Boston illuminated

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
November 2015

The Lincolnshire town has much to offer residents, businesses and visitors alike with history, heritage and culture very much at its heart.
There has been, and still is, plenty going on behind the scenes to ensure that it is an attractive and safe place to live, work and play particularly with the festive season just around the corner.

In fact, preparations are well underway for the town’s Christmas lights switch-on event, which promises to be an experience not to be missed, with The Pilgrim Fathers’ Mayflower setting sail again in the form of a giant three-part model of the Mayflower – the ship which took the early settlers from England to America.

It will parade through the streets of Boston on the night of Thursday 26th November, as part of ‘Illuminate’ – a lantern procession, accompanied by music. This year’s event aims to build on the modest, but successful, lights switch-on held last Christmas which was organised by Boston Borough Council, after Boston BID had been dissolved.

It will again include free entertainment in the Market Place and a Christmas market.

In addition, Illuminate will be the launchpad for events, culminating in 2020, for the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s world-changing voyage to the New World.

Illuminate is being organised in partnership with Transported, the Boston and South Holland arts organisation funded by Arts Council England to increase participation in the arts.

Boston’s part in the events which made history will be included in a celebration involving towns and cities in England, Holland and America.

The very earliest group of Separatists, as they were known, planned to leave England for Holland without the permission of the King, which was then a requirement. They were seeking freedom from persecution because of their religious leanings, and planned to sail across the North Sea from Scotia Creek, near Fishtoft. But they were betrayed and the ‘pilgrims’ – men, women and children from Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire – were arrested by the militia and marched to Boston, where some were imprisoned in the Guildhall cells and others kept there under house arrest.

Eventually they did make their way to Holland, returned to England and then sailed for America in the Mayflower. The rest is history – the history of the development of what was to become the most powerful nation on earth.

Many more from Boston later joined those early Pilgrim Fathers – as much as ten per cent of the town’s population – helping to establish the American Constitution.

Teaching staff from Boston Grammar School were among those ‘Boston Men’ and once in Massachusetts built a replica of the school they had left behind in Lincolnshire to establish the beginnings of state education in America.

This festive season in Boston the town Christmas tree will be erected, as normal, near the Ingram Memorial, to be decorated with enhanced lights thanks to the second year of sponsorship by Magnadata.

A stage will be put up near the Christmas tree, facing into the event area in the Market Place for singing and dancing entertainment and the Christmas market will be similar to last year’s, with refreshments, fairground rides and, of course, Santa – this year in a grotto.

Boston is a medieval market town and still has large Wednesday and Saturday traditional markets which have been established for more than 450 years.

The market place has been enhanced and is a bright, airy open space which is great for pedestrians, the markets themselves and other activities such as craft fairs.

It is surrounded by a network of medieval lanes which are home to a number of independent shops, cafes and eateries and it sits alongside the magnificent St Botolph’s Church – otherwise known as The Stump.

The fourteenth-century Stump remains one of the east of England’s most enduring and imposing landmarks. Climb its 272ft high tower and you will be rewarded with spectacular views out to The Wash in the south, the Lincolnshire Wolds to the north and Lincoln Cathedral to the west.

Another medieval gem in Boston is its magnificent fourteenth-century Boston Guildhall, where the Pilgrim Fathers were tried and held. Built in the 1390s this building is a testament to the wealth and influence of the Guild of St Mary at a time when Boston’s power as a centre of trade was second only to London.

It has a wealth of original features which have survived the centuries and is now enjoyed as one of Boston’s finest visitor attractions with stories, secrets and experiences of the history of the Guild of St Mary, international trade with the Hanseatic League, Henry VIII’s dissolving of the Guild, the foundation of the Corporation of Boston and the very famous trial and imprisonment of the Pilgrim Fathers.

Other gems in Boston include the eighteenth-century Fydell House dubbed as the ‘Grandest House in Town’ and the nineteenth-century Maud Foster Windmill, which is the country’s tallest working windmill.

Boston has a long and varied history but there is more to the town than just its heritage.

The Port of Boston is the largest port in the East Midlands, serving mainly North Sea destinations handling agricultural produce such as cereal, wood and pulp and is a major steel importer for the car industry.

Agriculture and the food processing industry are important elements of the local economy. Due to Boston’s strategic position on the east coast, it also has strong car retail, trade counter and service industry sectors, as well as engineering and companies involved in ICT. And there are plenty of shops to browse around in the town, as well as at the retail parks.

