, after Oxford University, taught in several elementary schools, was an extension lecturer, an inspector of training colleges and, finally, Professor of Modern History in the University of Egypt (1929-30). He was chair of the Hertfordshire branch of the HA (1917-29).  He served on the HA's council and was a dynamic chair of its Propaganda and Organisation Committee (1918-43). It was this role which took him to Grimsby in September 1927 for the foundation meeting of the new branch. 

That December the branch heard F.K. Cracknell talk on ‘Some Incidents in the History of ‘Grimsby'. In March 1928 Miss Lardelli, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Association, spoke on ‘Napoleon'. In the summer there was an excursion to Barton and Alkborough.

The officers of the branch were E.J.  Stream, President, and Miss C. Habston, BA and Miss K. Waldram,  Joint Hon. Secretaries, for its first two years. In its first year the branch had 20 members and in its second 22 members. In 1928-29 two members gave papers:  J. Geddie on ‘Grimsby Charters' and Miss Bemrose, MA, on ‘The Anglo-Saxon as shown in Literature'. A third paper was read by the Rev. F.Y. Leggatt on ‘Sidney Smith'. The summer excursion was to Stow, where the vicar showed them round the church.

In 1929-30 the branch membership had fallen to 10 and the officers changed.  F.K Cracknell was now President and Miss M.W. Burton was both Hon. Secretary and Hon. Treasurer. The branch held a members' evening, when participants came each with an item of information to discuss. There were two visits: to the Parish Church of St. James, Grimsby and to Lincoln. The officers of the branch continued in post in 1930-31, with two Vice-Presidents, Miss D. Fisher, MA, and  J. Geddie. There were two lectures:  A Cooke on ‘The History of Grimsby' and Miss L. Greenfield, BA, on ‘Ur of the Chaldees', both attended by many secondary school pupils. The summer excursion was cancelled due to bad weather. After this the branch appears to have folded. A Brigg branch, also formed in 1927, folded in late 1930 or 1931. It was intended that the Lincolnshire North-West branch formed on 13 December 1933 might replace both branches, but it mostly serviced the Scunthorpe area.

The Grimsby branch was revived by Mr (later Sir) Patrick Cormack, then a teacher at St. James' Choir School, in May 1962. He had been enthused when attending the HA's Annual Conference in Oxford. He was encouraged by the HA's long-serving Hon. Treasurer, Clifford Sharp, who lived in Boston.  Sharp had been trying for some fifteen years to encourage someone to get a new branch going. In a letter in August 1962 Sharp observed that ‘Grimsby was instanced by the {HA's} Post War Plans Committee as a likely place for a branch'.  In successfully launching the new branch Patrick Cormack contacted local notables to try to secure their support. Lord Worseley, heir to the Earl of Yarborough, was the first Chairman, and remained involved for many years. Cormack was its first Hon. Secretary and Mr Peter Hattersley, senior history master at Wintringham Grammar School, its Hon. Treasurer from 1962 until he left to be a headmaster in Preston in 1964.  Patrick Cormack left Grimsby for Wrekin College, Shropshire, in 1967 and went on for a lengthy Parliamentary career from 1970. The first committee included the Vicar of Grimsby and a person from both Cleethorpes and Scunthorpe.

Clifford Sharp secured his brother-in-law, Professor W.N. Medlicott to speak at the inaugural meeting.  Sharp wrote after the meeting,' Medlicott was on form and I think went down well, particularly (in a town blitzed as Grimsby was in 1943) when he pulled A.J.P. Taylor to bits'. Presumably, Sharp had not read Taylor's The Origins of the Second World War to implicitly misrepresent his views. According to Sharp, 160 people were at the inaugural meeting, including people from Louth, Brigg, Scunthorpe and Cleethorpes.

