Part of the Acorn Archive

Hearts of Oak



George F Sleight

Ernest Sleight

The Sleights of Cleethorpes and Grimsby


George Frederick Sleight was born 26 Mar 1853; he soon became a cockle boy on Cleethorpes beach, by the time he was 28, in 1881, he was a fish merchant employing eight men; he had married Rebecca in 1872 - they lived at 147 Cleethorpe Road, Weelsby.


The Sleight name was deeply involved in fish and fishing;

in the 1901 census for Cleethorpes were …

Joseph Sleight 87 Retired Fish Merchant

Robert Sleight 50 Skipper Steam Trawler

Benjiman (sic) Sleight 44 Fish Merchant Manager

Henry Sleight 44 Fish Merchant

Frank Sleight 38 Fish Merchants Manager

Alfred Sleight 35 Fish Monger

Charles William Sleight 29 Fish Merchant

Benjiman (sic) Sleight 20 Fish Pontoon Labourer


From an article in The Times 16th August 1911

Grimsby - Although the trawler coalheavers' strike was settled yesterday, the youths at the local sawmills ceased work. Mr G F Sleight, the largest individual trawler owner, granted the men's request for increased wages, and himself added a guarantee of five years' service to his regular staff while they remained loyal. these men immediately resumed work. Later the trawler owners and strikers' representatives met to discuss the situation. the owners offered to concede half the demands, and at a mass meeting which followed these terms were accepted by a majority. the threatened stoppage of the fish trade from this source is at an end.


George Frederck Sleight had Weelsby Hall built; a wealthy man, he became the largest landowner in Lincolnshire.


The Times 1st January 1918

His Majesty has been pleased to confer Baronetcies of the United Kingdom upon ....

and includes George Frederick Sleight, Esq., A prominent Grimsby citizen. One of the largest  trawler owners in the world, he has rendered valuable national services in the promotion of the fish supply.


His contribution to the war effort was also that he made available his trawlers for minesweeping and other naval duties.

Sir George, was raised to the Baronetcy in 1920 ….

The Times 5th June 1920

The King's Birthday Honours

The King has been graciously pleased, on the occasion of his Majesty's birthday, to signify his intention of conferring Baronetcies of the United Kingdom .....

SLEIGHT Sir George Frederick, largest trawler owner in the world. At the commencement of the war practically all his ships were commandeered by the Governement for mine sweeping and patrol purposes.


Sleights and Croft-Baker, combined fleets in the 1920s.


March 21st 1921 The Times

Sir George Frederick Sleight, Bt, of Weelsby Hall, near Grimsby, died on Saturday, aged 68. He was the largest steam trawler owner in the world, and used to boast that he started as a cockle gatherer. Formerly the principal smack [ 50 cockle smacks ] owner, he saw the possibilities of steam, and became a pioneer in effecting change from the old to the new order, and was, in fact, the first merchant to finance a privately owned steam trawler in Grimsby.

During the war, Sir George lent the Government between 50 and 60 steamships. Over 30 boats were lost by enemy action: but he purchased a number of obsolete ships and refitted them to keep up the fish supply. Sir George was also an extensive farmer and cattle-breeder, and bred a herd of the noted Lincolnshire red Shorthorns. He was knighted in 1918, and two years later was raised to a baronetcy. he was married in 1872, and had a family of four sons and three daughters. the eldest son, Major Ernest Sleight, OBE, succeeds to the baronetcy.


He died leaving £992,000,

however death duties forced the sale of part of his extensive estates.


Baronetcy - SLEIGHT of Weelsby Hall, Lincolnshire   

First : George Frederick Sleight – 29th June 1920

           born 26 Mar 1853, died 19 Mar 1921 aged 67

Second : Ernest Sleight - born 14 Oct 1873, died 16 Jul 1946, aged 72

Third : John Frederick Sleight – born 13th April 1909,

                                 died 12th February 1990, aged 80

Fourth : Richard Sleight – born  27th May 1946. 


The Times 23rd July 1928

Mr Arthur Ernest Sleight was accidentally killed on July 16 while engaged in farm work in Kenya Colony. The elder son of Major Sir Ernest Sleight, Bt., of Stallingborough, Lincolnshire, he was born on December 27 1905.


The Times 6th October 1932

Prices of Fish

Two points seem inexplicable to the ordinary consumer:

1) How is it possible for the foreigner to sell fish in this country at a price which does not pay the home industry?

The foreigner must be at sea longer, as he must return to his home port, and he has to pay a 10 per cent duty. Does he pay lower wages or is his organization better and more economical?

