Story of Grim the Viking told as two longships and 100 reenactors head to Grimsby for first ever Viking festival

For nearly four decades York has successfully celebrated its Viking legacy with the Jorvik Viking Festival – the largest of its kind in Europe.

Now Grimsby – named after a legendary Viking figure who rescued the Danish prince Havelok as a child and brought him up in exile – is getting in on the act, with the launch of its own festival, Grim Falfest.

Two longships, with 100 Viking re-enactors on board, will sail up the Haven into Grimsby on September 23 – just as their forefathers did over 1,000 years ago.

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They will be welcomed by drummers, a beacon will be lit, and there will be fireworks, kicking off a weekend of festivities, culminating in a boisterous battle in People’s Park.

Battle Cheer - Credit Regia AngalorumBattle Cheer - Credit Regia Angalorum
Battle Cheer - Credit Regia Angalorum
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Emma Lingard, a local tour guide and author, said: “‘By’ (in the name Grimsby) is the old Norse suffix for ‘settlement of’.

“Interestingly although Grim is a very common Scandinavian first name, “grim” like our modern interpretation also meant a forbidding place in the marshes, and Grimsby would have been because it was all marshland.”

She reckons the remains of Grim may still lie buried overlooking the town. Legend has it that he and his wife were killed by a plague and laid to rest in a longship covered with stones, which was then buried under its highest hill, Holme Hill.

Longship:  Credit Regia AngalorumLongship:  Credit Regia Angalorum
Longship: Credit Regia Angalorum
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“There were said to have been hills that rose out of the watery landscape, and as the land started to be reclaimed they arose. The Victorians dug them for gravel, and they all pretty much disappeared, apart from Holme Hill,” said Emma, who doesn’t think there’s ever been an archeological investigation there.

“The Victorians put a Roman Catholic church on top. I do like to believe that Grim is under there.”

Julia Thompson, Chair of the Visitor Economy, Services and Retail team, which is delivering the project, said: “We want to celebrate our history, but underlying it is what can we do to give Grimsby a feelgood factor and get people to come into the town centre again.

"They spent over £1m on St James’ Square and the waterfront has been developed. It’s only going to change if the business community rallies together to bring the town centre back to life. Grimsby is famous for its fishing history – how wonderful to give it a Viking identity as well.”

Grim Falfest runs from September 23 to 25.