Saturday, 30 June 2012

Arthur Morton, a Bostonian to remember.

Please see

Arthur Morton was born in 1872 in Boston. He started a mineral water business some time between 1901 and about 1910, as a sideline to a grocers, bakers, and provision merchants business he already owned at 70 Blue Street. By going into the grocery business Arthur was following in the footsteps of his father William, who had a grocers shop on London Road in Boston for several decades up to about 1920 (William was also the landlord of the Black Bull pub, next door to his shop).

Arthur Morton outside the Blue Street shop, probably about 1909 or 1910, with his delivery cart pulled by his pony ‘Topsy’. Various enamel advertisements can be seen on the walls including Fry's Cocoa, Rowntrees Chocolates, and Colmans Starch.
Arthurs drinks business was entirely for fizzy pop. He used Penny Monsters bottles, stone flagons and 10oz codds. The codds, and possibly the flagons, had his own name on them, but the Monsters bottles were the standard ‘franchised’ type of one pint screw stoppered bottle, embossed ‘Monsters’ but without any proprietors name.

Arthur (on the right) in the yard of his mineral water business, also in Blue Street, some time in 1913.
Arthur was in the pre – 1914 equivalent of the Territorial Army, having joined while he was still a teenager in the 1890s. He was called up for active service abroad on the 10th September 1914, a month after the war started and by October 1914 (within a year or two of the photograph above being taken) he was on the Western Front with the 7th Division. He was a driver for 105 Battery of XXII Brigade Royal Field Artillery, and between October 1914 and September 1916 he was involved in most of the major British battles of 1914, 1915 and 1916 including 1st Ypres, Neuve Chapelle, Loos, Aubers Ridge, and the Somme.

Arthur (on the right) in a studio portrait taken in France or Flanders, probably in 1915 or early 1916, along with his best friend of the time ‘Nobby’ Clark (or Clarke).
Arthur was invalided back to England in September or October 1916 after being incapacitated during the Battle of the Somme. He had shell shock (and possibly a head wound), and never fully recovered. Both his mineral water company and his grocers shop were already out of business before he returned to England. In 1917 his wife and children moved from Boston to Grimsby, where Arthur joined them after several months of convalescence at the Lord Derby War Hospital in Warrington, and then at the smaller hospital at Poulton-le-Fylde.
Arthur suffered badly from the effects of shell shock for the rest of his life. For several years he could only cope with quiet and low-intensity work. After spending several months in hospital he returned to his family in Lincolnshire. He managed to find a job as caretaker of the smallpox hospital in the rural setting of Laceby, near Grimsby. Eventually he moved on to other work, but he never again ran his own business. He died in 1937 at the age of 65, two weeks before he was due to retire.

Arthur's Father, William Morton's shop on London Road, Boston, about 1918 - 1920. The taller building immediately to the left is the Black Bull pub, of which William was the landlord for many years. William died in 1920, and his shop was taken over by two of his daughters
(Arthurs sisters).

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Picture booths at the Fair.

Years ago, before there were any fixed cinemas in the town, some of the showmen had huge marquees in which very early comic strips were shown. There were long wooden bench seats and as many as possible got squashed into the tent.

One of the old Picture tents at Boston May Fair.

Admission was 2d and 3d, according to which part of the tent you went. The films would be laughed at now but were a new novelty then, they often used to break and then there were minutes of waiting before they were joined up. When fixed cinemas came to the town and showed more modern films these shows passed out. There was another attraction besides the film strips, there were usually two of these shows - Tubys, on the Green and Farrars in the Market Place, and they both had some dancing girls on the platform in front of the large organ which generally played rolled classical music, which was really very good to listen to, as there were no orchestras to listen to in those distant days. In due course the highlight appeared - Orpheus in the Underworld, and the girls danced the can-can, the nearest approach to the Follies Bergere which ever reached Boston.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Bringing Boston down.

Bringing down Boston and Bostonians is nothing new, this article appeared in a Welsh newspaper called "The Leader" with offices at Portmadoc in 1951. The writer was J. Ellis Williams.

