Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Boston's Rasputin

In August 1920 Chas. Harlow, of Smith’s Court, Wormgate, Boston (reached by a passage at the side of 20, Wormgate) had an ejectment order granted against him by the local magistrates. Eleven years previously he is said to have vowed “I will never work again.” and that vow made at the age of about 35 altered the whole course of his life. He was then a fairly average citizen, with, it is said, at least £1000 to his name, and a wife and two children. In a family squabble the money went and since that time to 1920 he had lived apart from his wife and family and kept true his vow which brought him years of self imposed misery. The grounds of his ejectment from his two roomed tenement were filth and dilapidation.
Below left: Smith's Court, Wormgate Boston.

“Rasputin” was one of his nicknames probably from the fact of his dirty long hair which fell upon his shoulders with a beard to match. He didn’t use the upper room of his house and the “furniture” of the ground floor consisted of two boxes and some old potato sacks for a bed. The only ornamentation of his dwelling were twenty or so empty match-boxes on the mantelpiece.
The neighbours said that he retired to rest at about 5 p.m. and did not rise until about 10 a.m. when he made his appearance at the tap in the courtyard to get water for his meal of bread and cold water.
He often walked briskly around the town and was the object of much ridicule from the children of the town who called him “Crow’s Nest”. He was a pathetic figure, scantily attired in old greasy clothes in the coldest weather, and it was said he never had a fire. His hair and beard were never cut for he said it was against nature and that dogs, cats, beasts etc. never have their hair cut. Yet he was once a hairdresser!!

Monday, 29 November 2010

The Workhouse

In February 1911, a writer on “Tramp life” stayed in the Workhouse at Boston for a night and described his experience. He said the institution was known to the ordinary tramp as a Spike, a Grubber or a Derrick. The bed is a Lay down, and the food supplied termed Scran, Tommy, Rooty or Grub.
“Now, Boston Spike,” an old man said to him as they trudged along the Spalding Road, “is a good un. It’s a fine lay down, an’ you could stand yer spoon up in the skilly (referring to the thickness of the porridge). On entry into Boston Workhouse (pictured below) he found himself in the company of nearly a dozen vagrants. Some were very old, one claiming to have been 40 years on the road. Others were younger, one a stripling of eighteen, having been released the day before from Lincoln Prison.

When the reporters turn came, he gave the porter his name, age, occupation, place journeyed from and destination, also he handed over his pipe, tobacco and matches etc. for smoking was strictly prohibited in the workhouse.
Next he had to take a bath, which he didn’t mind but as one tramp expressed it “When you get a bath every night for a fortnight, you’re likely to be washed away,” while another said, “it let the cowd awful in his bones”.
Then he went to his bed in a small, cell like room with three rugs as a covering. His supper consisted of 8 ounces of bread and a drink of hot water, and he said that he slept well.
About 6. 30 a.m. the next morning he was woken and ordered to dress and by 7. 00 a.m. had received his breakfast, a pint of the famous Boston “skilly” with 6 ounces of bread, and an hour later he was paraded for work.
At about 11’o’ clock, after 3 hours of either breaking stones, picking oakum, sawing wood or gardening they were all released. Once outside the gates, pipes were produced, and a smoke indulged in, then the motley crowd set out on their ways.
In concluding his article he stated that Boston Tramp Ward amply fulfilled all the requirements set forth by the Local Government Board, he praised all the officials and said the rooms were very clean.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

One of our aircraft is missing

One of Our Aircraft is Missing (parts of which were filmed in Boston) is a 1942 British war film that was made under the authority of the Ministry of Information. It begins dramatically with the crash of "B for Bertie", a  Wellington bomber whose crew were forced to bail out over Holland after one of their engines was damaged during a night time raid on Stuttgart. It goes on to tell the story of how they are helped by the Dutch resistance.Many of the outdoor scenes set in Holland were filmed at Boston (as in 1942 the Germans still occupied the Netherlands) and many of the town's landmarks are visible in the film for example the quaysides, the Railway Swing Bridge (below) and the Church house at the top of Wormgate.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Tiger Escapes

One of the attractions at Boston May Fair in 1890 was Bostock’s Menagerie, a travelling fairground show consisting of wild animals. Part of the performance consisted of an “Equestrian feat by a Lion and Tiger” where these animals rode around the enclosure on the back of an elephant that had a wooden saddle fitted to his back. A connecting board was placed from the animal caravan to the saddle and the tiger would walk out and crouch upon the elephant’s back after which they were supposed to do two circuits of the enclosure then the tiger would go back to his cage and the lion would take his place.

