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Boston and the Water

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On a tidal river, close to sea and surrounded by marshland, Boston has always had a watery connection.

The town developed around a fording point where the coastal road around the Wash crossed the River Witham. It soon grew as a port town eventually becoming wealthy as a result of trade and opportunities presented by the water.

The port developed in the medieval period and by the late 1200s, three million sheep fleeces were being exported every year. Timber and luxury goods such as silks, furs, wine and dried fruits were brought back and sold in Boston's famous markets and fairs. Maritime trade with the Hanseatic League of Germany, Lowland Europe and the Baltic States brought great wealth to the town.

Wildfowling, fishing and summer grazing for cattle in the waterlogged fens was a way of life around Boston. The drainage and enclosure of the fens brought control of the water and led to a new age of agriculture that made the town prosperous again in the late 1700s.

The building of dykes, drains and sluices to control the water have also helped to define the modern countryside and townscape. In particular, the Grand Sluice and Black Sluice are examples of innovative Georgian engineering solutions separating the tidal Haven from the inland waterways.

Boston: A Short Introduction

The Pilgrims in Boston

The Reverend John Cotton and Boston's American Legacy

The History of St Botolph's Church

Markets and Fairs


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