" I spent most of last week in Boston (Lincs., not Massachusetts). It is the place which the Pilgrim Fathers left to go to America. I don't blame them. Boston is flat, dull, uninteresting and uninspiring. Five days there made me feel as flat as the countryside. Five months there would have driven me to meloncholia.
I met and talked with a good many people there, and listened to the conversation of many more. Not once did I hear anybody speak of music, poetry, drama, painting or any of the arts, sorry I did hear one man speak of architecture, he was building a pigsty.

How could anyone find fault with this?

The roads around Boston are built on embankments which are a few feet above the land. On each side of the road there is a deep draining ditch. Houses built along the roadside have little bridges leading to the front door. One of the worst roads is that leading from Boston to Skegness, it follows the old cattle track which used to meander through the marshes surrounding the Wash and at each and every bend there is the same flat monotony. Towering above the town is the Boston Stump, a church tower that gives one the impression that an absent minded architect forgot to put a steeple on it."

You have to be a Bostonian and live here to understand Mr. Williams.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Queen Victoria's "visit" to Boston.

The highlight of the year 1851 for Bostonians was undoubtedly the "visit" of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. About the middle of August of that year it became known that the Queen would pass through the town towards the end of the month on her way to Scotland. The Town Council immediately applied for permission to testify to the "loyalty and affection to Her Majesty and her Royal Consort, either by presentation of a loyal and dutiful address or such other mode as may be deemed most desirable."

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

At first the request was refused but a second application pointing out that the Queen would not be delayed, "as the train must necessarily stay for at least five minutes," succeeded. The station was decorated with evergreens and banners  and a Mr. Lewin loaned all the timber necessary for the special platform.
On the day, rejoicing began at 12 o'clock when the Mayor (John Noble) gave a breakfast in the Assembly Rooms. At 3.30 the doors of the station were thrown open and those who had succeeded in getting tickets - about 2,000 in all - began to pour in and secure their places. When the train arrived , Lord John Russell alighted and made the introductions. The Queen received the address from the Mayor, standing at the door of her carriage, and she "was pleased to show herself to the people at the windows on both sides of her carriage." Albert however seems to have remained in the background.
The "visit" over, the train passed slowly toward the Grand Sluice and the day's festivities were brought to a close with a civic dinner at the Peacock Inn.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The New Theatre

On Monday, December 22nd. 1910, Mr. George Aspland Howden presented his first movie programme at the New Theatre in the Market Place. The films of 1910 were very different from the films we have today and were much shorter in length and so nine to twelve items went to make up the evening's entertainment. That first programme had nine items including "Cross Country Running" and "Transport in Indo-China" To modern eyes they would appear very crude and amateurish but you can imagine the thrill which they gave to the Bostonians of those pre World War I days.

The following month Mr. Howden introduced "stage turns" to add variety to the programme. The first artiste engaged was Arthur Newstead , the popular Lincolnshire dialect and character comedian, and he was followed by Frank Rainbow who was one of the members of Clement's Entertainers of Skegness and everybody's favourite at the time.

Incidentally, that same week during which Frank Rainbow delighted the patrons of the theatre, the first big classic of those days was screened there, this was "Uncle Tom's Cabin" from the famous novel.

Also seen about this time was a film called "Animated Putty" which Mr. Howden said was the forerunner of the cartoons of the time.
The middle 1920's saw the next big milestone in the theatres history when it was rebuilt at a cost of upwards of £20,000. It re-opened its doors on October 18th. 1926 with the stage show "The Cabaret Girl". There were many successes staged at the theatre during the years that followed and a couple are worth a mention, one was "Mr. Tower of London" in which the one and only Gracie Fields appeared.
Gracie Fields (centre) in "Mr. Tower of London."

She was well received by the audience but the show attracted no more than the usual patronage, and probably few Bostonians foresaw the heights which the young star was one day to achieve. The other was the Christmastide visit of Bale's Continental Stage Circus, and it was recorded that so strong was the stage that it never even creaked when elephants walked on it.
The first real synchronised talking picture shown there was "The Broadway Melody" in February 1930.