Bostock's Menagerie.
One evening the menagerie was almost full of spectators who, as they were instructed, gathered in the centre of the enclosure to witness the feat, but when the elephant had been once round the ring, the tiger, in passing its cage sprung off the back of the elephant in the direction of the door. The lion tamer (a black man named Maccomo) was not prepared for this, and although he made a dash for the tiger the elephant being in the way prevented the escaped animal being caught. The menagerie was in uproar with people rushing for the exit steps and women and children shrieking with terror. The tiger was as frightened as the spectators and it darted here and there amongst the crowd trying to hide itself. Several children were knocked down but not hurt. After playing a hide and seek game with Maccomo and the keepers for some minutes the tiger was eventually got in the open and driven into the cage again where it was hit and told to behave better. It was then again placed on the elephant’s back and rode round the ring once more.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Human remains

In April 1900 human remains were found in a sack in Boston and were about to be sent away for disposal before they were discovered.
The scene of their discovery was the Railway Goods Yard where they had been sent to be forwarded on in the ordinary course of business by a rag and bone man. A railway employee, who knew something about the human skeleton, noticed a bone protruding from the sack and realised it was the forearm and hand of a girl!! He told James Carr, a carter who was unloading in the yard and Carr took possession of the bone and hurried up to the Police Station

The Railway Goods Yard at Boston.
The police were soon upon the scene, with them came the Medical Officer and the Sanitary Inspector and others officially concerned (as at this time it looked very serious) but after a while it was proved there had not been any murder or tragedy.
Enquiries showed they were broken up skeletons from the sale of the late Dr. Snaith in Pump Square and their recovery at least rescued them from a fate that would seem incredible to us today.
There were several skulls - the number was variously given as three and five - and the bones of an adult’s and a young female’s skeletons. They were all contained in the sack, and their destination, along with a truck load of animal bones, was a factory at Newark that crushed bones and turned them into manure!!
It seems the skulls and skeletons were “cleared out” at Dr. Snaith’s sale as a job lot, they were taken to a rag and bone yard by a man named Blades and received in the normal way without too much attention being paid to them. Their man was loading iron when the bones were brought in and were passed as ordinary commercial animal bones.
The human fragments were eventually decently interred under the directions of the Medical Officer.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

The Birch

In April 1900 an eleven year old boy, Frank Rear of 19, Witham Street, Boston was charged with stealing a watch, the property of Mr. John Perrin of Norfolk Place, Boston.
On market days Mr. Perrin had a stall in the Market Place and saw the accused and another boy loitering near his stall which among other things had three watches on it. He was very busy during the afternoon and when he finally came to a quieter time he noticed that one of the watches was missing and informed the police.

Boston Market.
John Broughton, seven years of age, of Colley Street, Boston told the court that on the Wednesday he went with his playmate, the accused, into the market. Frank stopped in front of a stall and said, “Shall we sneak a watch”, the witness saw him take a watch and identified the one produced. They then went to the pawn shop, Frank went into the shop and John stayed outside. Frank was given two shillings and sixpence for the watch and when he came out of the shop he handed John a shilling, two pennies and a half-penny. Frank Rear was found guilty and sentenced to receive six strokes with the birch rod.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Fire in Bargate