 In its early years monthly meetings mostly attracted audiences of 60 or more.  A.J.P. Taylor attracted over 300 people when he spoke in late 1962 on ‘The End of the First World War'. Sir Patrick Cormack later recalled that in the first few years speakers were met at the station, then taken to the nearby Yarborough Hotel where ‘Lord Worsley would give them a delicious meal with fine wine', before the lecture at 8pm. The lectures were followed by coffee, then questions. After that sometimes speakers returned to the Yarborough Hotel and sometimes to the vicarage.  On Taylor's first visit, Canon Gervaise Markham, provided 1914 cognac at the vicarage.

A.J.P. Taylor attracted another large audience when he spoke at the branch on 2 October 1970, his topic then was ‘Finest Hour'. He drove from a previous HA meeting in Doncaster, stayed overnight in The Kingsway Hotel, and the next day went on to stay in Louth with his friend from undergraduate days, Jack Yates (co-author of the Shell Guide to Lincolnshire). Yates had accompanied him to Grimsby for Taylor's first talk. On 7 October 1977 he drove to Grimsby with his third wife, the Hungarian historian Eva Haraszti, to give a third lecture. He spoke on ‘The Bulgarian Horrors'.

The branch had attractive programmes of speakers in the 1960s.  In 1962-3 these included Gordon Batho on ‘The Gunpowder Plot', Dr J.B. Owen on ‘Walpole and his opponents' and Professor J.P. Kenyon on ‘An historical Mystery: The Birth of the Old Pretender'. In 1963-4 speakers included Dr Steven Watson,'1763: A victory that turned into defeat', J.P.T. Bury, 'Napoleon III and his Conspiracies', Professor J.D. Chambers, 'Population Changes in the Industrial Revolution', Professor K.D. Haley, ‘The Age of Charles II' and Dr G.R. Elton, ‘Tudor Law and Law Courts'. In 1964-5 the programme included Professor Herbert Butterfield, ‘The Idea of the Balance of Power in History', Dr J.H. Plumb, ‘British attitudes to the American Revolution', Professor J. Le Patourel, ‘Edward's War: The Hundred Years' War 1337-1377', Professor E.F. Jacob, ‘A Fifteenth Century Bishop' and E.A. Gillett, ‘On writing the history of Grimsby'. In 1966-7 speakers included Professor G.R. Potter on ‘Chatsworth and its owners', Professor A.J. Taylor on ‘The Edwardian Paradox' and Dr M.G. Brock on ‘Sir Robert Peel: The Ministerial Crisis of 1834-5'.

After Patrick Cormack's departure, the post of Secretary was taken by B. Williams the senior History master at Humberston Foundation School, Cleethorpes. This worked well in 1967-8, when the programme included Professor A.G. Dickens on ‘Martin Luther' (which attracted many sixth formers), Dr Smail on ‘Two Crusader Movements', Professor Birley on ‘Hadrian's Wall' and William Hallgarth, a local historian, on ‘Grimsby and North Lincolnshire'. However, in the following year Williams could find no successor as he was going to a school in Dorset. He consulted HA headquarters about winding up the branch. The view there was that ‘if members of the branch are not prepared to do the necessary minimum' to keep it going, then it would close. This was avoided by the efforts of Clifford Sharp, who secured Mrs J.W. Hallewell , Grimsby, as Secretary. Who served from 1969 to 1976. She was succeeded by Mrs Jane Frances, 1976-83 and then Mrs J. Cockrill. For much of the 1970s to 1982 the Treasurer was Mr T. Clarke, who was retired. He was succeeded for many years by Mr M.G. Border.

Membership had grown from 60 full members and 30 associates in 1962-3 to 74 plus 33 associates in 1964-5. In the early years there were social events, notably a summer visit to Grimsthorpe Castle in 1962, a sherry party in November 1963 and a buffet supper in autumn 1964.  By 1969 the branch's report noted, ‘Declining membership recently had led to financial problems, so the number of planned meetings was reduced from eight to six'. The membership in 1967-8 had been 57 plus 35 associates.

