Preserving a treasured townscape

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
December 2016

Set in the heart of Lincolnshire’s dramatic Fenland, the classic market town of Boston has heritage in abundance, with its links to the Pilgrim Fathers and its numerous historic buildings.
But it is safe to say it has a modern way of thinking and though it is very much geared to the present day, many of its projects are connected to preserving the town’s past.

Boston Borough Council is pressing ahead with a bid for a £1.8 million Townscape Heritage Initiative. Support for the project has already been given in principle by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and to progress it the council now has to complete a second-stage application with a Conservation Area Management Plan.

If successful the initiative would secure £1 million from the HLF, supported by other private sector and public funding, making a total project value of £1.8 million. The borough council’s contribution would be £125,000.

The plan explains in detail how the special character of Boston’s town centre and conservation area will be preserved and enhanced. It gives the HLF confidence that the council is serious about its conservation area and understands what is needed to manage and improve it.

Funding will enable investment in buildings on the east side of the Market Place and the Dolphin Lane and Pump Square areas.

There could be significant building repairs, shopfront improvements and other refurbishments, enhancing and regenerating important lanes, shops and buildings, helping to make Boston more attractive for residents, visitors and inward investors. It would also help sustain existing businesses.

Monoliths have landed in Boston – but unlike those in Arthur C Clarke’s space odyssey these come to tell of the past and present and not the distant future. The monoliths are portals to the town’s historic past, informing locals and visitors alike about the events which helped shape modern-day Boston.

The large information panels are supported by direction-indicating finger posts which have been given a facelift, helping everyone locate the places of interest detailed. The aim is to raise awareness of the rich stories of Boston to encourage people to explore more and stay longer.

Boston’s exceptional heritage offer helped influence the Heritage Lottery Fund to make a grant available for the new direction and information signage. The council worked with Heritage Lincolnshire (a local heritage charity) and the Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce in conducting consultation events to involve a wide contribution to the project.

The six monoliths – placed at the railway station, St Botolph’s footbridge Strait Bargate and three around the Market Place – feature illustrations and each has a new map showing retail areas alongside attractions and recreational areas, orientated to the forward-facing position of the observer rather than the traditional north orientation.

They tell the stories of Boston’s former wealth, from its wool trade and the importance of its port, its influential ancient and modern markets and fairs, the connection with the Pilgrim Fathers and the exodus to the New World, the world-beating Stump and dependence on its setting in a watery fenland landscape.

Councillor Claire Rylott, Boston Borough Council’s portfolio holder for grounds and open spaces, said: “The new signage will deliver the stories of Boston’s past to new audiences and direct visitors to places they can visit to bring those stories to life.”

Boston’s waterways heritage was the focus when more than sixty people gathered alongside the River Witham to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Grand Sluice.

The event was championed by Boston Borough Councillor Richard Austin, who said he had been amazed to discover the huge influence Grand Sluice had on the development of Boston and beyond. He said it enabled 111,000 acres of fertile land to be reclaimed for food production and turned Boston into the largest town in Lincolnshire.

Grand Sluice was the Boston Barrier of its day, designed and built by the foremost engineers of the age. It is possibly the earliest surviving tidal outfall sluice still in a substantially original state, and it continues to serve its original purpose.

The past may be very much to the fore in Boston but the here and now is also very much part of its focus.

A new gateway to Boston is taking shape, demonstrating a welcome to a town which is developing in an exciting and vibrant way. Those travelling on the A16 are already greeted by modern business premises before reaching the new roundabout at Wyberton, with the promise of new development on both sides of the main road.

There will shortly be new residential and commercial development on one side and a new community-centred football stadium on the other. Construction work has been continuing apace for the past few weeks and now sets the scene for Boston’s new quarter, presenting a new face for those arriving to do business, shop, use leisure facilities and live here.

The Quadrant has so far seen sensitive construction of a new roundabout with minimal disruption to traffic and now paves the way for the new distributor road through to London Road.

The new road will relieve some of the traffic which currently crosses Boston town centre and will open up land for 146 new homes and commercial use. The total new homes for the entire project will number 502.

On the other side, the new road will lead to the new home of Boston United and a modern stadium built with added-value community use in mind.

The new A16 approach is heralded by two new commercial premises at Kirton: the Sports Bike Shop, which is now open for business, and a new showroom for Duckworth Jaguar and Land Rover, due to open early next year.

Councillor Peter Bedford, leader of Boston Borough Council, said: “All of this signals a bright future for Boston and demonstrates the confidence that businesses have in the area.”

A special project group aiming to help Boston become more prosperous has had its first set of recommendations endorsed by Boston Borough Council’s Cabinet.

The Prosperous Boston Task and Finish Group reported on the first phase of its in-depth investigation which has encompassed the retail experience in the town and included markets, toilets, associated services including cleanliness, signage and public order. The recommendations included ways for better promoting the town and targeting visitors, residents and inward investors and developers; a food festival in the town centre and the exploration of potential for a young persons’ market.

Some previous findings are already being actioned, such as future public toilets provision.

The next two phases of the Prosperous Boston initiative will examine parking, transport and the general environment and then events, tourism and visitor accommodation.