2) If white fish is sold at the quayside at 1.83d a lb, why does the consumer have to pay up to 2s 6d a lb? The lowest prices (I quote from the current list of a large London store) are 6d to 8d a lb for bream and 6d a lb for a small whole cod, while fresh herrings are from 2s 6d to 3s 6d a dozen. If the retail prices of fish reflected, even approximately, the fall in wholesale prices, I feel sure the increased demand would be surprising.

The Hon Mrs C White, White House, Harestone Valley, Caterham.

[ “s”  was a shilling – 20 to the £1 sterling, “d” an old penny, 12 to the shilling]

[“lb” – pound weight}


The Times, Oct 12, 1932

Prices of Fish

To the Editor of The Times


The important points raised by the Hon Mrs C White in her letter under the heading "Prices of Fish" in your issue of October 6 should not be allowed to go unsanswered.

1 The reasons why it is profitable to the foreigner to sell fish in our markets at a price which does not pay the home industry are:-

a) That in many cases the foreign fishing vessel owner is assisted by his Government either by direct subsidy or in some other manner; b) that the standard of living of many foreign fishermen is far below that of our own men.

2 With regard to the quayside price of 1.83d per lb, it must be remembered that this is an average price, and includes choice fish that make 10 times that amount, as well as the large quantity of fish that, as a result of foreign imports, has unfortunately had to be sent to the fish meal factory. Moreover, the quayside price is for the whole fish, including head and tail, and in many cases the weight is reduced by as much as 25 per cent before the fish reaches the consumer. Transport and other charges must also be added to the quayside price. It should further be remembered that fresh fish is the most perishable of all foodstuffs and the margin of profit to the retailer must be proportionate.

Nevertheless, the Economic Advisory Council in its recent report on the Fishing Industry made a recommendation with which I am heartily in agreement, to the effect that the marketing and distribution of fish should be made the subject of careful investigation. Whatever the result of such an inquiry, it is clear that under no conditions would the increase of 0.67d per lb in the average quayside price of fish for which the trawling industry is asking be reflected in the retail price, as there is so large a margin between the two.

I am, Sir, Ernest Sleight.

Fish Docks, Grimsby Oct 10.


A Danish venture joined with George F Sleight, around 1938;

this later split and became Danbrit Shipping Management in 1976.


The Times Jul 17, 1946

Major Sir Ernest Sleight, Second Baronet, OBE, TD, DL, High Sherriff of Lincolnshire, died in London yesterday.

Born on October 14 1873, eldest son of the first baronet of Weelsby Hall, County Lincoln, a creation of 1920, he was educated at Overslade, Rugby, and at Rugby School. For his services during the 1914-18 war, as a major in the 5th Battalion, The Lincolnshire Regiment, he was made an OBE and later, he became honorary colonel of the 2nd Cadet Battalion of his county regiment. Sir Ernest Sleight, who succeeded to the baronetcy in 1921, was a director of steam fishing and other companies. In 1898 he married Margaret, daughter of the late Mr C F Carter, of The Limes, Grimsby, and had two sons and three daughters. His youngest daughter and younger son survive him. The son, Mr John Frederick Sleight, who was born in 1909, married in 1942 Jacqueline Margaret, eldest daughter of the late Major H R Carter of Brisbane, Queensland, and widow of Mr R Mundell.


Ernest Sleight’s younger brother was also named George Frederick Sleight,

born 1890, he died in 1954.

The Times 26th November 1954

Mr George Frederick Sleight, of Binbrook Hall Farm, Lincolnshire

managing director of G F Sleight & Sons, trawler owners, Grimsby.

Will left £380,800.


George Frederick Sleight’s son continued the tradition,

but by 1957 he is named as a former trawler owner.

The Times 27th September 1957 reports that

Formerly part of the 6,000 Manby Estate near Grimsby, the Irby and Killingholme estates, extending to 2,556 acres have been sold to Mr G F Sleight, a former trawler owner of Barnoldby, near Grimsby. The sale was on behalf of the executors of the second Duke of Westminster, who died in 1953 ... The Killingholme estate, a little under 900 acres, includes five farms. Much of the land adjoins Immingham docks and the oil refinery there......


The fishing business of G F Sleight Ltd was taken over by Ross in 1956;

Ross had been established in 1918;

Ross Group was formed in 1944, and took over further fishing businesses;

eventually in 1987, themselves being taken over by British United Trawlers.




Raymond Forward