The branch revived after the 1969 nadir. In 1970 the annual report commented, ‘Meetings have been lively, enthusiastic and very well attended'. A major feature of this success was a change of venue. The early meetings had been in Grimsby Town Hall. Now, it was noted, ‘The use of a smaller room for our meetings (average attendance of 60) has encouraged more discussion and questions and a more friendly atmosphere'. In addition, inclusion of topics of local history has been successful in all respects'. That year they had three lectures on local topics, including Rex Russell (Hull University) on ‘Captain Swing in Lincolnshire'. Russell thereafter spoke often on local themes. In 1972-3 they resumed having summer outings. The full membership had stabilised at around 55 in the mid 1970s (plus some 30 associates).

By at least 1978 the branch was meeting in Grimsby Central Library. In the late 1970s, the1980s and 1990s the programmes contained major historians, just as it had in the 1960s. In 1978-9 speakers included Dr Howell Lloyd, ‘The Communist Manifesto and the Concept of Alienation' (January 1979)and Dr Eric Ives on ‘The Royal Court in Tudor England' (February 1979). In the early 1980s there were Dr J.B. Porter, ‘Victorian Attitudes to Europe' (November 1980), Dr J. Childs, ‘The Social Impact of the Civil Wars' (November 1981), Professor W.H. Challoner, ‘Railways in the Nineteenth Century' (January 1982), Mrs Irene Collins, ‘Success and Failure: Revolutionaries in Europe and Chartists in Britain in 1848' (September 1983), Professor W.A. Speck, ‘The Jacobites in early Hanoverian England' (January 1984), Dr Michael Bentley, ‘Lloyd George and the Liberal Party'(March 1984), Professor  V.R. Berghahn, ‘The United States and West German Unification' (September 1984), Dr J.A. Sharpe, ‘ Last Dying Speeches: Religion, Ideology and Public Execution' (October 1984),Dr J.V. Beckett, 'Aristocratic leadership in England,1660-1914' (December 1985), Dr Malcolm Crook, ‘Enlightened Despotism: Myth and Reality' (November 1989), Professor Keith Robbins, ‘British Appeasement and the Origins of the Second World War' (January 1990) and Dr Michael Rose, ‘Progress or Poverty? The English Working Classes, 1870-1914' (March 1990).

By 1992 Mrs Doreen Hallewell was branch Secretary and  by the middle of the decade Mr M.L. Andrews was in the chair (with Mrs Border still Treasurer). The 1990s speakers included Dr Anne Curry, ‘The Gentle Sex? Women and Warfare in the Middle Ages' (October 1990), Dr Pamela Pilbeam, ‘Republicanism in France 1815-48' (January 1991), Dr H.C.G. Matthew, ‘Gladstone, Liberalism and Public Speaking' (September 1991),Professor Peter Marshall, ‘The End of the Empire in India' (1992), Mrs Irene Collins, ‘Jane Austen and History' (October 1994), Professor B.J. Porter, ‘Thatcher and History'(November 1994), Professor John Cannon, ‘Listening to the Silence: Historians and the Jacobite Rising of 1745' (December 1994) , Professor Antony Lentin, ‘The Paris Peace Conference, the Versailles Peace Settlement and the Origins of the Second World War' (March 1995), Dr Peter Mathias, ‘Aspects of the Industrial Revolution' (October 1995), Professor Harry Hearder, ‘Garibaldi' (December 1995), Jasper Ridley, ‘Garibaldi' (October 1996), Rosemary Horrox, ‘The Black Death' (November 1996) and ‘The Impact of the Black Death' (September 1998), Professor Gordon Batho, ‘Bess of Hardwick' (March 1997), Dr Anne Curry, ‘Joan of Arc: Woman, warrior and Witch', Professor H.C.G. Matthew on the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (October 1998) and Dr Edward Royle, ‘Origins of the Welfare State, 1834-1951'.