Friday, 28 September 2012

The Germans.

At the start of the First World War in 1914 there were two German brothers living in Boston who had been naturalised Englishmen for twenty-three years. The brothers, George and Leonard Cantenwine owned a butchers shop in High Street and late on the first Saturday night of the war a crowd attacked the shop because it was rumoured that customers had heard them expressing pro-German sentiments.
All the windows were broken and the shop looted and several of the attackers were later charged, surprisingly one of these was Alfred Harlow, another butcher.

Recruiting in the Market Place 1914, when there was hatred toward the German people of the town.
When he gave his evidence, Leonard Cantenwine asked the magistrates to be lenient and later several Boston people wrote to the press and expressed sympathy for the Cantenwine's and disgust with the rioters. In the first week of August 1918 when the war had gone on for four long years, an unsigned letter appeared in all the local papers explaining why the local farmers had not supported as well as had been expected the War Savings Campaign that summer. The writer pointed out that 'Germans' were living in Boston and had purchased farms near the military aerodrome at Freiston Shore. Leonard Cantenwine did own a small farm at Freiston and had recently bought a second at Leverton. The letter also accused these Germans of going to these farms daily in order to spy and hinted that they were preparing to assist in a landing of German troops on the coast. The writer was soon identified as Mr. Joseph Bowser J.P., also chairman of the Boston Branch of the National Farmers Union.
The Cantenwines had had enough and decided to defend themselves and started an action for libel against Mr. Bowser, The case wasn't heard until June 1919 when the war was long over. Many witnesses appeared for Mr. Bowser and they retold every little event of the war involving the Cantenwines in an attempt to show that the brothers supported Germany despite their naturalisation and, therefore, that Mr. Bowser's comments were basically true. Miss Bristowe, a barmaid at the White Hart and Walter Woodthorpe the coal merchant, told how Leonard Cantenwine in 1914 had forecast that the Germans would win the war and that he would become 'Burgermaster of Boston'.
The jury took only twenty five minutes to decide that Mr. Bowser's letter was defamatory but that the words used were fair comment on a matter of public interest. The Cantenwines were ordered to pay the entire costs of the case and it is no wonder that they soon left Boston.


  1. The three Kantenwein brothers were born in the Kingdom of Wurttemburg.They were de-naturalised as citizens of Wurttemburg at their own request and moved to England. In 1891 they changed their names when Leonhardt and Johann became naturalised Englishmen. Andreas Leonhardt Michael Kantenwein became Leonard Cantenwine. Frederich Kantenwine became Frederick Cantenwine and Johann Georg Adreas Kantenwine became George Cantenwine.

    In 1891 when still only 26 years old Leonard bought the Bridge Foot Pork Butchers from his brother in law Frederick Frank of Peterborough, paying the sum of £3000 for the business,which must have been a vast sum of money at that time, later George became a partner. The shops turnover soon reached £20,000 per annum and they became the largest curers of bacon in Lincolnshire, their Anglo German Lincolnshire Pork Sausages also became famous throughout a wide area for their very high quality. Over the years a number of local butchers they had trained set up their own shops and produced Lincolnshire Sausages along the lines of the Cantonwines, which may possibly explain why Boston Sausages are that bit different and dare I say it "better" than other areas of the county.

    Leonard married Miss Helen Dawson of Boston in 1893 and set up home in Carlton Road. George married Miss Florence Harriett Mitchell of Boston in 1900 and set up home above the shop.

    After the shop was looted it was repaired and trade continued without any problem up to May 1915, when the Trans Atlantic Liner the Lusitania was sunk by a German Submarine with great loss of life, which caused an upsurge in anti German feeling and so they closed the shop down and for the remainder of the war spent their time working on their farms.

    The story that Leonard boasted that when the Germans came he would become the Burgermaster of Boston was certainly fiction, as what he actually said in his own words was "How things have changed since the war broke out, I was friendly with everyone before the war, and was approached by members of the of council to come forward as a candidate for a municipal election. I might have been made Mayor of Boston before now if I had come forward".

    1. Excellent information Rob, thank you very much. Billy.

    2. Very interesting. I'm related to the Cantenwine brothers via my great grandmother. If anyone has an information/wants information my email address is

    3. I think we Bostonians owe your ancestors an apology!!!

    4. Hi Robin,
      On the 1911 census my grandfather John Dolby 18 yrs.old was a butcher @ F. Frank butcher shop 19 Westgate in Peterborough. He was working/living w George Cantenwine 28 yrs. old and Charles Frank 22 yrs.old. The census was signed by F. Frank. contact me if u like @

  2. my family has connections w the Cantenwine and Frank families... in 1880-1890's Samuel Dolby owned 19 High street Boston butcher shop..and his gr father John Dolby was a butcher @ F. Frank butcher shop westgate, peterborough as per 1911 1914 he was a WW1 soldier. I have River Plate and B&A fresh meat co pics.

    1. my email is if yr interested in the River Plate and British & Argentine fresh meat co. pics. If anyone knows of info related to Dolby/Cantenwine butcher connections pls. contact me! thx patricia