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The Parliamentary Gazetteer’s Summary of Boston, 1843.


A parish, borough, port, and market-town, in the wapentake of Skirbeck, Union of Boston, Parts of Kesteven and Holland, county of Lincoln; 116 miles north of London, and 36 south-east of Lincoln, on the river Witham, which here forms a considerable estuary, though 5 miles from the sea. The Witham flows through the town, and over which an elegant iron-bridge of one arch, 86 feet in span, – after a design by Rennie – was erected in 1804-7 by the corporation, at an expense of £22,000.

Ecclesiastical affairs.] – The living is a vicarage, on the archd. And dio. of Lincoln; valued at £33 6s. 8d. ; gross income £360 ; recently in the patronage of the corporation. The church is a spacious and elegant structure. The interior is 382 feet in length, and on each side of the chancel there are ranges of stalls. The tower is 262 feet 9 inches in height, and resembles that of the cathedral of Antwerp. It forms a conspicuous landmark for sailors, being visible at sea for 40 miles, and surmounted by an elegant octagonal lantern, which seems designed to have been lighted up at night for a sea-mark. This structure was erected in 1309, and is said to have been founded by Sir John Tilney and his lady, whose effigies are in the church. – The church of St. John has long ago been removed; the burying-ground alone remains. – Boston chapel-of-ease, erected in 1822, is a perpetual curacy, of the yearly value of £100; in the patronage of trustees. The great and small tithes or East Boston, the property of the corporation, were commuted in 1810. All tithes of Fen, West Boston, the property of the mayor and burgesses of the town , were commuted in 1771. – The General and Particular Baptists, Independents, Wesleyan and New Connexion Methodists, Unitarian, the Society of Friends, and Roman Catholics, have places of worship here. The Independent church was formed in 1819; and the New Connexion Methodist in 1827 ; the Primitive Methodist in 1822. The first Baptist church was formed in 1635 ; the second in 1800 ; and the third more recently. A very large Wesleyan Methodist chapel is now in course of erection. – Queen Mary, in 1554, founded a free grammar-school here, now under the direction of the corporation, the master of which receives £100, and the usher £60 per annum. – In 1707, Mr. Laughton founded a school for 25 boys, each of whom, at the age of 14, if apprenticed to a free burgess, is entitled to have a fee of £15 paid for him. The original endowment was £50 per annum. – Here are also a National and a blue-coat school, the latter of which is partly supported by bequests. Besides these, there are 49 daily, and 8 Sunday schools, in this parish. There is a dispensary in the town. Here were an Augustinian friary, founded in 1307, and granted 37o Henry VIII. to the mayor and burgesses of the town; a Dominican monastery, founded prior to the year 1288, granted 32o Henry VIII. to Charles, duke of Suffolk ; a Franciscan monastery, founded by the Easterling merchants, granted 37o Henry VIII. to the mayor and burgesses of the town ; and a Carmelite friary, founded in 1700.

General description.] – The town is well-built, contains many good dwelling-houses and shops, and extensive granaries and other warehouses. The streets are well-paved and lighted with gas, under the provisions of a local act ; but the supply of water is bad, notwithstanding great expenses have been incurred in the attempt to improve it.  Wednesday and Saturday are market-days, on which large quantities of poultry are sold, much of which is sent to the London market, and extensive business done in corn and wool. A cattle market is held once o-week – sometimes twice – on an open space near the north-eastern end of the town, called Wide Bargate. Fairs are held on the 4th and 5th of May for sheep chiefly ; August 5th is the town-fair ; on November 20th, and three following days, for horses ; and on December 11th for cattle. The navigation of the Witham has suffered much from the deposition of silt, but since the middle of the last century it has been deepened, and a canal carried from the town to Dogdyke, with most beneficial consequences. The quay is now accessible to vessels of 100 tons burden, and the river is navigable to Lincoln, whence is a vast inland communication by canals communicating with the river Trent. For the improvement of the port and harbour of Boston extensive powers are vested by two local acts of parliament, in the mayor and burgesses. They are authorized to collect tonnage, wharfage, and lastage, from vessels coming into the harbour, according to certain specified rates, the proceeds of which, after defraying the necessary expenses, are to be applied to deepening, cleansing, enlarging, and improving the harbour. The expenditure under these acts, from 1812 to 1832, was £88,749 1s. 10d. In 1832, 174 vessels belonged to this port. There are not any manufactures carried on in the borough ; but the town contains two iron-foundries and three building-yards, (with a patent slip,) where vessels from 200 tons burden and downwards are constructed. The tide rises 13 feet in the harbour, but if certain improvements on the great level of the Wash, now contemplated, are carried out, it is expected that 19 feet of water will be obtained here. The state of commerce appears to be by no means flourishing. The export trade is chiefly in agricultural produce. This has increased greatly since the draining of the extensive fens, from which upwards of 70,000 acres of rich marsh land have been obtained. Here is a custom-house, a pilot-office, and large fish-market. The Stamford and Boston banking company, and the National provincial bank, have branches here.

