Boston's most notable landmark is The Stump, the parish church with one of the highest towers in England, visible in the flat lands of Lincolnshire for miles. Residents of Boston are known as "Bostonians". Emigrants sailing from Boston named several other settlements after the town, most notably Boston, Massachusetts, in the United States.
The order of importance was the other way round when the Boston quarter of Skirbeck developed at the head of the Haven which lies under the present Market Place. At that stage, The Haven was the tidal part of the stream, now represented by the Stone Bridge Drain which carried the water from the East and West Fens. The line of the road through Wide Bargate to the A52 and the A16 is likely to have developed on its marine silt levees. It led as it does now, to the relatively high ground at Sibsey thence to Lindsey.
The reason for the original development of the town, away from the centre of Skirbeck was that Boston lay on the point where navigable tidal water was alongside the land route, which used the Devensian terminal moraine ridge at Sibsey, between the upland of East Lindsey and the three routes to the south of Boston:
The River Witham seems to have joined The Haven after the flood of September, 1014, having abandoned the port of Drayton on what subsequently became known as Bicker Haven. The predecessor of Ralph the Staller owned most of both Skirbeck and Drayton so it was a relatively simple task to transfer his business from Drayton but Domesday Book, of 1086 still records his source of income in Boston under the heading of Drayton, so Boston’s name is famously not mentioned. The Town Bridge still maintains the pre-flood route along the old Haven bank.
During the eleventh and twelfth centuries, Boston grew into a notable town and port. The quinzieme was a duty raised on the fifteenth part (6.667%) of the value of merchants' moveable goods at the various trading towns of England. In 1204 when the merchants of London paid £836, those of Boston paid £780b.
Thus by the opening of the thirteenth century, it was already significant in trade with the continent of Europe and ranked as a port of the Hanseatic League. It was one of the official "staple towns" of England, authorized to carry on the import and export trade. Much of Boston's trade at this time was in wool, and Boston is said by the locals to have been built on it. Apart from wool, Boston also exported salt, produced locally on the Holland coast, grain, produced up-river and lead, produced in Derbyshire and brought via Lincoln, up-river. The wool export trade began to decline in the fifteenth century as the industry shifted to the value-adding business of weaving, which was conducted in other parts of the country, the Hansa merchants quit the town, and Boston's wealth declined.
In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries four orders of friars arrived in Boston: Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, and Augustinians. As the English Reformation progressed, their friaries were closed by King Henry VIII. The refectory of the Dominican friary was eventually converted into a theatre in 1965, and now houses the Blackfriars Arts Centre.
The town received its charter from Henry VIII in 1545, and Boston had two Members of Parliament from 1552 but with The Haven silted, the town was then, rather living on memories.
In 1607 a group of pilgrims from Nottinghamshire led by William Brewster and William Bradford attempted to escape pressure to conform with the teaching of the English church by going to The Netherlands from Boston. At that time unsanctioned emigration was illegal, and they were brought before the court in the Guildhall. Most of the pilgrims were released fairly soon and the following year, set sail for The Netherlands, settling in Leiden. In 1620, several of these were among the group who moved to New England in the Mayflower.
Boston remained a hotbed of religious dissent. In 1612 John Cotton became the Vicar of St Botolph's and, although viewed askance by the Church of England for his non-conformist preaching, became responsible for a large increase in Church attendance. He encouraged those who disliked the lack of religious freedom in England to join the Massachusetts Bay Company, and later helped to found the city of Boston, Massachusetts (1630) which he was instrumental in naming. Unable to tolerate the religious situation any longer he eventually emigrated himself in 1633.
At the same time, work on draining the fens to the west of Boston was begun, a scheme which displeased many whose livelihoods were at risk. (One of the sources of livelihood obtained from the fen was fowling. The feathery aspect of this is still reflected in the bedding manufacturers, now in Skirbeck.) This and the religious friction put Boston into the parliamentarian camp in the Civil War which in England began in 1642. The chief backer of the drainage locally, Lord Lindsey, was shot in the first battle and the fens returned to their accustomed dampness until after 1750.
