Location of Cleethorpes
Cleethorpes is located directly adjacent to Grimsby (well actually the two towns are very much interlocked) on the south bank of the River Humber (quite a bit closer to the mouth of the Humber than Grimsby however) which is located on the east coast of England. Cleethorpes has gone through the same county-based upheaval as surrounding towns, in the last fifty years it has gone from being part of Lincolnshire to Humberside and finally the weird stand-alone county, North-East Lincolnshire. Relatively nearby towns and cities to Cleethorpes include Hull, Scunthorpe, Doncaster and Lincoln.
Cleethorpes actually began as three small villages in Lincolnshire - Thrunscoe, Oole and Itterby that were first properly settled by Danish settlers in about the ninth century AD. Even though these three villages were on or close to the south bank of the River Humber, they were also located a lot closer to its mouth than adjacent town Grimsby, causing the waters to be rougher, thus making a harbour impractical.
What these villages did have however was an abundance of empty fields around them and so the inhabitants focused their energies on farming animals and crops. Tourism was non-existent and the coast was just seen as a means of water transport. In fact the residents thought this so much so they usually built their houses facing away from it. At some unknown point over the centuries the three villages grew into each other and became Cleethorpes. (The population was still very small - less than two hundred even into the earlier part of the nineteenth century.)
Down in London, it came into vogue to paddle and bathe in seawater. Of course, everybody wanted to try this new craze and so several small coastal towns such as Cleethorpes with sandy beaches were inundated with tourists who wanted to bathe and paddle as the rich folk down south did. This saw Cleethorpes go through several massive changes in an incredibly small amount of time. The railway came to Cleethorpes and the station had many platforms by anyone's standards. (sadly all but a couple are now disused) The trains would bring people from surrounding parts of Lincolnshire and Yorkshire (called 'Meggies' by the locals, a name that has now become local slang to mean Cleethorpes itself) to stay in the new hotels that had been built. These hotels were equipped with all the latest in beach technology like horse-drawn changing rooms and people who would actually come to the beach with you and hold your head underwater, allowing you to experience the full healing power of the sea.
Another curious tourist attraction was Ross Castle, an ornamental castle that was built around this time. Apparently this kind of fake castle was very popular amongst the Victorians, although it is clear to anyone who looks at Ross Castle that it would be completely useless for defending anything.
As technology advanced so did the attractions. Around the turn of the twentieth century the Cleethorpes Arcades and the light show that runs down the beach were introduced. Later still one of the largest light railways in the UK was installed a little further up the beach. The tourism was at a point of peaking until the Second World War.
The Twentieth Century
With the middle of the twentieth century and the increasing availability of foreign holidays becoming increasingly available to the average person, tourism in Cleethorpes started to take a bit of a downturn. Whilst even to this day on summer bank holidays and Sundays Cleethorpes brims with people who have come for away days, it isn't as usual now as it was a century ago for people to actually come to Cleethorpes for any length of time that approaches a real holiday. A lot of the bed and breakfast establishments that cropped up due to demands from tourism are still there, and there is even a small caravan park that borders onto neighbouring village Humberston but the last of the Victorian hotels recently closed down to become part of the Reflex chain of eighties theme bars.
These days Cleethorpes plays more of a part as a residential town that people live in who commute into Grimsby to work. The population stands at around forty thousand people. Of the three original individual villages nothing remains, except for streets named after them.
Over the course of the twentieth century, the emblem of Cleethorpes has become a boy holding up a leaking boot. According to local myth this is because a boy (who later drowned) was fishing and caught a boot with a hole in it. Much more likely is that the town were just presented with a statue as a gift in the 1900s which generated the myth.
While I did mention in my Grimsby node that Cleethorpes has something approaching a decent nightlife, 'approaching' is all that can really be said of it. The main nightclub these days is built on the pier into the river and is called Pier 39. (It was recently rumoured that Britney Spears was looking to buy this as a quiet retreat, but most of the locals severely doubt the authenticity of this tale) The pier can be best described as a box on stilts and is smaller than even the most pitiful city clubs.
For those who want a more retro feel to their evening, there is a 70s bar, Flares and 80s bar Reflex that are next door to each other across the road from the pier, but again these are all pitiful shells when compared to other members of their respective chains in larger cities. Both establishments come complete with rude and unpleasant bouncers and over-priced drinks. If you're one of the rare unfortunate few who wants a retro feeling who can actually remember the seventies in Cleethorpes, you're best to go to the nearby late bar, Schubert's.