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Boston, Lincolnshire

Historical Description

Boston, a municipal and parliamentary borough, market-town, and parish, and the head of a union and county court district, situated in the south-eastern part of Lincolnshire. The town stands on the river Witham, 5 miles from the Wash, 32 SE by E of Lincoln, and 116 by road and 107½ by rail from London. It is a first-class station on the East Lincolnshire branch of the G.N.R. and junction of the lines to Grantham, Lincoln, and Sleaford. The Romans are supposed to have had a ferry a short distance below it, and a fort at the mouth of the Witham. A monastery was built at it in 654 by the Saxon, St Botolph, and destroyed by the Danes in 870; and this is believed to have given rise to the name Boston, written first Botolph's-town, afterwards Bostonstow. The monastery was rebuilt soon after 870; four priories, Augustinian, Dominican, Franciscan, and Carmelite, together with three colleges or hospitals, also were built; a castle of Ranulph, Earl of Richmond, likewise was erected; and though these dated from only the 13th and following centuries, they indicate a large amount of early prosperity. A tax levied in 1204 produced £780 from Boston and £836 from London. The town suffered greatly from a fire in the time of Edward I., and from an inundation in 1285; it was made a staple port for tin, lead, wool, leather, and other commodities in the time of Edward III.; and it sent sixteen ships to the siege of Calais. It afterwards suffered much decline from the silting up of ita harbour; and it continued till recently to suffer embarrassment from the same cause, but since the passing of the Witham Outfall Improvement Act of 1880, a new channel has beer; cut to the Wash, the old channel has been closed by an embankment, and the navigable capacity of the port has been increased till it can now admit vessels of upwards of 2000 tons instead of 300. A portion of its inhabitants were leaders in the great Puritan emigration, about 1630, to America; and they gave its name to what is now the capital of New England.

The town is cut into two parts, east and west, by the Witheam, and is well built. A long street, called Bargate, and a spacious market-place, are on the E side of the river; and another long street, called High Street, nearly parallel with the river, is on the W side. An elegant iron bridge of one arch of 86 feet, after a design by Rennie, spans the river; and was erected in 1804-7 at a cost of £22,000. There is a pleasant promenade on the hanks of the river, tastefully laid out in walks and planted with trees, adjoining which are the people's park, public gardens, and recreation grounds. Waterworks were formed in 1850, and gas-works were established in 1826. There are a guild-hall, a sessions-house and assembly-rooms, a corn excliange, a theatre, an hospital, and a. freemason's hall-the last, in the Egyptian style, built in 1860. The ancient monasteries and castle have disappeared; but Hussey-tower, built by William Lord Hussey, who was beheaded at Lincoln in the time of Henry VIII., is near Skirbeck Road. The parish church is Decorated English, with grand interior; and had it been cruciform, would have rivalled most of the lesser cathedrals. It measures 282½ feet by 99, has a south porch and a south-west chapel, contains an altar-piece after Rubens, an ancient font, and monuments of the Tilneys; and was extensively restored in 1850-51, under the direction of the late Sir G. Gilbert Scott, R.A. Its tower, the celebrated " Boston Stump" is 262½ feet liigli; was built after the model of the north-west steeple of Antwerp Cathedral; is a master-piece of skill, and terminates in an octagonal lantern, which formerly was lighted up at night to guide seamen to the port. A white marble statue of Mr. Herbert Ingrain, founder of the " Illustrated London News" is in the churchyard. A chapel attached to the church was restored in 1857, under the superintendence of Sir G. G. Scott, as a memorial to the Rev. John Cotton, who was vicar from 1612 to 1633, when he proceeded with many of his parishioners to America, and became pastor of Boston, Massachussets-the town being named after that which they had left at home. The expense of the restoration of part of his old church was borne by Americans. The chapel of ease in High Street was built in 1822, and the chapel of ease (St James's) in George Street in 1861. There is a Roman Catholic church, erected in 1826, and there are also chapels for General and Particular Baptists, two Congregational chapels, a spacious Wcsleyan chapel with sittings for 2000 people, Primitive Methodist, ½Methodist New Connexion, Free Methodist, and Unitarian chapels, and a place of meeting for the Plymouth Brethren. There is an endowed Grammar School, two other endowed schools, and several elementary schools.