Another history maker was "Hollywood Revue" the first talkie in colour to be screened in Boston. In the 40's and 50's films like "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", the "Tarzan" films and "Lassie" never failed to attract full houses.

Latterly the then pop stars of the day performed there and it was demolished in the late 1950's or early 1960's. I regret that I have only one memory of going there and that was to see a pantomime when I was very young and all I remember was a pillar being in my line of vision!!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Hiring Fair

The annual hirings of farm and domestic servants took place at what was known as the "Fortnight Market" (more commonly known as the Hiring Fair) on the Wednesday following the 14th. of May. The men's hirings took place in Pump Square and the men wore corn dollies plaited in different ways to distinguish their various crafts, thus enabling the hiring farmers to identify the particular type of worker they were seeking. Living accommodation and food would be included in the agreement and after haggling over the conditions and when agreement was reached, the worker would shake hands and be paid one shilling to seal the bargain.
The women's hiring took place at Shodfriars' Hall, the women wearing an arrangement of white ribbons on their dresses to denote their skills, and young girls were accompanied by their mothers so that their respectability might be judged.
Shodfriars Hall.

The living accommodation for all workers was often extremely primitive, the men often living in the lofts over the stables and feeding in the kitchen of the farm foreman, feeding almost exclusively on a diet of boiled fat bacon, potatoes and bread and boiled puddings. The women might fare a little better as to food, as there would be leftovers from the upstairs table, but the sleeping accommodation was very meagre, in a cold garret room with a candle. Working conditions were very hard, with coal fires and oil lamps, often the coal had to be carried in from outside stores and up stairs. It was always a case of early rising as the rooms occupied by the household had to be cleaned and fires lit before the house came down for breakfast. There would be only a small supply of hot water from the kitchen range, and common yellow soap and stiff scrubbing brushes would be in common use in the days long before electric machines and modern utensils came into use.
These practices of annual hirings ceased with the end of the 1914-1918 war, so a phase of what some called the 'good old days' was over. It should be remembered that years ago families were much larger and the houses generally smaller than today, and there was very often not enough accommodation for the youngsters to live at home, the only alternative was to go out to Service. In general, all young men and women would be given a written character as to their general behaviour and work ability for them to show to prospective employers. A very large number of these young people would only stay at one employment for one year and then be hired again at the next Fortnight Market.

J G Horton.

The London Warehouse

In July 1950 work began on the demolition of the old Packhouse - or Packhorse quay warehouse in South End which had for some time had a pronounced lean towards the river due to a crack in the foundations.

The London Warehouse.

The job was not easy because of the situation of the building with the road on one side and the river on the other, all the walls had to be pulled inwards. Similarly all the slates had to be passed inside and carried down the stairs.
Built in 1818, the building was known as the London Warehouse and had many uses over the years.
Mr. Alfred Read started his family shipbroking business there in 1865, for some time part of the building was used as a bond warehouse for Ridlington and Co., poultry auctions were held there at one time by Ben Killingworth, the pilot office was situated in the warehouse and Boston Sea Scouts once had their headquarters there. Below are two pictures, one viewed from where the present day (2012) seating area of the Waterfront pub is and a view from the Town Bridge showing the warehouse partly demolished.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Before the railways came

Travel in Boston in the early 1700's was still something of an adventure, people did not often travel for pleasure and those that did travel went on horseback. For the people who had to travel and the transport of goods, there was, first of all, the stage coach.

Two coaches passing the Red Cow in Wide Bargate.

Stage coaches ran between London and York and stopped at Stamford and Grantham on the Great North Road. Boston was cut off from this great highway but in February 1786 it was announced that a stage coach to carry four inside passengers was to run three times a week from Spilsby, Boston, Spalding, Peterborough and Huntingdon to London. It took nearly a day and a half to get to London and stopped the night at Peterborough, leaving again at 5 a.m. next morning.

A stagecoach in the Market Place.

From July 1st. 1787 a diligence left the Peacock Inn, Boston on Sundays and Thursdays at 9. a.m. and went by way of Wainfleet to Skegness.

A coach outside The Peacock Hotel.