The later eighteenth century saw a revival when the Fens began to be effectively drained. The Act of Parliament permitting the embanking and straightening of the fenland Witham was dated 1762. A sluice, called for in the Act, was designed to help scour out The Haven. The land proved to be fertile, and Boston began exporting cereals to London. In 1774 the first financial bank was opened, and in 1776 an Act of Parliament allowed watchmen to begin patrolling the streets at night.
The railway reached the town in 1848 and briefly, it was on the main line from London to the North. The area between the Black Sluice and the railway station was mainly railway yard and the railway company's main depôt. The latter facility moved to Doncaster when the modern main line was opened. Boston remained something of a local railway hub well into the twentieth century, moving the produce of the district and the trade of the dock, plus the excursion trade to Skegness and similar places. But it was much quieter by the time of the Beeching cuts of the 1960s.
Boston once again became a significant port in trade and fishing when, in 1884, the new dock with its associated wharves on The Haven were constructed. It continued as a working port, exporting grain, fertilizer, and importing timber although much of the fishing trade was moved out in the inter-war period. The first cinema opened in 1910, and the town was used by film makers during the Second World War to represent The Netherlands when the real thing was not available for filming. In 1913 a new Town Bridge was constructed. Central Park was purchased in 1919, and is now one of the focal points of the town. Electricity came to Boston during the early part of the century, and electrical street lighting was provided from 1924.
The Haven Bridge, which now carries the two trunk roads over the river was opened in 1963 and the new road built in the early 1970s rather separated Skirbeck from Boston but the town largely avoided the development boom of the 1960s. More recently, the new shopping centre named the Pescod Centre opened in 2004, bringing many new shops into the town. Further development is planned.
The town has experienced a decline in recent years both economically and in terms of its reputation. Excacerbated by the decline of farming the town's traditional role as a service centre for the surrounding agricultural region has been eroded. Many retail businesses in the town are struggling at present and several have closed.
There had been widespread disillusionment with the somewhat perceived apathetic and incompetent running of the local council. In the Local Elections of 2007 this contributed to the overwhelming victory of a small bypass pressure group, over the traditional political parties. Describing their victory the new council leader Richard Austin said: "We knew that the mood of the people of Boston was very black and they really do want something to happen to Boston that isn't happening at the moment. "It's only a reflection of this black mood of the people of Boston." (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/lincolnshire/6603565.stm).
The towns economic decline has been felt more sharply because of a spate of bad news which has tarnished the reputation of Boston. Boston United football club have recently been demoted following on from several years of debt and fraud. In a recent survey the people of Boston were labelled as being the fattest in the country.(http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article601137.ece). Another survey highlighted the fact that Boston has the highest number of immigrants per capita of any town in Britain (an estimated 1/4 of the population are immigrants)(http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article1082248.ece).
Most immigrants have come from East Europe and Portugal. This has led to some social tension, which came to a head during the 2004 European Football Championship, when something akin to rioting occurred briefly with windows being smashed and shops looted, police cars overturned and set alight. Trouble once again erupted in the town, when England were knocked out of the 2006 world cup by Portugal, and there were clashes between riot police and fans from England and Portugal. Some pubs and bars in the area were vandalised with windows being smashed and tables, chairs and glasses being thrown at rival fans, riot police and shops and bars. The local Portuguese bar called 'The Volunteer' was attacked by English youths, who threw missiles, smashed windows and were in possession of petrol bombs. The youths surrounded the bar and trapped the Portuguese supporters inside. Riot police broke the situation up soon after.
However, as a sea port and holder of trade fairs, the town was long accustomed to seamen from the Baltic, Hansa merchants and so on. After the surrounding land was drained, there were influxes of seasonal labourers from other parts of England, from Ireland or other parts of Europe. People occasionally became excited then too - the Hansa merchants finally left after one had been in a fight. But the fights are noticed because of their rarity.