Council leader, Councillor Peter Bedford, said: “The work the group is doing is valuable. There will be some good outcomes from it.”

A public inquiry is to be held in the New Year into the £92 million Boston Barrier scheme, which aims to reduce the risk of tidal flooding to approximately 900 commercial properties and 14,300 residential properties in Boston.

In August this year, the Environment Agency asked the Secretary of State to grant powers to construct and operate the proposed Boston Barrier through a Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO).

As part of the application process, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Andrea Leadsom, has decided that a public inquiry into the Boston Barrier Transport and Works Order application will be held in the new year.

The TWAO, if granted, would allow the construction of the proposed tidal barrier with a moveable gate across the River Witham and a new building to enable operation of the barrier. It would also authorise the construction of new flood defence walls on both banks of the Haven, a replacement gate across the entrance to the existing Port Wet Dock and enable the Environment Agency to execute ancillary works, including dredging of the river.

The Boston Barrier Partnership (Environment Agency, Lincolnshire County Council, Boston Borough Council and Black Sluice IDB) would look to deliver the Barrier by December 2019.

A spokesman for the Boston Barrier said: “The public inquiry is part of the application process and is an important opportunity for people to have their say. We are committed to better protecting Boston from tidal flooding.”

Business in Boston is alive, kicking and booming thanks to entrepreneurial Boston couple Paul and Amy Wilkinson. They invested their own money in the redevelopment of the library, council offices and sessions house complex into a new self-contained retail and business complex in the town centre, which has created twenty-three expanding and new businesses.

The indoor shopping mall, which also has public toilets and access for disabled people, is in the final stages of development and all units have been let.

“We could have let the shop units ten times over. We knew there would be this sort of demand,” said Paul.

“These are new businesses generated by entrepreneurs who will be able to begin trading for just £50. Once they have made £50 a week they are in profit,” said Amy.

The businesses range from a two-unit centre for toddlers with a soft play area, to a pet food supplier; from a three-unit e-cigarette store to handmade jewellery specialist. There will also be a coffee shop with indoor and outdoor areas.

The shop units are all self-contained and all served by a central walk-through area leading to a courtyard to encourage browsing.

Paul said it provides an outlet for artisan entrepreneurs and will lead through to an open-air courtyard where shoppers will be able to pause, relax and enjoy refreshments.

The development is in three distinct areas: the indoor shopping mall with new public toilets and a relaxing outdoor courtyard, a business centre and luxury flats.

The County Hall Business Centre is in the former County Hall building off the Market Place, which still houses the town library. Paul and Amy have agreed the library can continue to operate from the building and have waived the rent for ten years.

On the upper floors are nineteen business units large and small. All but four have been let to a variety of businesses, ranging from freelance children’s clothes design to a newspaper and from an employment agency to counselling and psychotherapy.

Paul explained that he is keeping the office rents low to encourage new start-up businesses and businesses looking for room to expand. The car parking area to the rear of Fountain Lane has been extended.

An ornate staircase leads to a glass-roofed atrium waiting area leading off to the offices complex, which is light and airy, with pleasant 1930s styling, and has shared facilities including two kitchen areas. The building has been comprehensively refurbished to modern standards while retaining its architectural merits.

The more modern adjoining office block is being converted into three floors of spacious two and three-bedroomed flats – three on each level. Many, especially the penthouse flats, have spectacular views of Boston Stump and the Centenary Methodist Church. All will have telecon visitors-calling facilities. They will be available to let soon.

Paul and Amy plan to call the shops and residential building Waterfall Plaza, with a giant waterfall graphic from roof level to pavement.

“We wanted to inject a little glamour and glitz – a taste of Hollywood in the centre of Boston; after all we are linked with Boston, America,” said Paul.

Blackfriars Theatre and Arts Centre undoubtedly plays a very important role as Boston’s centre for entertainment and the arts and has done since its conception fifty years ago.

It is home to two very successful local amateur dramatic and operatic groups, as well as hosting a varied programme of professional stage productions. But the current management team has its eye on the future with the aim of keeping live theatre in the heart of Boston.

Robert Barclay, one of the board of directors at Blackfriars, said though it was difficult to get a real idea of visitor numbers, over the past twelve months more than 18,000 tickets have been sold.

“We can take ticket sales as a good guide for the shows but it doesn’t identify unique visitors and we have a lot of activities and room hire by community organisations, art exhibitions, etc where we cannot quantify the number of visitors,” he said.

“Many of these ticket purchasers will also have visited for art exhibitions, classes, groups, etc and I would therefore say that the number of visitors will be a several multiple of this number.

“We also have total ‘hits’ per month on our website now (not unique visitors) hitting around 220,000.”

Its history as a venue for the arts dates to a meeting of the local drama and arts groups in 1959, at which it was resolved to find premises that could be converted into a theatre.

Led by Alan Champion, warden of Pilgrim College, and local architect Alan Meldrum, the idea of creating a ‘Little Theatre’ from the remains of the thirteenth-century Dominican Friary, in Spain Lane, was formed.

In September 1961, the Blackfriars Trust was formed to raise money for the conversion, supported by a grant from the Ministry of Works. The opening of the theatre in 1966 was the first stage in the development of a complete Arts Centre.