During the 1700's an increasing proportion of rough goods went by water. The Witham had always been the main link between Boston and Lincoln, and the means by which the goods shipped to the Port of Boston found their way into, and out of, the county. There was a good deal of coasting trade between Boston and London and boats regularly plied on inland waterways. This water transport was increasing right down to the coming of the railway. In an old Lincolnshire directory of 1821 there was advertised a steam packet running every day between Lincoln and Boston for both passengers and goods.

Very swiftly in the end the coach and river trade were overtaken by the railway which arrived in Boston in 1848.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Policing in 1885

Mr. John Barton, of 3, Fydell Street was a policeman in the constabulary of the Borough of Boston in 1885. In 1935 he looked back at policing in Boston during the 1880's.

Then it was all patrol, footslogging around the town for as much as 63 hours a week. "But we had our own special traffic problem in those days," said Mr. Barton. "We had to keep our eyes open, and if we saw any cyclist riding through the town at ten miles an hour he was summoned for 'furious riding'."
The policeman of 1885 was dressed in a blue frock coat and wore a stove pipe helmet made of solid felt and reputed to be able to stand a steam-roller running over it ! He worked nine hours in every 24 for seven days a week, with extra time on special days - but no extra pay ! At that time there were 15 men on the Boston force, Mr. Henry Bellamy the Chief Constable, three sergeants and 11 constables. There were more public houses then and they were open all day from 6 a.m. and the beer was stronger so it can well be appreciated what was one of a constable's most important duties.
But what of the appearence of the town in 1885. He tells us that many of the streets were cobbled then and were lit by fish-tail burners and a man used to come round at night with a box of matches to light them. Plate glass was unknown to Boston then and even if a shop had a big window it consisted of small panes.
1880's Boston.

There were few means of enjoyment for the townspeople, there was only the beer-house, no cinemas, no wireless, perhaps an occasional play at Shodfriars Hall or the Corn Exchange. The only park was that in South End and motor cars were unknown. There were at that time a considerable number of navvies left in the town, dredging the river from the Sluice to the New Cut so as to improve the outfall and Dock entrance and these navvies drank quite a lot of beer. However, there were a good number of the townspeople who could run them close, and on Saturday nights there would be practically a procession to the police station from 10 'o' clock to midnight. Sometimes the station was filled up with drunks. It was not an easy job, often they would be spoiling for a fight and two or three constables would have to frog-march them, others would lie down in the street and the constables would pick them up and wheel them to the police station on a truck.

"Policemen in those days didn't get pensioned off until they were worn out." concluded Mr. Barton. " There was no age limit. When they were thought to be done and unable to do any more, it was hoped they would die quick to save the ratepayers money."

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Boston Society Magazine

The "Boston Society" magazine ran from September 1899 to August 1902, here is a glimpse of the things it told us.

In the fashion column women were told not to wear bathing costumes that show too much skin and were advised that a black bodice and knickerbockers, worn beneath a short skirt that reached to the knee was neat and fashionable.

In the sports column Boston Cricket Club batsman W. Kitwoods total for the season was 218, and the best of the bowlers were Chambers, MacIntyre and Langley.

There appears, too, the interesting life story of Captain Rehoboth Robinson (not a Bostonian, but born in Lincolnshire) who at the time lived at No.1, Intrepid Cottages, Skirbeck, who was one of those who went in search of Sir John Franklin. He had been nine times wrecked, his wife was drowned at sea, he served in the Russian war and had two winters in the Arctic. He sailed in 100 ships, rising from cabin boy to master-mariner and ship owner and saved as many as 40 people from drowning.

Regarding the arrival of the telephone in Boston we read "The telephone has not been embraced as it ought to have been for at present only 17 machines are used in the town".

A scheme, which never came to be, is referred to in one issue - the proposal to introduce electric tram cars into the town. It was proposed by "The British Electric Traction Company Ltd.". The idea was to run trams from the junction of Brothertoft Road and Sleaford Road to the end of Spilsby Road and from the Dock to the Railway Station. Objections were raised by the Corporation and after a period of negotiation the project fell through.

