This small Georgian town close to the coast of the Pilgrim country, has a five sailed windmill in full working order, and holds a weekly craft market.
In medieval times Boston was a major port for Continental trade. Its decline resulted from the increasing importance of the western ports for New World trade, and from natural silting of the Wash. Nevertheless, Boston still operates as a minor port. Many fine buildings still stand as reminders of the early prosperity of the town. Among these are the 15th century Guildhall, Blackfriars Theatre (a 13th-century friary), as well as many former merchants’ homes and warehouses. Most important, however, is St Botolph’s Church, built between 1309 and 1460. (The nameBoston is thought to be a corruption of Botolph’s town). The interior of the church has many interesting features, and its 272ft octagonal tower is one of the tallest in the country, commanding views of the surrounding countryside as far away as Lincoln. Known as the ‘Boston Stump’ it was rebuilt by Americans following World War II.
The small town of Epworth lies in the arable land of the Isle of Axholme, which was drained by Cornelius Vermuyden and his Dutch engineers in the early 17th century; a century later it became the birthplace of Methodism. The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, was born in 1703, the 15th of 19 children. They were born in the Old Rectory, where their father Samuel was rector. The original building was destroyed by a mob which disagreed with the Reverend Wesley’s political views. The Old Rectory, which contains many items relating to the family, is now owned by the World Methodist Council; much of the restoration was financed by American Methodists, who owe their foundation to the inspiration of John Wesley, who founded the first Methodist chapel in New York. The brothers travelled extensively in Britain, and also in America. Although founders of Methodism, the brothers remained high churchmen and members of the Church of England throughout their lives. Samuel Wesley‘s tombstone is in the churchyard; John once preached from it having been banned from the church (another of his early pulpits was Epworth’s market cross). The font where the Wesleys were baptized is in the church. Epworth’s large Methodist church was built in 1889.
A granite obelisk at Scotia Creek marks the point from which John Winthrop’s Pilgrims made their first attempt to sail to religious freedom in Holland. They were caught, then tried and imprisoned in Boston.
A three-arched 18th-century bridge links Nottinghamshire to Lincolnshire at Gainsborough, the St Ogg’s of George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss. The River Trent is still the lifeline for the town’s many industries; its quayside is lined with fine 18th-century warehouses. The Old Hall, Gainsborough’s oldest building, rebuilt in 1480, it is one of the largest medieval buildings in Britain open to the public. Richard III stayed here in 1484, Henry VIII and his sixth Wife Catherine Parr also visited. It was closely associated with the early Pilgrims too, many of whom came from the surrounding area.
Formerly one of the world’s great fishing ports, Grimsby, which was named after a legendary Danish fisherman, Grim, has declined substantially since, among other things, the cod war with Iceland in the 1970’s. Exhibits in the Welholme Galleries include Napoleonic and 19th century ship models, and marine paintings. Many emigrants went to Massachusetts Bay from Grimsby in the early pilgrim days. South of Cleethorpes, the adjacent northern resort town, is Humberston.
Remnants of the ancient strip system of field division can still be found in this old farming centre. A custom known as Throwing the Hood takes place here every 6 January, Twelfth Night. The game, which resembles a boisterous rugby match, consists of a competition to get several ‘hoods’ to various village inns, while costumed ‘boggins’ try to intercept them. The custom is said to have originated in medieval times when the lady of the manor lost her hood while out riding, and a group of peasants competed to return it.
One of the principal market towns serving this important agricultural area, Horncastle occupies the site of the Roman town Banovallum. Six miles north east, Somersby was the birthplace of Alfred Lord Tennyson in 1809. The poet grew up in the former rectory, where his father was rector. He attended Louth Grammar School for a while, but received most of his early education at home -it was here that he started to write, and together with his brother published his first book of poems the year he went up to Cambridge. He was made Poet Laureate in 1850. The church contains Tennyson memorials.
This modern deep water port acts as a sister to Grimsby five miles further down towards the open sea. In recent years new oil, coal and iron-ore terminals have been established here, and a large refinery is at nearby Killingholme. Near Immingham parish church there is a monument incorporating a piece of rock from Plymouth, Massachusetts and commemorating the Pilgrim Fathers’ point of departure for Holland in 1609 prior to their departure for the New World.
