Exchange Buildings, 36-39 Market Place


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
36-39 Market Place, Exchange Buildings, Boston, Lincolnshire


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Statutory Address:
36-39 Market Place, Exchange Buildings, Boston, Lincolnshire

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Boston (District Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


36-39 Market Place (the Exchange Buildings) built by Boston Corporation as a fish market with dwellings above, now shops and offices; designed by Thomas Lumby and completed in 1772; C19 and C20 alterations.

Reasons for Designation

* Architectural interest: It is of more than special interest for its imposing well- balanced design by the architect Thomas Lumby, and for its attention to detail in its street, bridge and riverside elevations. * Historical interest: It forms part of a significant late C18 and early C19 remodelling of Boston’s historic Market Place, and, together with other major developments, particularly those financed by the Corporation, for example the refurbishment of the Guildhall on South Street, listed at Grade I, mark a notable period in the town’s history. * Interior: Surviving detail displays good quality craftsmanship and is indicative of the high status of these dwellings that occupied a prime position on the Market Place, Boston's historic commercial centre. * Group Value: The building is a component of one of the most important historic public spaces in Boston, one which continues to clearly reflect the complex historical development of the settlement.


Despite some fluctuation in its fortunes Boston remained a prosperous port and market town from the middle ages into the C19, its social, economic and political history reflected in its town plan and buildings. From the C12 to the C15 it was one of the busiest ports in England, its wealth based principally on the trade in wool, cloth and luxury goods. Boston's market was first recorded between 1125 and 1135, and the annual fair was one of the great trade fairs of Europe. The medieval town grew around streets on either side of the River Witham, now the High Street to the west and South Street to the east. The latter opens to a wide market place to the north, from which narrow medieval lanes travel east and north to Church Street, St Botolph's Church and Wormgate.

The medieval period is represented by fragments of the Dominican friary surviving as the Blackfriars Arts Centre (Grade II*) on Spain Lane, the only visible evidence of the four friaries established in the town in the C12 and C13. Evidence of the town's thriving C14 and C15 engagement in the North Sea wool trade survives in the Guildhall (Grade I) of the Guild of St Mary, one of several religious guilds in the town at this period. Following the incorporation of Boston as a borough in 1545 and the dissolution of the religious guilds two years later, the assets of the Guild of St Mary, including the Guildhall, were transferred to the Corporation. Later C18 fen drainage and the construction of the Grand Sluice realised the value of the Corporation's estate, the increase in income funding significant building projects in the town, including the Exchange Buildings of 1770-1772 (formerly the Corporation Buildings) to the west of the Market Place (Grade II*). This renewed prosperity continued into the first half of the C19, when agricultural enclosure generated new wealth from a now highly productive rural hinterland. The corporation invested in further public building, notably the Assembly Rooms, completed in 1822 (Grade II*) to the north of the Exchange Buildings. The Grade II listed buildings that form an irregular terrace, 42-50 Market Place, also date to the first half of the C19, as do eight Grade II listed warehouses. Between the mid-C18 and mid-C19 the town's suburbs grew to the north-west and east of the Market Place, with limited development to the west of the river.

Boston continued to thrive economically until the construction of the railway in 1848; this brought a station and growth to the west of the town, but withdrew outgoing goods from the port. A new dock constructed by the corporation to the south of the town in 1884 renewed seaborne trade and brought development to an area of previously agricultural land. By the late C19 the town had reached almost its present extent. Although there was new building within the town in the C20, notably the construction of the inner ring road, John Adams Way, much historic fabric has been retained; this is reflected in the comprehensive coverage of Boston in the National Heritage List for England.

The late C18 increase in the Corporation's estate income allowed it to turn its attention to the improvement of the west side of the Market Place, demolishing the old fish stalls and other buildings in order to clear the approach to the bridge, replacing the fish stalls with a new fish market with high status dwellings in the form of a terrace above. A Lincoln architect, Thomas Lumby, was commissioned to design the building which was begun in 1770 and completed in 1772. In the early C19, the fish market at the centre of the Exchange Buildings was converted into municipal offices, including an Audience Room, Justice Room, Magistrates Room and Committee Room, and in his history of Boston of 1856 the local antiquarian, Pishey Thompson, refers to this space as 'the present Police Office'. Various additions have been made to the building's riverside elevation from the C19 onwards, and the ground floor is now in commercial use, while the upper floors have been converted for use as offices and classrooms.

