Sunday, 7 July 2013

Pump Square

Along with the new buildings in Pump Square there are some very nice looking old buildings but it is what you can't see that is much more interesting.

The history of Pump Square is veiled in mystery, it is not mentioned by that name before 1600 but it was a place of importance long before that date. An old tradition says that a prison once stood there and that in this prison there were two dungeons below the ground level, one three steps lower than the other. It is said that in the floor of the lower dungeon a spring of water flowed continuously and the most difficult prisoners were confined in this cell where they had to pump up water for the inhabitants of the town, the punishment being that if the prisoner ceased from his work his cell would flood and he would be more uncomfortable. The two cells are in existence, they are arched and have groined roofs and were opened out for examination many years ago.

There are other reasons that seem to prove that Pump Square was a centre of some importance in the early years of Boston's history. Just as all the roads and lanes entering the town open into the Market Place, so all the narrow lanes east of the Market Place (Still Lane, Dolphin Lane etc.) lead into Pump Square along with the narrow lanes of Bargate (Mitre Lane, Silver Street) and Main Ridge.


  1. Whereabouts were the cells Billy? Are they under the building pictured?

  2. I am more than sure that the cells are actually under the road surface of the Square itself. I remember reading a story in the local paper a few years ago that they were rediscovered while some roadworks were being carried out.

    THE PUMPS, OR PUMP SQUARE. In nearly the centre of this square are two subterranean rooms, or vaults, of neat workmanship, with arched roofs; one room is considerably larger than the other, and leads to the smaller one by a descent of two or three steps; these rooms are now used as a reservoir of water, and a pump communicates with them, furnishing the inhabitants of the neighbourhood with a supply of good water, which has seldom been known to fail. It is not known what was the original use of these rooms, but as upon digging at about six feet below the surface of the ground, the stone floors of several rooms communicating with each other have been discovered;' it is evident that a building of considerable magnitude was once situated in this place. It is not unlikely that this was the ancient prison of the town, and that the subterranean rooms were cells, in which the most incorrigible criminals were confined. It has been stated that a spring of water is continually flowing through the floor of the lower room, and that the business of the persons confined was to raise the water to the surface by pumps, for the use of the inhabitants. From this circumstance the place seems to have derived its name. It is mentioned as " the Pumps " in 1600, when much of the property in the neighbourhood belonged to the HMLTOFT family. A large pit hereabout is mentioned in 1564, under the name of the'c Coye Pitt," and again in 1593, when it was ordered "to be repaired with a curb, as it was before. The inhabitants dwelling by the said pit, and taking benefit thereby, to be asked for their benevolence towards the said repairs, which, it is thought, indeed, they ought to make."2 Tile pumps and pits, of which at this period there was a considerable number in various parts of the town

    1. Thanks to anon. for the above information.

  4. I seem to remember that the still had a chamber that went out to pump square which was told to me by an ex landlord ?