Saturday, 28 April 2012

Two forgotten streets


Mill Hill was a cluster of buildings situated at the top end of Wide Bargate roughly opposite to the Red Cow pub on what is now a car park. In 1640 it is described as "one piece of waste land in Bargate whereupon was lately one windmill and tenement." In 1680 it is described as having "several tenements upon it."

John Gray sent me this picture that clearly shows the island of buildings known as Mill Hill. Top centre can be seen the Ram pub and top right the Cross Keys pub now re-named the New England Hotel. Mill Hill was demolished in 1959.

Mill Hill during demolition. The curved white building was The North Pole pub.

 Another view of Mill Hill.


Cheyney Street was a street off Botolph Street, it went through Grove Street and then came out at the top of Wide Bargate near to Mill Hill. On the first house on the east side of Cheyney Street the builder put into the brickwork a stone in which the name "Cheyney Street" was deeply cut. He evidently didn't want the name to be changed or forgotten but there was no way he could ever imagine a huge dual carriageway running through the centre of Boston and Cheyney Street being destroyed in its path.
The name Cheyney was a name honoured in the town for generations and frequently occurs in Corporation records. From 1489 when William Cheyney held land belonging to the Corpus Christi Guild to 1798 when Thomas Cheyney died during his year of office as Mayor. In the list of Mayors during the reign of George III the name appears seven times. It would appear that Thomas was the last of the Cheyneys for there's no more mention of the name. The name Cheyney also appears in the list of names of early settlers in Massachusetts.

There was also a "Tom Cheyney" who kept an inn in Boston in the 1890's, either the Carpenters Arms in Witham Street or the Little Peacock Tap in School Street.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Goings on in Bargate

When I was young I remember sheep, pigs, cows and chickens being sold down Bargate but that has all gone now along with the sale of slaves and women, read on..........................................

In 1833 J.Martin, who was second master of the Grammar School, described the Boston May Fair of the 1400's as follows.
"In an open space adjoining Austin Friary, called Archery Ground, feats of truly English sport was celebrated in which all classes joined. Prize-fighting, or the science of defence, the professors of which were incorporated by royal patent, had its theatre near the archery ground. Preparations were also made for baiting a Bull on Bargate Common, as soon as the bustle of the beast mart had somewhat subsided. Throughout the whole of these scenes occasional booths presented themselves, on the outside of which was chalked in large characters "Wine, Ale, Sack."
The only revolting spectacle in the fair was the common exposure and sale of slaves, or villeins as they were called, a common practice in the times of which we write. These unfortunate beings were arranged, like beast in a stall, in a booth erected for the purpose just outside the Bar-gate, each one having an iron collar rivetted round his neck, on which was engraven his own name and that of his owner. The price of an ordinary slave was, in the year 1400, one mark, or 13s 4d."

 Mr. Walter Whyers, writing in 1934, says that at one time it was no uncommon practice for a man to put a halter around his wifes neck, lead her to the appointed spot in Bargate Green and sell her for half a crown. His father remembered an amusing story of one such sale. A man had taken his wife to Bargate Green, put the halter about her neck, and sold her to another man. As the wife-seller took the halter from his wife's neck he gave her a flick across the back with it and said, " You can now go, you - I've had enough of you." The buyer then took the matter in hand, and stripping off his coat said, " Keep your hands off her, she's mine now." He then gave the woman's former husband a sound thrashing.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Before and After

A few pictures to show how Boston has changed.

Bargate Bridge. The Queens Head Hotel on the left is gone and is replaced by an undertakers and the buildings to the right were demolished to allow for bridge and road widening.

The Old Town Bridge. The little tobacconist kiosk was previously a watchmans hut and the building to the left of it (now a chinese restaurant) was the old Boot's the Chemist shop. The old bridge was replaced by the one below in 1913.

The junction of Bridge Street and High Street. The two buildings facing have been replaced by a pub and a kebab shop and the bow windowed shop on the right has long gone and is also a fast food shop.

Thankfully this building in the Market Place hasn't changed too much, except for the ugly hole in the wall cash machine.

High Street. Once one of the main routes into town, with busy two-way traffic, it is now a one way street. A lot of the upper parts of the buildings are untouched which sadly, can't be said of the lower parts.

Market Place shop. This shop next to The Still pub in the Market Place is now a bookies shop.

This building in Wide Bargate was, for many years, the home of the local newspaper "The Standard". It has recently been used as a small supermarket for Somerfield's, the Co-op and Morrison's.

Friday, 20 April 2012

A look around South Square.

A walk along South Square brings into view many old buildings of Boston or recalls names to do with the towns history. The first building to be mentioned must be the Guildhall, the building has probably been put to more uses than any other in the town over the years.