In the early hours of Monday 9th September 1906 a fire, which resulted in the death of a young girl, occurred at 27 Strait Bargate (the present site of WH Smith) the premises of the Bargate drug stores. The household consisted of the proprietor Mr Charles Fowler Cooke, his wife, their two daughters (Ellen Gertrude, aged 23 and Eva aged 19), and a servant girl Elizabeth Jessop. Mr and Mrs Cooke slept on the second floor, the two daughters occupied a bedroom at the top of the house and the servant also had a room on the same floor as the daughters.
The family went to bed at about 11 o clock on the Sunday night and everything was alright, shortly after midnight Mr and Mrs Cooke were woken up by a noise that sounded like tins falling and Mrs Cooke went to investigate. On going to the landing she saw through the glass panel of the warehouse door that a light was burning inside and rushed back to her husband and told him. She hurried to rouse the two daughters and the servant while Mr Cooke attempted unsuccessfully to put out the fire with a hand basin and a bucket of water. Mrs Cooke succeeded on waking the sleepers at the top of the house and they descended the stairs but when Mrs Cooke and Eva Cooke reached the street they discovered that Gertrude and the servant were missing.

Meanwhile, someone had gone and told a police officer and he blew his whistle and raised the alarm. When he arrived at Cooke’s the place was ablaze and numerous helpers were on the scene. Mr Morgan from a local shop heard that the two females were trapped inside and got a ladder from the Red Lion hotel in the same street and attempted their rescue. There appeared to be a girl at each of the two top bedroom windows and from the one occupied by the daughter Gertrude came heartrending screams but unfortunately the ladder only reached as far as the balcony. Miss Jessop, the servant, let herself down onto the balcony a distance of about 10 feet and through the efforts of two bystanders she was saved.
All the incidents above happened within the space of about 10 minutes and then the hose cart and a longer ladder appeared on the scene. “Save my child!” the parents cried in anguish and Fireman Haynes and J A Wilson went up the larger ladder and thoroughly examined the two top bedrooms, looking under the beds and in every corner that the girl might have hidden herself to hide from the flames. The remaining members of the Volunteer Fire Brigade arrived and fortunately a plentiful supply of water was available and the brigade worked furiously to get the fire under control. Hundreds of people were attracted to the spot by the glare and every now and then as some new part caught fire the sparks ascended and descended like a sky rocket. Thousands of gallons of water were poured into the premises and the destruction of the whole block was prevented.
The general confusion was added to by the constant bursting of bottles and shattering of glass etc. in the shop and dispensing department. The roof, considering the flames were fiercest in the top story held up well and it was about 3am when it fell in with an awful crash.
Above: The morning after the fire.
At about 7 a.m. in the morning the remains of the young lady, charred beyond recognition, were discovered on a burnt bed in the debris, having evidently fallen through when the roof gave way. It is thought that she left her mother and sister coming downstairs, returning with the purpose of saving the servant. Exit by means of the stairs was impossible and the servant realising this escaped from the window begging the deceased to follow. She was either too frightened to do so or was overcome by the smoke and sank back unconscious on the bed that her remains were found lying on, there to meet her fate.
The cause of the fire was attributed to mice gnawing matches and the remains of Miss Ellen Gertrude Cooke were buried in Boston cemetery on Thursday 12th September 1906.

Below: The scene today.

Monday, 22 November 2010


According to the book "The History and Antiquities of Boston" there was a windmill in Wormgate, Boston as far back as 1591.
By the early 1800’s there were about a dozen windmills in and around Boston, many of them on sites that had been used for centuries. Pictured below are a few of these mills.

Above and Below: The Gallows Mills which were demolished when Boston dock was built. Skirbeck Church can be seen in both sketches.
The following three pictures show the "Good Intent" mill that stood down Sleaford Road. The first was drawn by W. Brand in 1796.

Below, the Good Intent in 1888.

Below, the Good Intent in 1967 when it was demolished.

Below can be seen Tuxford's Mill which was near Mount Bridge. There were eight sails on the mill and when it was demolished they were taken and put on the mill at Heckington where they are to this day.

Below: Thompson's Mill which stood down Spilsby Road.