There is also an article on Hussey Tower (below), which tells us, among other things, that the old ruin is believed to be haunted. The writer also states that in its time it has been used as a mill, a brewery stables and a sail making factory and at one time it was contemplated turning it into a gaol.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Odds and ends

This picture of Bostons former SD Gully Emptier was sent to me by Robin Smith and he tells me that it was driven for 29 years by Bert Scoot of Argyle Street, who in all that time was its only driver, Bert named it "Lizzie". Many older Bostonians will remember Bert as one side of his face was totally covered with a red stain birth mark. Although no longer in its Boston "Corporation Green" colour the Gully emptier still has the same reg JL 4881. It had tiller steering and as a kid it always used to fascinate Robin how he could steer it without a steering wheel. Lizzie had a top speed of 20 mph and had done over 200,000 miles when it was sold to a collector.

Below you’ll see a drawing of Richard Hammond on his own bicycle.
Richard Hammond was born in Boston, and later moved to Gainsborough with his parents, his father being an established Coach Builder.

It was in the early 1860s that Hammond worked on his designs for his first bicycle and by January 1868 he had a machine on the roads of Lincolnshire !
Despite much local derision when he trialled the machine Hammond persisted and refined the design into a type II version, lighter and more refined than the first.
He set out to demonstrate the capability of his bike by riding the 50 miles from Gainsborough to Boston which was no mean feat on wooden wheels shod with iron bands.

So did he build the first ever bicycle in England - can a Bostonian lay claim to that crown ?
During his own lifetime Richard Hammond himself laid claim to being the maker of the first pedal and crank bicycle in England.

In any case he is a Bostonian who deserves to be remembered.

Gary Halliday sent me the picture below of a sign that was found under some floorboards on a demolition site in Boston.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Boston Ghosts

Perhaps the best-known of the town's ghost stories is that of the Grey Lady, legend has it that the Grey Lady will appear in front of you if you run round Boston Stump three times while the bells chime for midnight. She is understood to be the ghost of a woman widowed when her husband died shortly after she had given birth to their first child, stricken with grief and wanting the family to be reunited she threw herself off the Stump tower with the baby. But her actions saw her damned and left to live in limbo.

Like the Grey Lady, Sarah Preston is another woman who committed suicide by leaping off the Stump. Legend says that she believed herself responsible for bringing the Black Death to Boston by inviting a sailor to her home while her husband was away.It was he who gave her the Black Death (which is believed to have claimed 400 lives here) which she passed on in the town before taking her own life in guilt. In one version of the ghost story, Sarah is seen to leap from the tower of the church holding a young child, vanishing just before hitting the ground, another variation has Sarah dying of the plague.

A few years ago paranormal investigators spent a night at the Geoff Moulder Leisure Complex and say they discovered a monk-like male figure and a young girl haunting the halls.One photograph taken showed a monk and a male ghost is also said to have rested his hand on one of the group's shoulders. In response to a medium saying 'I think I'm picking up a little girl here', a female's voice clearly said 'yes' said one of the group.Visitors to the site swear they have previously seen a male monk figure walk through walls and across the pool and there have also been reports of mugs in the admin office smashing themselves in the past.

In 2010 a man was driving home between Kirton and Boston, it was about midnight and he saw what he thought was an articulated lorry with no lights at the rear. As he got closer he could see it was the back of a guards railway van. He thought it was on a low loader... but there was no low loader and he pulled out to have a better look... and then he could see it was an old-fashioned steam train pulling several carriages!! As he came toward the street lights, it disappeared! The road he was on (the A16) was originally a railway line, closed in the1960's and made into a road in the 1990's.

Father Michael - or Micky the Monk – is a ghost believed to haunt Blackfriars, Spain Lane site. The site has also been claimed to have been a burial site, while monks' graves were also uncovered on the nearby Boston Grammar School site in recent years. Father Michael is said to walk with a cloak shrouding his head.

The following sent to me by Andy B.
The most convincing Boston ghost story I heard came about 20 years ago when a friend, his wife and another couple were coming home from the quiz night at the Oak Tree (now Malcolm Arms) at Antons Gowt. They came down Tattershall Rd and where there is a right turn for Boston there used to be a little Island in the middle of the road......on that island they saw a figure dressed in a Medieval jesters outfit just stood there......all 4 witnesses say it just stood still and looked at them and as the car turned right it just vanished. Bear in mind the driver was sober and the passengers had very little to drink with it being a quiz night......spooky.