The Guildhall.

Originally intended as a meeting place for the brethren of The Guild of St. Mary it has been, among other things, the meeting place of the Town Council, the Court of Sewers, the Charity Commissioners and other important bodies. It has aso been used as a Court House, a prison, a workshop and a dance-hall and during world war two was used as a community dining hall. A Mr. Dixon, an old inhabitant of Boston who lived down Spain Lane, recalled as a boy (when the Sessions were being held in the old Guildhall) that on many occasions he had formed part of a procession of weeping women and children who had followed luckless prisoners, who had received life sentences for trivial offences, down to the old jail in South End.

The narrow lane at the side of the Guildhall is called Bedesman's Lane from a few small cottages which were occupied by the bedesmen of St. Mary's Guild.

This lane had nothing to do with a duck or a field but takes its name from the family of Duchefielde who are said to have been residents of Boston at the time when the foundation stone of the Stump was laid in 1309. In the 1930's Duckfield Lane was one of the least spoiled bits of old Boston and there had been little alteration to this lane during the previous 150 to 200 years.

Cottages that once stood in Duckfield Lane.

Opposite Duckfield Lane there once stood the home of Jean Ingelow, writer of childrens stories and poems, her most famous being "The high tide on the Lincolnshire coast".

Ingelow House.

The block of old warehouses next to the Magnet Tavern and opposite Fydell House that have been turned into flats should be noted as the lower course of stonework of these buildings is what remains of Gysor's Hall, said to have been built by John Gysor who was Lord Mayor of London in 1245.

Above: Gysor's Hall. Below: the old warehouses that used some of the stonework in its lower course.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Boston and J.B. Priestley

J.B. Priestley visited Boston in December 1933 and in his book "English Journey" describes the town as follows.

"...........The train curved round and then I saw, for the first time, that astonishing church tower known as Boston Stump. This tower is not quite three hundred feet high but nevertheless, situated as it is, it looked to me more impressive, not as a piece of architecture, but simply as a skyscraper, than the Empire State Building in New York, with its eleven hundred feet. It is all a matter of contrast. Here the country is flat, you have seen nothing raised more than twenty or thirty feet from the ground for miles and miles and then suddenly this tower shoots up to nearly three hundred feet. The result is that at first it looks as high as a moutain..........."
Mr. Priestley then goes on to describe market day in Boston:-

"The square was filled with stalls, and any remaining space in the centre of the town was occupied by either broad faced beefy farmers and their men, or enormous bullocks. My hotel was in the Market Square and it was so crowded with farmers and farm hands clamouring for beer, that it was not easy to get in at all. Never have I seen more broad red faces in a given cubic capacity".
Next he visited the Scala Cinema's cafe.

"......I went into the cinema cafe for tea. There were some rural folk in there and as I waited for tea I wondered why countrymen should so often have such high pitched voices. Two tables near me were occupied by girls and it was curious to see how carefully they had modelled their appearences on those of certain film stars. It was only the girls here, however, who had this cosmopolitan appearence, the young men looked their honest, broad, red-faced, East Anglian selves. What a mad mixture it all is, in this remote and decayed little town, the tremendous church tower, the chandlers and corn merchants, the farmers and bullocks, floods of beer, the imitation Greta Garbos alongside the time-old rural figures."

Sunday, 15 April 2012

When the Germans conquered England

What's this? A German sentry at the top of Wormgate, which has a strange foreign name plaque?

German soldiers marching past the Blenkin Memorial Hall toward the Market Place?

No, these are stills from the film "One of our aircraft is missing" which was filmed during the second world war in Boston. They needed a Dutch town and of course couldn't go to Holland to get the real thing because the Germans occupied Holland at the time so, with Boston having some Dutch styled architecture, the Dutch scenes were filmed in Boston. Scenes of the Stump and of the swing bridge were also included in the film
Googie Withers played the lead feminine role

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Early 1800's Boston.

In the 1830's Boston was described as the most flourishing market town and sea port in Lincolnshire. In 1831 it had 11,240 inhabitants, though thirty years earlier it had only 5,926.

Forty boats were were engaged in fishing for shrimps, soles, herrings, oysters, cockles, mussels, sprats etc., and it is stated that the shrimps were of superior quality and had a great reputation in London. The market for sheep and cattle was also in a thriving condition with as many as 30,000 sheep being penned at the May Fair.

At that time there were six steam corn mills and no less than eleven windmills in the Borough and all kept busy grinding corn.

A map of 1835, Vauxhall Gardens can be seen near Spilsby Road.