Boston Borough Council has worked hard over the years to make sure the town is a safe place to shop and run a business and its efforts are paying off. Latest performance figures show that CCTV has been well worth the investment with an increase of forty-two per cent in incidents captured by CCTV over the same period last year. There was an increase of thirty-five per cent in evidence taken from CCTV film and an eight per cent increase in the use of CCTV leading to arrests.

Boston’s CCTV system has been updated, providing better images and better coverage leading to increased use even though crime figures are generally down, including violence against the person.

Another scheme set up in February 2013 to allow businesses in Boston to share information with each other regarding business crime such as shoplifting, fraud and anti-social behaviour, has also proved popular.

The scheme, which also works closely with Lincolnshire Police, Boston Borough Council’s Community Safety department and the council’s CCTV department, started off with approximately twenty members and there are now more than forty businesses involved.

Boston Shopwatch chairman Dan Forman said: “We hold bi-monthly meetings where members can come along and talk with representatives from the Police and the council’s community safety and CCTV teams about any crime related issues.

“We also discuss which offenders are actively out committing business crime in the town and also look at what successes we have had reducing crime and any possible initiatives we can try in the future.”

The scheme also operates a radio system that allows for real-time communication between member shops and the council’s CCTV control room.

“This allows us to communicate with each other, such as when a known offender is about the town. We also use it to work together to help locate suspects when a crime has been committed,” said Dan.

“This radio system was upgraded earlier this year from an old analogue system to a greatly improved secure digital system that provides much clearer audio when people are talking and better coverage in the town centre.”

The scheme also uses a system called Facewatch, which is a state-of-the-art internet based crime reporting and intelligence sharing tool.

“Going forward we are looking to increase the number of businesses involved in the scheme to make it more effective in reducing business crime in the town,” added Dan.

Boston’s iconic Blackfriars Theatre and Arts centre is poised for a new era in its long and illustrious life, following the completion of the first phase of a major refurbishment programme.

Chairman of the Board of Trustees Stuart Bull said: “We have replaced about fifty per cent of the 1950s bucket seats in the auditorium with much more comfortable armchair style seats, which are wider and have more leg room. The intention is to welcome back those who felt the auditorium was cramped.”

The building which is home to Blackfriars dates back to at least 1158 and was a Dominican friary. It is known as Blackfriars because they wore black habits.

The friary occupied a huge site in the centre of Boston and the building which is now the theatre was the refectory. When Henry Vlll closed the monasteries, Blackfriars was ransacked and looted.

By the 1950s it was roofless and standing as an empty shell. Boston Preservation Trust bought the site and, after seeking the opinions of the townsfolk on what it could be used for, it was decided to turn it into a Little Theatre. There used to be five theatres in Boston but by that time they had all closed down.

Blackfriars is a 1960s theatre built inside a medieval shell. A lot of the walls are Grade II listed and there is the Elizabethan staircase and medieval fireplaces.

The theatre opened in 1966 as the first stage in the development of an arts centre. Once opened, the British Preservation Trust formed a new charity called Blackfriars Charity and sold the theatre to the charity for £1 with the covenant that it should always be used as a place for theatrical entertainment and arts education.

“The theatre thrived until about eight years ago when the Arts Council withdrew its funding and the trustees of the charity decided the building was no longer viable,” explained Mr Bull.

“However, a petition was organised and a committee was formed with the aim of keeping the theatre open. The petition attracted 4,000 names and the charity’s trustees agreed to hand over the theatre to us.

“We have a new constitution, the people of Boston vote the committee in place and the theatre is run entirely by volunteers, apart from a technical manager and a part-time marketing manager, who are employed for a total of sixty hours a week between them.”

Now Blackfriars has three thriving local amateur societies which perform regularly at the theatre and a Saturday academy for children up to school leaving age.

“When we inherited the theatre it had debts of £80,000 but we have paid those off and are now running at a profit,” said Mr Bull.

“It is a success story, having been through very difficult times. We remain grateful to a lot of people who have put time and money into the theatre to get it back to its former glory. This is a new era for the theatre and we are hoping that audiences will continue to increase now we have invested in the new seats.”

Our mission is to ‘Keep Live Theatre in the Heart of Boston’ for all the community to enjoy. We have also restarted the art function of Blackfriars, reintroducing art life classes and creating an art gallery in the foyer with a different exhibition every month.

Our Remembrance Service at Giles Academy is an annual event held on 11th November, or the nearest school day to the 11th. The whole school and members of the community, including members of the Royal British Legion, gather in our Sports Hall, the largest venue we have.

The service is always led by Giles Voice, our school council. It is a non-religious service to remember those that gave their lives for us, including the reading of the names of those who gave their lives in both World Wars, as inscribed on the memorial in the church grounds at Old Leake.

