Gainsborough’s time as a capital was famously short. After Ethelred the Unready ordered the slaughter of the Danes in England in 1002, Sweyn Forkbeard, King of Denmark, sought revenge. Forkbeard claimed the English crown, making Gainsborough and its castle his headquarters, but a mere ve weeks later he died of suspected poisoning: Britain’s shortest-reigning monarch. His son, Canute, regained control but swiftly abandoned Gainsborough and was crowned in London.
One of the best-preserved medieval manors in Britain, Gainsborough Old Hall witnessed the town’s other moment in the spotlight. Gainsborough had strong links with the May ower pilgrims: local separatists were secretly worshipping in the Old Hall from 1606, eventually escaping to religious freedom overseas. Visitors can wander the manor’s huge oak-beamed kitchen and Great Hall, then take in sweeping views across town from its red-brick tower.