A market town between the Fens and Wolds of Lincolnshire, Silsby is famous as the birthplace of the Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin, who was born here in 1786. A statue of Franklin stands in the market place.

Franklin's Birthplace

The birthplace of the famous Arctic explorer is an unobtrusive building in the market place. A small plaque on the wall is the only clue that John Franklin was born here on 16 April 1786. John was the fourth son of nine children. He was educated at Louth and joined the navy at the age of 14. He fought at the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801 and the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

In 1819 Franklin commanded an expedition to the Arctic, in search of the fabled Northwest Passage. It was during this voyage that he gained the moniker 'the man who ate his boots' after he and his shipmates were forced to eat the leather from their boots to stave off starvation.

In 1845 he sailed on his last voyage to the Arctic. The expedition vanished, and for many years its fate was unknown. It is now known that Franklin died on Beechy Island in 1847, possibly of natural causes, though it seems likely that the rest of the party died from a combination of disease and starvation, possibly by lead poisoning from the tinned cans they used to store food.

A statue of Franklin was erected in the Market Place in to commemorate the town's most famous son. It bears the erroneous inscription 'Sir John Franklin - Discoverer of the North West Passage' for of course Franklin did not discover the passage through the Arctic seas, though he strove for years to map a possible route. There is also a verse by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who was married to Franklin's niece.

St James Church

The parish church stands on the corner of Boston Road and Church Street. It was begun in the early 14th century under the patronage of the De Willoughby family. In 1302 Sir Robert Willoughby established a College of Priests and erected the Trinity Chapel as their home. The chapel now forms the oldest part of St James' church.

The church was built from local Spilsby sandstone, but the building was refaced with Ancaster stone during restoration in 1879. Inside the church are memorials to Sir John Franklin and his 2 brothers, as well as ornate monuments to generations of the Willoughby de Eresby family, lords of the manor. Look for the organ, built in 1840 by the famous Victorian organ maker William Hill, also a native of Spilsby.

One of Spilsby's iconic buildings is the White Hart Hotel, built as a coaching inn in the 17th century. Look for the plaque on the first floor commemorating the foundation of the Cyclists' Touring Club in 1878. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th century inns often sported plaques like this to show that they welcomed cyclists.

The town is surrounded by history; nearby is Somersby, the birthplace of the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The ruins of Bolingbroke Castle, the birthplace of Henry IV, stand only 3 miles away, and the stately home of Gunby Hall is 4 miles from Spilsby.