One of the most popular places of amusement was the Vauxhall Gardens, which were designed by Mr. Charles Cave, and opened to the public in 1815. They covered about two acres of ground with walks, and an elegant central saloon, sixty two feet long, on the sides of which were painted a view of Paris and a hunting scene. There was also a maze, copied from that at Hampton Court.

Boston Athenaeum was on the site of the present Marks and Spencers store.

In common with many other towns in England, Boston had its Mechanics' Institute, founded in1837, but it soon began to decline from lack of support, and was eventually transformed into the Boston Athenaeum, where a well equipped library and news room became available, and courses of lectures arranged.

Friday, 13 April 2012

A Hotchpotch


In November 1907 a bottle was picked up at Frieston Shore which contained a sad note that read as follows.
"We are shipwrecked in the North Sea. Who finds this bottle send it to the nearest station for help. Mercy, we are starving (shipwrecked off the trawler Grecian)."

The steam trawler Grecian was launched in 1900 for The Boston Steam Fishing Co. Ltd. as "Grecian" (BN87) and in 1902 was sold to The Boston Deep Sea Fishing & Ice Co. Ltd., Boston. On the 17th. of December 1903 she left Boston for the North Sea fishing grounds and was last seen 265 miles north easterly from Inner Dowsing Lightship by another Boston trawler "Sutterton" (BN39). The Grecian was lost with all hands. The crew were:

G.A. Woods (skipper)
Z. Gutteson
W. Mingay
R. Smith
J. Wentworth
W.F. Tredennick
G. Savage
T. Dawson
A.E. Radford


A Peacock 3d token.

A 1666 Boston Farthing token.

During the medieval period many thousands of English men and women undertook pilgrimages to shrines and holy places in Britain and overseas. In Lincolnshire a number of pilgrimage centres are known to have existed and one such centre seems to have existed in Boston. Sometime around 1815 the little metal crucifix above, about two inches by one and a half inches, surrounded by an inscription was found. The inscription read, "The Token of the Good Rood in the Walle at Boston", and suggests the existence of a Holy Cross or "Rood" set into a wall in Boston. The crucifix is most likely to have been a token or a badge sold to pilgrims to this holy place. Many thousands of such tourist souvenirs were produced for pilgrims at the major shrines, and were worn pinned onto their hats or coats to show which shrine they had visited. The little token was last seen some time in the 1850's when Pishey Thompson published a drawing of it in his book "The History and Antiquities of Boston".

A 1930's helmet of the former BOSTON BOROUGH POLICE. The metal helmet plate is that of the older and discontinued Borough Coat of Arms and not the coat of arms which is now used by Boston. The badge in itself is a rare item, but the complete helmet is the only one I am aware of that has survived. A label is attached to the inside, the first letter is either an E or C. W. Sage - 27 - size 6 and 7/8" This would refer to the Constable... P.C. Sage and his force number - is a researchable helmet. Boston Borough Police was a very small force of a few dozen officers. On April 1, 1947 Boston Borough Police and forty-four other non-county borough police forces were merged with those of the counties in which they were situated. Boston became part of Lincolnshire.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Some pubs claims to fame


In October 1933 Johnny Cuthbert, the then light-weight boxing champion of England became licensee of the Mill Inn down Spilsby Road. Even then he was no stranger to Boston as he had spent many hours around the area fishing with his Father and manager Jack. He was a holder of the Lonsdale belt and said it would occupy a place of honour at the Mill.

Johnny Cuthbert

                                                 THE THREE TUNS, MARKET PLACE.
In this house Oliver Cromwell slept the night before the battle of Winceby— at least so says tradition: we do not know whether it was a public-house at that time, but it was one in 1799, and had been so for many years, and known as the Three Tuns.                          

            Above: The Three Tuns, Market Place, Boston.
               Below: This Cafe is on the site of the Three Tuns.


John Foxe was born on this site ( the present Stump and Candle pub) and after the Bible his "Book of Martyrs" was possibly the most widely read book in English during the reign of Elizabeth I. Those who could read learned the full details of the atrocities performed on the Protestant reformers during the previous reign, while the illiterate could  see from the simple illustrations the various instruments of torture such as the rack, the stocks and ultimately the flames. The book is in many ways a work of propaganda by Protestants against the pro-Catholic rule of Queen Mary (Bloody Mary), and against the Papacy in general.

Above: John Foxe.
Below: A page from the book.


The site of the Crown & Anchor Tavern, posibly known as the Rope & Anchor Tavern was the home of George Bass (1771 -1803) surgeon and navigator who discovered the Bass Straights and played a Signifcant part in the history of Tasmania and Victoria, Australia. He attended Boston Grammar School and later trained in medicine at the hospital at Boston.