Thomas Lumby (dates unrecorded) is known for work on Lincoln Cathedral and the almost complete rebuilding of the Grade I listed St Peter's Church, Doddington, as well as other Lincolnshire churches and work in Burghley House, Stamford.


MATERIALS: Gault and red-brown brick with additions in red brick. Westmoreland slate roof with lead dressings.

PLAN: This is a fifteen-bay rectangular building with a bowed north end, of three storeys with basement and attics.

EXTERIOR: The east elevation is symmetrical, its central three bays slightly advanced with a pediment above. This has a painted relief decoration to the centre consisting of the corporation coat of arms surrounded by garlands, with the date 1772 below. The pediment eaves rest on small closely spaced brackets (giving the impression of a dentilled cornice). The base of the pediment rests on a similar line of brackets which continue under the eaves to either side and around the north elevation, and there is a parapet above. These elevations also have a continuous sill band, a wider first-floor band, and broken lengths of a ground-floor lintel band. There are fifteen first and second floor windows: those to the first floor are twelve- paned sashes, those to the second floor have six panes. The central three windows to both floors within the pedimented section are distinguished by moulded wooden surrounds. The north elevation has two widely separated windows to each floor, beneath which, at ground floor level, are two apparently modern windows. There are four six-paned dormer windows under segmental arched lead covered roofs.

The ground floor of the east elevation has been altered by the addition of modern shop fronts. The first three bays have been in-filled with modern brickwork and contain one round-arched door and two round-arched windows. Immediately to the south is an original recessed doorway containing a door with six fielded panels above a plain panel. Above the door is an overlight with two vertical glazing bars. There is a similar door to the south of the central section, with fanlight over, flanked at ground level by two ogee arched niches for bootscrapers. All three openings have stone surrounds. These central bays are flanked by modern plate glass shop fronts. The adjacent four bays to the south contain four recessed openings, two with modern doors and two with windows.

The west, river front, elevation was similar to the east elevation, but has additions dating from the C19 onwards. It differs from the east elevation in having red-brown brickwork, a round window under the pediment where the east elevation has the corporation coat of arms, and segmental arches over the windows. There are only two dormers at the eaves and no parapet. The ground floor of this elevation is almost completely concealed beneath later extensions.

INTERIOR: The ground floor contains three shops and a restaurant and is much altered. However, in the shop to the south, No.36, behind a door immediately opposite the entrance, there is a fragment of a closed string staircase with turned balusters and moulded handrail. The basement below the shop has some blocked openings, including a possible fireplace, and contains chamfered beams. Access to the upper floors is through a doorway beneath a fanlight in the central section. A hall contains a dogleg staircase, similar to the fragment in no. 36, with slender turned balusters. The stair rises through two floors. Both first and second floors of nos. 36-38 are now in single (but separate) occupation. The rooms on the first floor and the north end of the second floor are connected by a continuous corridor between front and back rooms to either side of the central staircase and landings. Although the plan form to the south of the staircase on the second floor has been more altered, elsewhere elements of the plan form survive, including individual east-facing rooms at the north end of the first floor. Surviving joinery includes several panelled doorcases, six-panelled doors and deep skirting boards, as well as some windows with panelling below, and, to a more limited extent, moulded cornices and ceiling detail. The second-floor ceilings have beams with moulded detail. There are no surviving fireplaces. The attics appear not to be accessible. No. 39, in separate ownership, contains no apparent historic features.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Pevsner, N, Harris, J, Antram, N, The Buildings of England: Lincolnshire, (1989)
Thompson, P , History and Antiquities of Boston, (1856)
Cope- Faulkner, P., Boston Town Historic Environment Baseline Study., 2005,
Hewlings, R, The Public Buildings of Boston 1702-1822, 1988,


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 01 Aug 1999
Reference: IOE01/00374/09
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Ray Horrocks. Source Historic England Archive
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