Before it turned to engineering, Lincoln was an important centre of the cloth industry, and was particularly famous for a type of cloth devotees of the Robin Hood story will remember as Lincoln Green. Lincoln is dominated by its majestic threetowered cathedral, crowning the steep hill that rises so dramatically from the Lincolnshire plain. Complementing the cathedral in size if not in grandeur is the great limestone castle, built in 1080 to control this eastern corner of the kingdom.
Lincoln’s hinterland is rich in Pilgrim connections. Thomas Pownall, a Governor of Massachusetts and South Carolina, was born in Minster Yard, and Francis Bernard, Pownall’s successor as Governor of New Jersey and Massachusetts, was once a
steward to the city of Lincoln and lived at College House on the Minster Green. The surrounding fenland was drained during the American War of Independence and many pieces of land were given American names such as New York, Maryland and Bunker Hill.
A well~preserved Georgian market town. The most imposing feature of Louth is the spire of St James’s Church which dates from 1515. Tennyson was educated at the grammar school here for 5 years, and his work was first published in Louth. Captain John Smith, founder of Virginia, was also educated at the school, where there is a bust of him. This was presented by Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scout Movement.
Sandtoft Transport Centre, 15 miles east of Doncaster, is primarily dedicated to the preservation of the trolleybus -though mororbnses and other vehicles are also on display. Over 60 vehicles have been lovingly restored.
More than half the bulbs grown in Britain come from the area around Spalding, which suggests that the best time to visit it is late spring. The River Welland flows through the centre of the town, spanned by seven bridges. Ayscoughfee Hall (early 15th century) contains the Tourist Information Centre. Springfield Gardens contain more than a million bulbs and thousands of roses. The Spalding Gentleman’s Society was founded in 1710, and included Sir Isaac Newton and Alexander Pope among its members. The Society now houses a library and museum (view by appointment only).
Spilsby is an attractive market town beyond which the flatlands of the Fens stretch out towards the North Sea. Sir William de Willoughby gave the town its charter in the 14th century, and there are memorials in the church to the family, and to the d’Eresbys with whom they inter-married, in the church. One of them, 2nd Baron Willoughby d’Eresby, fought at Crécy. Sir John Franklin, the explorer, is also commemorated by a tablet. Born in Spilsby, he died in the Arctic while leading the expedition which discovered the North-West Passage in 1847; a model of his flagship hangs in the church. The surrounding Fenland is full of Pilgrim connections.
Considered England’s most beautiful small stone-built town, Stamford was originally the Fenland capital and a wealthy wool town. Much of the town was destroyed during the Wars of the Roses in the 15th century, but quickly recovered. Stamford has five ancient and notable churches. St Mary’s has a 14th-century tower and spire, and contains the lovely ‘Chapel of the Golden Choir’. All Saints Church has a magnificent angel roof in the chancel. The impressive west window was given in 1888 by a Boston descendant of Browne, the founder of a local 16th-century almshouse. Browne’s Hospital has an exquisite Tudor screen and line stained glass in its chapel. Stamford School has a pointed arched gateway, a relic of a breakaway movement in 1333 by students of Brasenose College, Oxford. Stamford’s George Hotel was frequented by Sir Walter Scott. Outside the town stands Burghley House, ancestral home of the Cecils. Built by William Cecil, Chief Secretary of State and Lord High Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth I, the house is considered to be one of England’s greatest Elizabethan mansions. Among its treasures is the ‘Heaven Room’ whose walls and ceiling were painted by Verrio.
In the churchyard of St Martin’s Church, Daniel Lambert is buried; the fattest Englishman who ever lived, he weighed over 52 stone and his waist measured 92 inches.
Tattershall Castle and its Perpendicular church were built in the mid 15th century by Ralph Cromwell, Lord Treasurer to Henry VI. He is buried in the Holy Trinity church. The splendid, moated, brick keep is all that survives of the castellated house. The castle has fine views across the Fenlands as far as Lincoln Cathedral and the Boston Stump. At Coningsby RAF station the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight is housed. Revesby, 6 miles east-north east, was the home of Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), who explored Labrador and Newfoundland, and was a scientist on Captain James Cook’s Pacific travels.
In 1642 Sir Isaac Newton was born within the grey stone walls of Woolsthorpe Manor. The orchard in front of the house is a reminder of the falling apple reputed to have prompted Newton’s realisation of the theory of gravitational pull -a theory that revolutionised man’s understanding of astronomy.