George Bass.

After writing the above about George Bass I received the following from ROBIN and I totally agree, it's nice to learn something new Robin, thanks.

Hi Billy regarding George Bass and his connection with the Crown & Anchor had you realised that the cast iron sign and plaque seem to be displayed on the wrong site?. The Crown and Anchor in the time of George Bass was at 16 Skirbeck Quarter and remained as a Coaching Inn up to 1850 when the licence was tranfered to another house at 20 Skirbeck Quarter which is the site where the sign now resides. As Bass was last seen alive in Feb 1805 it follows that the Crown & Anchor where he lived in Boston must have been number 16 with number 20 only becoming the pub of that name some 45 years after his last sighting. The Crown & Anchor of Bass,s time still stands in the row of old boarded up buildings, its coach archway still in place. It looks as if this is where the old sign and plaque should be on.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012


Why are Bostonians, along with other Lincolnshire folk, called Yellowbellies? (or Yellerbellies as we say it) The simple answer is we just don't know. All we are certain of is that it has nothing to do with cowardice and if you think otherwise then look up the history of The Lincolnshire Regiment, Lincolnshire heroes in all the services of two world wars and soldiers, sailors and airmen since 1945. Anyway, take your pick from the reasons below which have all been put forward over the years.

1. The nickname came about because of a Royal Warrant of 1751 confirming the colour facings of the marching regiments of Foot, the 10th had bright yellow, this lead to the Lincolns being given the nickname the yellowbellies, the regiment had fought for this Great County since 1685 as Grenville's regiment before becoming the Lincolns.

The coat of arms of lincolnshire, the soldiers on either side are the so-called Lincolnshire Yellowbellies, or soldiers of the 10th Regiment of Foot.

2. The traditional breed of sheep in the county was the Lincoln Longwool. These sheep would often graze in the fields of mustard that were once a common sight around Lincolnshire. As their shaggy coat dragged along the ground it would pick up pollen from the mustard flowers and give them, you've guessed it, a yellow belly.

The Lincoln Longwool.

3. During summer the farmworkers would often work without their shirts on. As they tended the fields they would be bent over, and get a suntan on their back. Their fronts however would be in the shadows the whole time and so would stay white. The reflection of the corn is said to have given a yellow hue to their bellies.

4. Women traders on street markets in past times are reputed to have worn a leather apron with two pockets, one for copper and silver and one for gold. At the end of a good day they would say they had 'a yellow belly' meaning they had taken a large number of gold sovereigns.

5. The expression is based on the old belief that if a person born in Lincolnshire placed a shilling on their abdomen on retiring to bed and slept flat on their back all night, then the next morning the shilling would have turned into a gold sovereign.

6. Many a Lincolnshire family used to keep a pig, and after the killing the curing bacon sides turned yellow. Some reckoned that some locals ate so much bacon that they themselves turned yellow.

7. Lincolnshire was full of poachers, the pollen of meadow flowers was rubbed onto the poacher's belly as they crawled through the fields stalking their prey. The constabulary of the time regarded this as proof positive that the individual concerned had been up to no good and could well earn a trip to the colonies.

8. A farmer had a rather overweight daughter that no one wanted to marry so the farmer decided to use an incentive. To the person who would marry his daughter he would give as many gold coins as would cover her stomach as she lay on the ground. Hence 'yellow belly'.

9. Due to a festival celebrating pototoes when people would paint their bellies yellow to resemble a potato.

10. The traditional clothing for a farm worker many years ago was the smock made of light coloured canvas material. Apparently when this material was subjected to sunlight and the garment became older it turned a yellowy colour, hence "Lincolnshire yellow belly"

11. The women would gather the mustard from the fields in their aprons, their aprons would thus be coloured yellow.

12. The mail coach that ran from Lincoln to London had a yellow undercarriage. Upon it's arrival in London it is said that the locals would call out "Here comes the Lincolnshire yellowbelly".

13. A species of newt, frog or eel (there is disagreement on this point) found in the Lincolnshire Fens had yellow undersides.

14. Opium extracted from poppy heads, and taken to relieve malaria that was prevalent in the fens in earlier centuries, turned the skin a shade of yellow.

15. It is a derogatory name, implying that the Fen-dwellers creep around in the mud, and so get yellow bellies.

16. The term originated from Elloe, the name of the rural deanery that serves the fen area of the Lincoln Diocese. This in turn took its name from the Saxon Wapentake which was referred to as Ye Elloe Bellie - Elloe meaning out of the morass while bel was the Celtic word for hole or hollow.

Any more out there that I've missed?