And finally (below) the only one remaining in Boston, the Maud Foster mill.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Fair

The smell of candy floss and toffee apples, the caterpillar and speedway, the steam yachts, Rhona the Rat Girl and the boxing booth……….
Boston Mayfair has a very long history (to at least 1125) and traces it’s origins back to the great trading fair of medieval times although this was very different from the modern funfair that we know.

In the Middle Ages fairs were like markets and were held only once a year with merchants coming from all over Europe to buy and sell at the Boston fair.

However, by the 1890’s, the mix of fair rides and stalls that we know was certainly occupying both the Market Place and Wide Bargate and it is now one of the few remaining street fairs in the country.

The event, which has a Royal Charter, occurs in the first week of May (usually the 3rd) and is surrounded by tradition and ceremony.

The Mayor declares the fair open at noon (see below) from the Assembly Rooms balcony overlooking the Market Place and the ceremony is attended by VIP guests including representatives of the Showmen’s Guild.

After the Fair has been declared open the mayor and guests tour with representatives from the Showmen’s Guild and are allowed to ride free on any of the attractions.

Families of showmen have been coming to Boston for generations, occupying the same pitches with their rides and stalls, which are jealously guarded. The Fair stays in the town for seven or eight days.

Below (1) Sideshows outside the Peacock and Royal Hotel in the 1940's.
Below (2) The Helter Skelter near the Post Office in Bargate in the 1920's.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

The Town Bridge

The Town Bridge.

From well before 1795 the wooden bridge (below) spanned the river from High Street to the Market Place and after many expensive repairs, the last of which was in that year and cost about £500, it was agreed, in 1800, to take the wooden bridge down, and to replace it with a better structure.
In August 1800, the Corporation decided the new bridge (see below) should be of iron, and its building commenced in 1802. It was designed by Sir John Rennie in one arch of cast iron of 86 foot span. The site of the new iron one was a little south of the older wooden one(which remained standing until the new one was completed) and was opened on 2nd of May, 1807.

The 1807 bridge was demolished (below) in 1913.

Which made way for the building of the present Town Bridge (see both pictues below) in the same year.

 Above: Building the present Town Bridge.
Below: The present Town Bridge soon after it's opening.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Boston Dock

Boston dock was designed by WH Wheeler and work started on 2 May 1882. The first sod was cut (below) by the mayoress, Mrs John Simonds on 9 June of that year.
The first cargo (cotton seed for JC Simonds and Son) arrived from Alexandria in the 1,700-ton steamer "Myrtle" on 15 December 1884.

During its building (below) two mills known as the Gallows Mills had to be demolished.

It is now in private hands but before, when the Corporation owned it, the public (picture below) were free to come and go as they pleased and many an afternoon we spent as boys looking at the ships and watching the various work going on before playing in the Old Park which was nearby.
Below. Local firm E.T.Morris at work on the dock.

Burton Corner Toll Bar

The scene below shows the Toll Bar on the Wainfleet Road which was pulled down in about 1875. The building on the left is the toll-keeper’s house which stood at the junction of Sibsey Road and Wainfleet Road, the gates barring the way to Wainfleet.
In the background can be seen the greenhouses attached to Burton Hall.
There was a similar toll bar on Sleaford Road at Donnison’s Corner.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Boston's Old Cinemas

Some of Boston's old Cinemas.

The New Theatre (demolished, now a Marks and Spencer store) in the Market Place

The Odeon (demolished, now a Doctor's surgery) in South Square.

The Cosy (demolished) nearly opposite the Golden Lion pub in High Street.

The Regal (demolished, now a car park) in West Street.

The Scala (centre right). The building is still there and is now the Poundstretcher store.

The Wimpy Bar

America comes to Boston!! Here is Boston's Wimpy Bar in the 1960's. Who would have thought that a little beginning like this would end with "Whatever", "Talk to the hand", "High fives" and English boys all wearing baseball caps!!!

Kiosk on the old Town Bridge

This kiosk used to stand on the old Town Bridge on the opposite side to the Assembly Rooms. It was demolished when the old bridge was pulled down and the new one built in 1913. Judging by the wording on the door it apparently sold cigarettes and cigars.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010