Municipal Government, &c.] – Boston is a borough by prescription, but is chiefly governed by a charter of 37o Henry VIII. extended by Elizabeth. The following are the dates of other charters granted to the corporation : – 3o Elizabeth,2o James I. 3o Charles I., 1o James II. and 4o James II.  The freedom of it is acquired by birth, servitude, gift, and purchase. By the municipal act of 1835, the borough has been divided into two wards : Boston West ward, and Bargate ward ; to each of which nine councillors have been assigned. The mayor is, by virtue of his office, escheater, returning officer at the election of members to parliament for the borough, and clerk of the market. A commission of peace has been granted to this town. The corporation had a right, under the charter of Queen Elizabeth, to hold admiralty courts for the neighbouring coasts. Quarterly courts of session for the borough, and courts of record for the recovery of debts, were also held by the corporation. Petty-sessions are held every Friday. By a local act , 47o George III., repealing and altering former acts, a court of requests is constituted for the recovery of small debts in the borough and parish of Boston, and the hundreds of Skirbeck and Kirton, excepting the parishes of Gosberton and Surfleet. A court of pie-powder, at which the mayor presides, is held at each of the fairs. Here are the houses of correction for the parts of Holland, a borough-goal, and guild-hall, which last is an ancient building. The goal and house of correction stands on ground, the property of the corporation, known as the Dock Pasture. It is detached from other buildings, but very insecure on account of the absence of a boundary wall. It is a plain elevation of three stories, with the apartments for prisoners ranged on each side of central passages. On the ground-floor are 7 day-rooms, with airing-yard attached; -- on the first floor, the chapel and 7 sleeping-cells, with arched roofs and brick floors; and on the second, 7 cells, from which many attempts at escape have been made. The keeper is allowed sixpence a-day for the maintenance of the prisoners. The tread-wheel for the males and females, with which the prison is furnished, moves with the same velocity, and is on the same shaft. Before the tread-wheel for the males, there is a contrivance for keeping them at labour of novel description. A pit or trough of water, about 3 feet deep, extends the whole length of the wheel, to prevent them jumping off. Total number of prisoners, in 1837, 128. The elective franchise was conferred in the reign of Edward VI., from which period Boston returned two members to parliament, who were chosen by the resident freemen generally, paying scot and lot, in number about 400. During the old regime bribery prevailed to a large extent. The regular practice, it appears, was for the candidates to pay the voters five guineas for a single vote, and ten for a plumper. Under the reform bill the old borough of Boston, with the parish of Skirbeck, returns two members to parliament. Boston is also a polling-place for the members of the parts of Kesteven. [sic]  John Fox, the biographer of the martyrs, was born here; also the ecclesiastical writer, John of Boston, sometimes called Boston of Bury. “He travelled all over England, and exactly perused the libraries in all monasteries, whereby he was enabled to write a catalogue of ecclesiastical writers, as well foreign as English, extant in his age, in which he was so accurate as not only to give us the general titles, but the initial words of every book, and the place in each library where they are to be found, which was a great help to John Leland. His manuscript was never printed ; but the archbishop of Armagh is said to have rejoiced much in this, – that he had the best copy of it in Europe. It is certain that the lovers of antiquities value it as a rarity of rarities. It was dedicated to Henry IV., king of England, in whose reign he flourished, and finished his work in the year 1410, or thereabouts,” – [Mag. Brit. Edin. 1738, p. 1408.] – The Irby family hold the title of Viscount from this town. Pop. In 1801, 5,926; in 1831, 11,240. Houses 2,437. Acres 5,220. A. P. £3,423. Poor rates, in 1837, £5,051. – A workhouse has been erected here for the union of Boston by the poor-law commissioners. The Boston poor-law union comprehends 27 parishes, embracing an area of 168 square miles ; with a population returned, in 1831, at 29,941. The average annual expenditure on the poor of this district, during the three years preceding the formation of the union, was £16,705. Expenditure in 1838, £10,161. – There are penny posts to Gosperton, [sic]   Sutterton, Wanfleet, [sic]  Friskney, Wrangle, Leak, Leverton, and Bennington.

History.] – The name is supposed by some to be a contraction of Botolph’s-town; a monastery having been founded here in 650, by the Saxon, St. Botolph. In the ‘Ordinacio Stapularum’ of Edward III., it is termed St. Botolph. Lambard writes : “St. Botulphes, now Bostonstow. A good towne in Lincolnshyre, commonly and corruptlye called Boston, wheare whiles men weare occupied at a faire holden in tyme of Edward I. one Robert Chambers and his compaignions set fyre on sundry partes of the same ; and when they of the towne leavinge their bouthes did their best to quenche it, he rann upon them, and killing theim, spoiled their goodes, 1288. Vide Part 2, Bale 27, of another Botulphes within the jurisdiction of Lincolne towne, &c.” Having been destroyed by the Danes in 870, the monastery was rebuilt to the north of the church, and its remains are still visible in a dwelling-house called Botolph’s priory. Dr. Stukeley supposes that a Roman ferry crossed the river Witham, in the immediate vicinity of this town. In 1204, Boston paid £780 of duty, while London, under the same tax, paid only £836; it must, therefore, have ranked pretty near in commercial importance to the metropolis itself. The town suffered greatly by fire – the work of an incendiary – in the reign of Edward I.; and, in 1285, from a great inundation, so that its prosperity was on the decline, when, in the 27o of Edward III., it was made a staple for wools, leather, tin, lead, and other commodities. The Hanseatic merchants also having settled a guild here, its prosperity revived ; and in the reign of  Edward III. It was able to supply 16 vessels to an armament intended for the invasion of Brittany. When Leland wrote in 1530, its decay as a place of commerce had recommenced ; and notwithstanding the patronage of Henry VIII. and Elizabeth, it gradually declined with the increasing difficulty of the Witham navigation.

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