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Vigilantes

The Cleethorpes Borough Arms

The rural quiet and peace of the small village of Cleethorpes was beginning to vanish as more visitors became aware of the benefits of a visit to ‘take the air’.

The railway company, the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company (MS & LR) had now opened the second Cleethorpes new railway station in 1885 (the first comprised little more than one platform, a small building and a turntable). They soon followed it up with the building of a new clock tower with four faces in 1888.

Local merchants benefited as visitors began to flood into the area. Small traders also commenced to set up business and reap benefits.  For example one of the best-known small traders, one Levi Stevenson, decided that a good place to have his Oyster stall would be immediately outside the Railway Station entrance. He quickly extended his produce to include tea and coffee, ginger beer, toys and tobacco.  In that position he could not only sell produce, but could also offer sea trips in his boat, ‘The Cambridge Lass’, with far better results.

The ‘man with the big nose’ as he was affectionally known, became so much in favour that it is said that he eventually appeared on the Cleethorpes Coat of Arms.

The Cleethorpes Borough Arms were granted on September 8th 1936 and the supporters either side are a representation of a Viking and on the other a fisherman, complete with a net and a big nose! This fisherman is popularly supposed to be a picture of Levi Stevenson himself, though it is noted that the Viking supporter sports a horned helmet which, of course, our Viking invaders never wore.

Consequently, it is perhaps, more likely that the other is an impression or a representation of fishermen generally and not an accurate representation of Levi himself.

The Arms, originally designed by the Rev. W. P. Jones in 1873, but amended when the town became a Municipal Borough in 1936, also show three gold owls which represent a symbol of the town with its claimed opportunities, wisdom and learning. In fairness there are several other suggestions for the meaning of the three owls, such as the significance of the three hamlets that created Cleethorpes, namely Oole, Iterby and Thrunscoe.

Other say it represents Cleethorpes night workers who, in former times, were watchful at night because of both fish, and perhaps more importantly, wreckage.

Another theory is that they are derived from the Arms of a local family called Appleyard, but the truth is that nobody knows!

In recent times 3ft tall wooden sculptures of three owls have been erected on 10ft columns on the Isaac’s Hill roundabout. Each one has been placed facing the three roads at this junction.

Moving back to the nineteenth century, the MS & LR wished to capitalise on the new railway and considered methods of improving the resort. There was a massive problem of the preservation of the shore to consider, which could easily affect the new line if the sea flooded inland. Considerable deterioration of the cliff face at Cleethorpes was already taking place and what was clearly required was a sea wall to stop any further erosion. It seemed good business for the Company to assist in this matter, along much of the Cleethorpe coastline and also to assist further in the development of the resort of Cleethorpes as a whole.  Soon they were given permission to proceed.

It is outside of the scope of these articles to consider in depth the many attractions that the MS & LR developed, which were considerable in other parts of Cleethorpes. This included assisting the build of the Pier in 1873 and the promenade and Gardens in 1885, but there was much more.  In consequence we will consider only the area, which currently is classed as Sidney Sussex.  Anyone requiring more detail of other Cleethorpe areas, will find many articles and books on the subject and indeed it should be noted that there was even at one stage, an official railway historian.

If further information is required, an excellent book on the subject is ‘Cleethorpes – the Creation of a Seaside Resort’ by local historian, Alan Dowling.

It is perhaps enough for our purposes, to say that in the period 1863 to 1885, the company spent huge sums of money to develop the resort and no doubt this expenditure was amply returned with the mass of visitors that flooded into Cleethorpes from those dates.  Rail traffic was so great, that the line to Grimsby was doubled in 1875, though it reverted to a single line in the 1980s with a passing loop at Grimsby docks, which remains the position to this day.

Clearly the two greatest influences in the development of the resort were, Sydney Sussex College and the MS&LR. It is those organisations that have the most credit for turned a small village into our busy tourist town.

An interesting point to note, is that in the Coat of Arms as amended in 1936, at the time Cleethorpes became a Municipal Borough, there is a reference to Sidney Sussex College, as the bend (the blue slopping  band or strap) is engrailed (has a scalloped edge).  This is said to be a reference to the Coat of Arms of the College.  There is no reference in these Arms, to the Railway Company that also did so much to develop the resort.

As to the word ‘ Vigilantes’ – this is the motto at the bottom of the Cleethorpes Coat of Arms and is continued on the North East Lincolnshire civic heraldry.

I leave it to the reader to decide whether we are as ‘vigilant’ now as we obviously claimed we were in the past!