The following sent to me by Rob.
Pilgrim Hospital is said to be home to number of these apparitions. The one that I know about from my time working in and out of the original A/E dept is as follows.
A very kind and helpfull A/E porter called Willie ----- sadly died from an incurable illness. Soon after this several of the nurses who worked nights said that they had seen him still dressed in his brown porters smock this was always in the corridores between the original A/E and the X Ray dept. This put the wind up quite a few of the night staff and if a patient had to go from A/E for an X Ray in the early hours they would ask if one of us (Ambulance Staff) would go with them. Then one day about dinner time the Charge Hand Porter ( a very sensible man) went to the A/E store room for supplies and saw that a person dressed in a porters smock was already in there, he asked him what he was doing, the person turned around and he saw that it was Willie who he had known, he rushed back into the dept in something of a panic and was so shaken up that he was unable to continue at work and had to be taken home by another porter.
I never saw Willie myself but all the people who did were sensible and quite hard nosed people and all were convinced that it was him, so I had no reason to not believed them.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

The Green and the Market.

Here is a description of The Green and the Market from 1938, apart from the selling of animals it hasn't really changed a lot.

"Without its Wednesday market Boston would lose half its attractiveness. Even early on a Wednesday morning there is an atmosphere that makes it different from the ordinary day, the town puffs its chest out, feels more important because of its bustling activity. Plank-laden carts discharge their cargo for deft hands to set up the stalls, lorries with beast or poultry rattle down the streets, farmers and merchants drive up in their cars, and buses from the country districts bring visitors.

Down at the cattle pens they were already selling beast and I stood for a moment by the ring. But that is only one side of the market, and to the non farmer the least interesting. Only a few yards away the casual spectator can find much more to make him pause. Any Wednesday on Bargate Green you can walk round to find "lots" so strangely assorted that you fancy no one will ever buy them, but they do. Here is a great battery of cycles, sacks of potatoes are grouped a yard or two away and chairs, soon to be sold, are used by jaded auction attenders, a trunk load of books, a mass of twisted iron, a Chinese picture and planks of timber.

What's that he's saying now? "How much for Nelly?" Is this a slave market? But the assistant is holding up a dog. "Now come along, how much for Nelly? He's a grand dog. A shilling sir? Oh, come along, be serious, there's a collar and lead worth more than that. He's a fine ratter too is Nelly. How much am I offered? Is that the only offer I have? Very well, it's going for a shilling. A shilling to this gentleman. A few of the buyers detach themselves from the edge and move over to a young man whose hands are never still and he talks all the time. At his feet are pieces of brass, copper, taps and knobs and he is demonstrating and selling polish with which to clean them at sixpence a bottle.

Two gentlemen are selling razor blades and point out that it's silly to go paying high prices when you can get them of just the same quality at one third of the price. They joke that their most recent sale was forty of them to the Nottingham Suicide Club and all the members had died perfectly at ease and happy.
In the Market Place stallholders invite us to test their wares, these apples are unrivalled, these cough lozenges can't be equalled and this lotion was used by a personage whose name they had been requested not to mention, but these men with all their skill don't give us the kick that we get out of the salesmen on the Green. Over here is a man with a wild look in his eye, around him are linoleum pillars propped along the stall.

Outside the "Peacock" are the farmers and seed salesmen. Bronzed faces, bearded faces, jovial faces and hard faces. A crippled violinist is playing, nobody seems to take much notice of him and when a fashionably dressed woman fumbles in her bag, giving him a coin, she does it furtively, ashamed. It is tea time, parties go up into the cafes near the Market Place, women seeking a refuge from dust and noise, hugging parcels. In the streets the crowds grow smaller, one by one the stallholders take away their wares, and in the evening air the skeletons of stalls rise gaunt from a sea of paper bags and litter. Carts are loaded with the planks, lorries rumble away to distant towns, the hoses hiss in the cattle pens. Another market day is over.