Take a tour around historic Boston

Words by:
Jane Keightley
Featured in:
April 2020

Step back in time with Jane Keightley as she invites locals and visitors on walking tours around her home town to share the story of Boston’s glorious past.

Born and bred in Boston, I have always been passionate about the history and heritage of my home town.

Last year I was inspired to launch Boston History Tours and share my passion with visitors and locals alike. With the Mayflower 400th anniversary coming up and Boston’s involvement in the story of the Pilgrim Fathers, I thought it was an opportune moment to put my plans into action.

In May 2019, I began organising my tours with the help and sponsorship of Oldrids & Downtown department store. I decided to offer a morning tour on Wednesdays, meeting outside Fydell House in South Street and starting at 10.30am.

For those not able to make it on a weekday, I decided to arrange a tour on Sunday afternoons, once again meeting outside Fydell House and starting at 2pm.

From the beginning the tours have gone well and I have had great feedback.

In the first few months, I certainly had more locals than visitors, but with it being the Mayflower 400th anniversary, I am expecting a lot more American visitors this year. Locals have also told me they have learned so much about their home town.

Routes around the centre
My route follows the major sites in the centre of the town covering Gysor’s Hall, Fydell House, The Guildhall, Blackfriars and Shodfriars Hall.

We also visit the birthplace of English historian and martyrologist John Foxe in the Market Place and the Exchange Building, which was home to the local council for many years.

We then continue on to The Stump, The Herbert Ingram Memorial and then to Wide Bargate, where I talk about Tunnard House and its deer park, the cattle pens and various other places of interest nearby before continuing to Pescod Hall, the Masonic Hall and Pump Square.

More often than not on a Wednesday, we return to where we started.

Fydell House provides refreshments on Wednesdays and, in the summer, it is lovely to finish the tour by sitting in their beautiful gardens and enjoying a cream tea.

In the winter, homemade soup and jacket potatoes are on offer with all the money made from selling refreshments going towards the upkeep of Fydell House, which is completely run by volunteers.

The house is closed on Sundays, but there are plenty of cafes open in the town centre.

Future tours and events
I am planning on organising some new tours in the near future, exploring High Street and Hussey Tower and then another at the other end of the town along Wormgate, to the Sluice Bridge and then over to the Maud Foster Windmill.

My big event for the Easter holidays is a Beastly Boston Tour for children who love reading and watching the Horrible Histories series.

This will take place on Thursday 16th April, 2-3pm and includes the most ‘smelly and gory’ stories I can find about the history of Boston!

In September, I will be offering a free tour around the town, talking about the history of Boston’s pubs. This will be part of the Heritage Weekend, organised by Heritage Lincolnshire. More details about this will be published in their booklet this spring.

The tour I organise at the moment is a general overview of the history of the town. I do not go into any of the historic buildings such as the Stump and the Guildhall, as they do their own detailed tours.

Free tours around Shodfriars can be booked in their café and you will be shown around and told about their exciting and ambitious plans for this iconic building.

Private tours and presentations
I also offer private tours for groups such as branches of the Women’s Institute, Probus and Rotary, which can take place in the daytime or in the evenings in the summer months.

For those who cannot make it all around the town, I can arrange to come and do a Powerpoint presentation about my tour at your meetings.

I can also arrange tours for school groups, which could either be a grisly Beastly Boston Tour, or a serious one!

As well as being a tour guide, I regularly write about Boston and Lincolnshire in the national and local press.

I do believe that my love of local history is in my genes. My mother, Pamela Southworth, is a local history author who has written several books about Swineshead.

I was also lucky enough to have a great primary school teacher who was passionate about history. One of the abiding memories of my primary school years was staging a mock Battle of Hastings in the playground in 1966 for its 900th anniversary. Yes, I am that old!

Boston has had so much negative press in recent years, so I am really keen to share the story of its glorious past, including its important and significant growth in the medieval period, when it was second only to London as a port, and also its important role in the story of North America.

We have so much to be proud of in our history and heritage and we really need to shout about it and let the world know!

Tour information: Jane Keightley’s Boston History Tours cost £5 per person – no concessions. Specialist talks for groups and clubs £50.

For more information contact Jane Keightley, Tel: 07717267265, email jane@janekeightley.net or visit www.janekeightley.net

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