Over the following years two studios, a kitchen and office were added, and in 1980 the first full-time professional director was appointed.

Today Blackfriars doesn’t have a full-time theatre manager; it is run by a dedicated force of volunteers who provide vital support in the box office, administration, as front of house stewards, bar staff and various other duties alongside just three employed part-time staff in marketing, accounts and stage management.

“We have recently started to turn the theatre’s fortunes around over the past three years and are now actively investing in the building and structure,” explained Rob.

“In the past eighteen months we have installed new seating to more than half of the auditorium, undertaken roof repairs, installed three new boilers, started repairs to external windows and doors and installed a new platform lift to improve accessibility into the auditorium, amongst many more minor improvements.

“We are now actively looking at future projects such as finishing the remaining seats in the auditorium, increasing the seating capacity, improving the sound and lighting technology we use, installing an additional lift to another area of the building and improving lighting and decoration in general around the building, to name just a few of the upcoming projects.”

Here at Pinchin’s we are a community based farm shop supplying local produce through our butchery and shop, and serving homemade, freshly prepared meals, cakes and excellent coffee in our popular cafe – our Big Breakfast is not to be missed!

We have home-reared lamb and Dexter beef, and a range of multi-award winning sausages, bacon, pies, burgers and more. In the recent Lincolnshire Poacher competition we won awards in 17 of the 20 classes we entered – six Gold awards, four Silver and seven Bronze!

We have seasonal events too, such as lambing, shearing and summer BBQs.

Now taking orders for all your Christmas needs – and for Christmas we will also have rose veal available.

Poyntons Consultancy is an Estate Agents, Chartered Surveyors and Commercial and Residential Management Property Company based in Boston, Lincolnshire.

Established in 2007, we have clients all over the UK and specialise in property marketing, valuations, sales and lettings, as well as investment acquisitions on behalf of high-net-worth individuals and pension funds.

We also conduct and advise on planning submissions, ratings appeals, Party Wall disputes and other professional services.

We are members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), so you can be confident in receiving a professional service and advice.

If you would like any further information on any of these services, please contact us at the office on 01205361694, or visit

James Fairman MRICS,managing director, Poyntons Consultancy Ltd.
James Fairman MRICS has previously run departments for Savills, Brown & Co, Pygott & Crone and Thomas Balderston & Co. James gained a degree in Building Surveying from Sheffield Hallam before gaining experience in the fields of Agency, Building Surveying and General Practice.

He has also been the chief instigator on a number of development projects in the fields of residential, commercial, industrial, retail and healthcare development, now successfully completed.

Town and Country Mobility makes your life easier as we are your one-stop shop for all your mobility and healthcare needs.

Town and Country are a mobility retailer based in Boston, Lincolnshire and have been providing quality mobility and healthcare equipment since 1999. We can provide everything you need for your mobility and healthcare needs, ranging from shoes and slippers to scooters and stairlifts. We have a well stocked showroom but if an item is not in stock we can take your order. We also offer a delivery and collection service on certain items for your convenience.

We offer a complete service from start to finish, followed by a comprehensive back-up and we can also offer a hire facility enabling you to hire certain products on a short or long-term basis, which can also give you an opportunity to see if you like a product before buying it.

We also offer service and repairs and offer different payment schemes to help with your purchase, just call us to find out about finance, 0% interest and our savings club.

We are here to make life easier on a day-to-day basis, so if you require any assistance or are just looking for advice, please do not hesitate to contact us and we will do our very best to assist you.

Tel: 01205 362444
Town and Country Mobility, 30A Market Place, Boston, Lincolnshire PE21 6EH

Not far from Kirton is the village of Swineshead, whose pre-school has been running for more than 30 years.

The group started off based in an old tin hut in the village, but moved up to its present site in 1985 – into an old land army hut, which had been used as temporary accommodation for Italian prisoners of war.

Current manager Carolynn Fletcher joined in 1995, working every other Tuesday, and became supervisor in 1999.

In 2003 the pre-school expanded to take in two-year-olds and offer full day care and it just became busier and busier.

“We had approximately twenty-four children in 2004, so we decided to bid for a lottery grant which was successful and allowed us to open a brand new purpose-built building in North End,” said Carolynn.

“In 2006 we rebranded and I became the manager of Swineshead Pre-School Centre so we could take fifty-four children, because it was about education, and we wanted to focus on learning through play.”

Three years later the centre expanded again and had sixty-five children on its books.

Awards started to come in thick and fast and in 2013 it was the first pre-school in the county to do the Food for Life partnership for early years.

More accolades followed, with Carolynn picking up two Manager of the Year awards, an outstanding contribution to childcare award and an award for being one of the most inspirational people in childcare.

Never miss a copy!

Big savings when you take out a subscription.

VOTE FOR YOUR FAVOURITE IN THE CATEGORY BEST RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR! We need your nominations – Celebrating Lincolnshire’s food, drink and hospitality businesses in our Taste of Excellence Food and Drink Awards 2024. Click here to vote date for nominations 31st August 2024. ... See MoreSee Less