The port of Boston extends on the S to Sutton Corner, the western limit of the port of Wisbeach, and on the N to Trusthorpe Drain, the southern limit of the port of Grimsby. An extensive dock was completed on the river in 1884, which is capable of receiving vessels of 2000 tons burden, is connected with the G.N.R. by a swing bridge, and has a water area of about 7 acres. The number of vessels registered as belonging to the port in 1893 was 57 (3611 tons). The entries and clearances eacli average 580 (110,000 tons) per annum. The chief exports of the port are coal, corn and other agricultural produce; and the chief imports are timber, hemp, tar, grain, and linseed. Regular steamers leave the dock twice weekly for Hamburg, and by means of the Witham and the various canals communicating with the Trent, the town has inland navigation to almost every part of the kingdom. It is also the centre of considerable trade in fish, some 39 steam trawlers and numerous smacks being employed in taking fish of various kinds. Among the industries of the town maybe enumerated, agricultural implement making, brewing, mailing, seed crushing, rope making, iron and brass founding, the manufacture of whiting, mustard, and cigars. Weekly markets are held on Wednesday and Saturday, and fairs on 4 May for sheep and 5 May for cattle; Aug. 5 for fat cattle; Sept. 15 for foals, cattle, and general merchandise; Nov. 18, 19, and 20 for horses; and Dec. 11 for cattle. The town is a head post, money order, and telegraph office, has four banks and a savings bank, several good hotels, and publishes two weekly newspapers. Petty sessions are held twice a week, and quarter sessions at the regular periods. The town, which was first incorporated by charter in 1546, is now governed by a mayor, six aldermen, and eighteen councillors. It formerly returned two members to parliament, but by the redistribution of Seats Act of 1885 the number was reduced to one. The municipal and parliamentary borough are not co-extensive. The municipal borough comprises Boston with Boston West, which also constitutes the parish of Boston, but in the parliamentary borough are included, Boston Skirbeck with Skirbeck Quarter, and a portion of the parish of Fishtoft. Population of the parliamentary borough (Holland division), 18,711; acreage, 7266. Area of the civil parish, 2732 acres, and of the municipal borough, 2765; population of the municipal borough, 14,593; of the civil parish, 14,570; of the ecclesiastical, 14,834. The municipal borough is divided into two wards, called Rargate and West. Skirbeck parish, which nearly surrounds the town of Boston, has an area of 2650 acres; population, 3023. The living of Boston is a vicarage united with the perpetual curacy of St James; net yearly value, £338 with residence. The chapel of ease, in High Street, is a separate charge, and is endowed by the Corporation with £100 per annum. The living of Skirbeck parish, is a rectory in the diocese of Lincoln; net yearly value, £240 with residence. The church is an ancient building of stone in the Early English style. It was restored in 1874. There is also a chapel of ease, erected in 1885. Holy Trinity is an ecclesiastical parish, formed in 1874 from Skirbeck parish. The church is a building of stone in the Decorated style, and the living is a vicarage; net yearly value, £280 with residence. Shuff Fen and Hall Hills, formerly extra parochial tracts, are now parishes in the union of Boston. Boston-Deeps, the NW side of the Wash, leading up to the mouth of the Witham river, in Lincoln. It is divided on the landward side, from the shore by Wainfleet and Fiskney flats; and on the other side from Lynn-Deeps, by the Long Sand, Dog's Head, Roger, and Lynn-Knock shoals. The part of it called the South Channel gives the best seaway, and has in some parts 4 fathoms of water, but is encumbered by a shifting bar.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyLincolnshire 
Ecclesiastical parishBoston St. Botolph 
Poor Law unionBoston 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Church Records

Findmypast, in conjunction with the Lincolnshire Archives, have the following parish records online for Boston, St Botolph:


Findmypast, in conjunction with the Lincolnshire Archives, have the following parish records online for Boston, St James:


Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Boston from the following:


Online maps of Boston are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Lincolnshire papers online:

RegionEast Midlands
Postal districtPE21
Post TownBoston