In the local elections of 2007, many local councillors from the major parties were displaced by independent candidates whose main issue as a group is the construction of a road bypass which they believe is being deliberately denied by the Lincoln-centric members of Lincolnshire County Council.
The population of Boston was believed to have the highest rate of obesity in England, with almost one in three residents clinically obese. Recently a new survey was carried out which found the town no longer "the most obese town in England" and now one of the healthiest [reference uncited]. Another survey into binge drinking released in 2007 showed that Boston had one of the lowest consumption rates of alcohol in the United Kingdom [reference uncited].
While you are there, look up-river to the Grand Sluice. It is disguised by a railway bridge and a road bridge but it is there, twice a day keeping the tide out of the Fens and twice a day allowing the water from the upland to scour the Haven. Not far away in the opposite direction, was the boyhood home of John Foxe, the author of Foxe's Book of Martyrs.
The Town Bridge maintains the line of the road to Lindsey and from its western end, looking at the river side of the Exchange Building to the right, it is possible to see how the two ends of the building, founded on the natural levees of The Haven have stood firm while the middle has sunk into the infill of the former river.
The prison used to stand in the Market Place, by the church (see the photograph caption). The lawyers' quarter is still in use, just to the north of the church. On the site of the prison is a statue of the founder of the Illustrated London News, Herbert Ingram. The statue was designed by Alexander Munro and was unveiled in October 1862. The allegorical figure at the base of the monument is a reference to Ingram's efforts to bring the first piped water to the town. He was also instrumental in bringing the railways to Boston. Born in nearby Swineshead, he was also MP for Boston from 1856 until his death in a shipping accident on Lake Michigan in 1860.
The market, held on Saturdays and Wednesdays in the Market Place and also on Wide Bargate on Wednesday, is a worthwhile experience. Market Place and Strait Bargate are the retail hub of the town centre. Coincidentally, No.1 Market Place and No.1 Strait Bargate are the same building, F. Hinds jewellers.
The seven-storeyed Maud Foster Tower Windmill, completed in 1819 by millwrights Norman & Smithson of Hull for Issac and Thomas Reckitt, is momentarily the tallest operating windmill in England (80ft/24.4 metres to the top of the cap) following extensive restoration during the 1980s and early 1990s and is now a working museum. The tall mill without the usual tar coating in Lincs stands on the dyke above the drain it is named after and is unusual in having an odd number (five) of sails.
The Boston Guildhall in which the Pilgrim Fathers were tried, on the first floor, by the magistrates, was converted into a museum in 1929. The American Room was opened by the U.S. Ambassador, Joseph Kennedy, in 1938. The cells in which the pilgrims are said to have been held at the time of their trial are on the ground floor. In 2005 it is closed for repair and refurbishment. - The Pilgrim Fathers Memorial is located on the north bank of The Haven a few miles outside the town. It was here at Scotia Creek, that the pilgrims made their first attempt to leave for Holland in 1607.
The Prime Meridian passes through Boston, marked by the fairly modern, suburban Meridian Road which straddles the line the road was named after.
The oldest landmark is the Boston May Fair which has been held in the town every year since at least 1125. This fair is held during the first week of May, and is one of the largest outdoor fairs in the country. By tradition, the fair was officially opened by the incumbent mayor at 11 am on the May Day bank holiday. However this is now not the case.
A new shopping park opened in January 2007 on Horncastle Road. This new development has brought several large companies to the town for the first time. These include TK Maxx, Bathstore, Netto, SportsDirect.com and Gala Bingo. Dynamic Cassette International (Jet Tec) is one of the biggest manufacturing employers in the town.
Kitwood Boys School and Kitwood Girls' School were both examples of the post war secondary modern system. The boys' school located in Mill Road was closed in 1993 and now forms part of Boston College. The former girls' school has now become Haven High Technology College
Boston currently has the lowest standard of education in Lincolnshire, with only 72% of GCSE students receiving grades above C.
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