The service begins with the traditional march into the Sports Hall by the cadets and the Royal British Legion. There is a combination of appropriate readings, poetry and song. Our Year 9 students are writing war poetry in English, and some of these will be included in the service. We will also hear from the A level History students who have recently been to Ypres.

We encourage everyone to purchase a poppy and to wear their poppy with pride.

After the main service, the Giles Voice representatives from each tutor group accompany the cadets and visitors to walk to the memorial for a wreath laying ceremony.

The Last Post and Rouse are played in both the main service and at the memorial.

Parents and members of the local community are very welcome to attend. You would need to be seated in the Sports Hall before 10.30am.
Sue Adnitt, Deputy Headteacher

One of the main focal points in Boston’s town centre has just undergone a £100,000 refurbishment.

The White Hart Hotel is a Grade II, eighteenth-century former coaching inn with twenty-six en-suite bedrooms including standard, superior and deluxe rooms.

It is a thriving business and is often referred to as an “oasis” in the centre of Boston.

The hotel bar has been transformed into a restaurant and coffee house resulting in a private dining area as well as a coffee and patisserie area.

Hotel manager Adam Charity said: “The newly refurbished Courtyard Bar is our main daytime dining area, a light and airy L-shaped room which overlooks the hotel’s inner courtyard.

“It can seat up to sixty covers and offers a brand new patisserie unit offering tempting sweet treats throughout the day.

“Our new stylish bar offers a range of quality products including speciality cocktails, premium wines, real ales and our freshly brewed award winning coffee.”

The hotel building has been in use as a hotel since the early nineteenth century and has had a succession of different owners over the years.

One of its most memorable and successful periods, prior to the current ownership, was when it traded under the Berni Inn brand during the company’s ’70s and ’80s heyday.

Unfortunately, the hotel went into a sad decline during the ’90s and ended up in receivership, resulting in the property being boarded up during the early 2000s. The property was purchased by a developer during this time, with the intention of turning it into riverside apartments. But, as they were unable to obtain the necessary planning consents from the local council, the property was placed back on the market.

The White Hart Hotel was bought by the Bulldog Hotel Group (now called The Coaching Inn Group) in 2005 after it had been derelict for many years.

The company invested more than £1million in the hotel and undertook a major redesign and refurbishment programme to restore it to its former glory. It reopened in May 2006.

Since then the White Hart Hotel has grown from strength to strength as a business.

“It is a beautiful building and is enhanced by its riverside setting,” said Adam.

“The Riverside Restaurant has a fantastic setting overlooking the Boston Stump and the River Witham. The restaurant comes into its own during the evenings and accommodates up to fifty-five people for dinner.

“The Riverside Terrace is also a distinctive setting and is popular during the spring and summer months, when we offer alfresco dining.”

The hotel’s Boston Suite, on the first floor of the hotel, is a popular venue for weddings, conferences and special events.

The White Hart Hotel has many awards to its name including a Best Accommodation Award from the Publican’s Morning Advertiser, a Boston Green Award from Boston Borough Council, a Civic Pride Award from Boston Preservation Trust and a Certificate of Excellence from Tripadvisor.

Lincolnshire has a proud tradition of service to the Armed Forces and Boston has played its role in providing and supporting personnel from all services throughout the decades.

The Boston and District branch of the Royal British Legion is one of the oldest in the country and has just opened a ‘pop-in centre’ in the town where serving military personnel and veterans, together with their families, can seek advice and assistance, support and comradeship.

It is also a place for anyone who has an interest in supporting the Legion’s aims to come along and help out.

The centre, situated at The Boston Body Hub, Wide Bargate was officially opened in September by the Mayor of Boston with assistance from the Lady Mayor and the Boston branch president Michael Houldershaw.

Branch chairman George Reid said: “The Boston branch believes that having a ‘pop-in centre’ in the centre of Boston town will make it easier for people to make contact with the Legion and to seek the help they may need.

“It is important that, as a national charity, the Legion is approachable and easily accessible to all who may need help in some way.

“The people of Boston have been very supportive of the services and every year, the town alone donates more than £25,000 to the poppy appeal. This is a tremendous effort and one that the Boston branch is very thankful for.”

The branch, which currently has approximately ninety members, is very proactive and has several high profile events coming up.

This month (November) the Garden of Remembrance will be opened by the Mayor of Boston, the Remembrance Sunday parade will be held at the War Memorial and to mark Remembrance Day, the branch is holding an all-night sleep out to highlight the plight of the thousands of military veterans who are homeless.

The centre will be open every Wednesday from 10am to 1pm. Hot and cold drinks and a healthy food menu are also available at a reasonable cost to all those who come along.

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