Boston is a hidden gem. It may be off the beaten track, but is worth seeking out. The town is best known for its thriving market and for the ‘Stump’: the tower of St Botolph’s church, which happens to be the tallest of any parish church in England.
But Boston has much more to interest and intrigue the visitor, as revealed in a new book published by Historic England in 2015 called: Boston, Lincolnshire: historic North Sea port and market town.
In medieval times, Boston was the most important port in England outside London, with connections throughout northern Europe. The network of alleys leading off the vast Market Place was established over 600 years ago, and many timber-framed structures lurk behind 18th and 19th-century façades.
The Guildhall (now a museum), built in around 1390, is one of the earliest brick buildings in Lincolnshire. It still has the cells where two Pilgrim Fathers are thought to have been held when they first tried, unsuccessfully, to escape religious persecution by leaving for America.
Boston’s prosperity is reflected in its buildings, for example the splendid Fydell House in South Square and other grand Georgian houses in the High Street and Wide Bargate.
Many buildings are thought to resemble those of the Netherlands. Indeed, in 1942 – when filming could not be carried out in Nazi-occupied Europe – the town stood in for the Netherlands in Powell & Pressburger’s film ‘One of Aircraft is Missing’.
The banks of the river Witham (which is called the Haven as it passes through Boston) show off Boston’s maritime past, including the Custom House (1725) and old warehouses, now mostly converted to apartments.
In the early 19th century, Boston became an important industrial centre. Reminders of this are the Maud Foster windmill, which still produces flour, and a factory with a façade dominated by a giant swan. Why the swan? Because the factory processed feathers, once a major local industry.
As Boston expanded, well-to-do citizens moved from the centre to handsome villas, especially along Spilsby Road to the north east and along the banks of the Witham. New churches were built, such as the beautiful Arts & Crafts influenced St Thomas’s and the almost baroque Centenary Methodist Chapel.
These and many other buildings, ranging from the grand to the downright quirky, are featured in Boston, Lincolnshire: historic North Sea port and market town.
This historic Lincolnshire town deserves to be seen in a new light.