Boston Always worth a trip
Boston Stump

Welcome to Boston

Boston today is a thriving market town and a port mainly trading with the Continent; it also has a small inshore fishing fleet. The town is still based around the medieval market place and its surrounding network of connecting lanes. It has a fascinating history of trade with the Hanseatic merchants as well as of the pioneer settlers of the “other” Boston in the USA.

Boston is probably named after St. Botolph, who has many churches named after him, several in eastern England where he originated.  It is said he came to the area in the 7th century and built a monastery and church next to an existing settlement which was renamed Botolph's tun. Boston grew in the late 11th century and early 12th century and being well-situated to trade with Europe it soon became an important port and market town.

By the 13th century the port of Boston was second only to London in trade and was the leading wool exporter at a time when wool was England’s major export.  Merchant houses were set up in the town, with links to leading abbeys such as Fountains Abbey. Construction of the magnificent church of St Botolph began in 1309 and by 1317 there were four different Friaries in the town. These had links with the Hanseatic merchants, such as Wisselus Smalenburg, whose 1340 tombstone was moved from the Franciscan Friary to St Botolph’s. The Wool Staple moved from Lincoln to Boston in 1369, which meant that Boston merchants were granted by royal authority the right to purchase goods destined for export so enhancing the town’s status and increasing its wealth. By 1377 Boston was the tenth largest town in the country. By the 1380s the cloth trade in Boston was dominated by the Hanseatic merchants who accounted for 89% of cloth exports through Boston and Lynn. The figure from 1377-1427 was 98%.  As well as wool Boston traded significantly in wax, dried fish and fish oil, furs and goatskins. Boston’s annual fair attracted merchants from all over Europe. In 1545 Henry VIII created the Borough of Boston with a Mayor and a Council and his daughter Elizabeth 1st in 1568 granted a Court of Admiralty. Although the latter no longer exists the Mayor still has the title the ‘Admiral of The Wash’. 

Visitors can follow a “Hanseatic merchants trail” which highlights what remains of this successful period in Boston’s history.  Packhouse Quay in South Street was used by Hanse boats to unload goods to the warehouses which today have largely been converted into flats. Gysor’s Hall was originally used to collect taxes, tolls and dues. Opposite the quay stands Custom House, marked with a magnificent coat of arms over its doorway, which was built in 1725, and which is one of the oldest Custom Houses in the country. The only surviving remains of the four friaries are also to be found in this area.  A little further down South Street is Boston’s beautiful Guildhall. ( St Mary’s Guild was founded in 1260, thirty years after the first Hanse merchants were recorded in Boston. The building we see today was recently dated to 1390 during its restoration. On display is one of the few pieces of Boston’s Hanseatic history, the seal of ‘Heinrich Kneival’, a Hanse merchant of Lubeck. (

Adjacent to the Guildhall is another of Boston’s architectural gems, Fydell House. Built in 1702-3 during the reign of Queen Anne for the Jackson family it was purchased by the Fydell family in the 1720s. Today it is owned by the Boston Preservation Trust and both the house and its lovingly-restored garden are open to the public.  (

Dominating Boston’s market place is the church of St Botolph  (  Its magnificent lantern tower stands 272ft (83m) high, a landmark which is visible for miles around the town. Built mostly in the 14th Century the parish church is one of the largest in England and its tower the highest of any, befitting the town’s medieval prosperity.  In the seventeenth century Boston was a hotbed of religious dissent, refusing to conform to the teachings of the established Church of England.  In 1607 a group of pilgrims from Nottinghamshire led by William Brewster and William Bradford attempted to escape the pressure to conform to the teaching of the English church by going to The Netherlands from Boston. At that time unsanctioned emigration was illegal, and they were brought before the court in the Guildhall. Most of the pilgrims were soon released and the following year, set sail for The Netherlands, settling in Leiden. In 1620, several of these were among the group who moved to New England in the Mayflower and who became known as the Pilgrim Fathers. In 1612 John Cotton became the Vicar of St Botolph's He encouraged those who disliked the lack of religious freedom in England to join the Massachusetts Bay Company. According to recent research by an American academic, Cotton in 1633 decided that he would do more good as a pastor in Massachusetts than continuing to be the minister at St Botolph’s church. He, together with the Pilgrims of 1633, founded the city of Boston, Massachusetts. Four of these Boston Pilgrims became the first Governors of Boston and founded Harvard University.

The market place itself has recently been enhanced and is a bright, airy open space, excellent for pedestrians, the Wednesday and Saturday markets, the annual May Fair and other activities such as craft fairs and street theatre. It is surrounded by a medieval network of lanes hosting many independent shops, cafes and eateries and many national retailers in the more prominent shopping areas such as Pescod Square. Another spectacular feature of the town is the Maud Foster Mill, one of the tallest and finest working windmills in the country. Built by Isaac & Thomas Reckitt in 1819, its five turning sails are still a feature of Boston today. ( Boston is also a gateway to some of Lincolnshire's finest surrounding countryside. The nationally-important salt marsh reserves of RSPB Frampton Marsh and RSPB Freiston Shore are on its doorstep ( as are the navigable waterways, Boston woods and the Water Rail Way cycle and walking route to Lincoln.

Several of Boston’s nearby villages have Australian connections.  Joseph Banks, the botanist who sailed to Australia on the Endeavour with Captain Cook, was the son of a wealthy Lincolnshire squire and inherited Revesby Abbey, a few miles from Boston, on his father’s death. Matthew Flinders, who mapped the coast of Australia in 1802, was born in the village of Donington; George Bass, another explorer who sailed with Matthew Flinders, was born in 1771 at Aswarby, attended Boston Grammar School and trained as a surgeon at Boston Hospital.

Boston’s connections with the Continent, and with the Baltic in particular, have been strengthened in recent years in terms of population and commerce.

For further information about visiting Boston please see:

Pictures of the Hanseatic City of Boston

Boston Borough Council

Municipal Buildings
West Street
PE21 8QR