Gainsborough is a town in the West Lindsey district of Lincolnshire, England. The population of the town was 22,117 at the 2015 census. It is situated 18 miles (29 km) north-west from the city and county town of Lincoln, and on the River Trent. At one time it served as an important port with trade downstream to Hull, and was the most inland port in England, being more than 55 miles (90 km) from the North Sea.
Gainsborough Old Hall
Marshall's Yard, Gainsborough
The place-name 'Gainsborough' is first attested in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of 1013, where it appears as Gegnesburh and Gæignesburh. In the Domesday Book of 1086 it appears as Gainesburg. The name means 'Gegn's fortified place'.
Gainsborough was one of the capital cities of Mercia during the Anglo-Saxon period, which had preceded Danish rule. It is understandable that the Viking kings would have been drawn to it as an administrative centre, being close to the Danish stronghold at Torksey. In 868 King Alfred married Ealswitha, daughter of Aethelred Mucill, chief of the Gaini, whence the town gets its name.
Historically, Gainsborough is the "capital that never was". Towards the end of July 1013, the Dane Sweyn Forkbeard, together with his son and heir Canute, arrived in Gainsborough with an army of conquest. Sweyn defeated the Anglo-Saxon opposition and King Ethelred fled the country. Sweyn was declared King of England, and he returned to Gainsborough. Sweyn and Canute took up high office at the Gainsborough Castle (on the site of the present-day Old Hall), while his army occupied the camp at Thonock (today known as Castle Hills). But King Sweyn was killed five weeks later when he was thrown from his horse in Gainsborough. His son Canute established a base elsewhere.
King Canute may have performed his unsuccessful attempt to turn the tide back in the River Trent at Gainsborough. Historians believe he may have been demonstrating on the aegir, a tidal bore. He and his supporters may have known Gainsborough was the furthest reach of the aegir, and ideal for his demonstration. However the story was only written down a century later by Henry of Huntingdon, who gives no location, and may have been a myth or a fable.
Thomas Burgh acquired the manor of Gainsborough in 1455. He built Gainsborough Old Hall between 1460 and 1480, a large, 15th-century, timber-framed medieval strong house, and one of the best-preserved manor houses in Britain. It boasts a magnificent Great Hall and strong brick tower. King Richard III in 1483 and King Henry VIII in 1541 both stayed at the Old Hall. The manor was sold to the Hickman family in 1596.
All Saints Church, Gainsborough