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War-time photos show how Boston has changed

An archive of never-before-published photographs of war-time Boston has come to light as part of research into a book about the town's most interesting buildings


John and Katie, pictured with Boston Borough Council leader Cllr Peter Bedford, right, and the council's head of built environment and environment Steve Lumb, left, in the entrance to Strait Bargate from Wide Bargate. The 1942 picture demonstrates the changes. All the buildings on the left, including the pleasant block occupied by A B Woodcock, baker and confectioner, and Weaver to Wearer Ltd, have gone but the building to the right, whose frontage is hidden behind anti-blast walls is still there, occupied by Icon. The large opening now leads to the Red Lion Street car park and the shop to its right is currently Oxfam. This is late Georgian and the Woodcock building, although it has a Georgian façade, may well have been earlier.


What appears to be an alleyway in the 1942 picture has also gone.

Corporation Buildings

One of the most familiar landmarks in the Market Place, Corporation Buildings, seen here in wartime guise. It housed the offices of the ARP Chief Warden while its cellars were used as an air raid shelter with the entrance on the left. Further evidence of the war is seen in the white paint applied to car bumpers, to the wings of the Morris Post Office Telephones van and to the two Lincolnshire Road Car Co buses.

South Square Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window

A very quiet South Square. The Magnet Tavern, together with Hurst & Son's London Seed Warehouse of 1810, part of which can be seen on the left, are still there, although the corner of the pub, which had been altered in the early 20th century, was rebuilt in the 1950s to something resembling its original appearance and the bricked-up window between the doors was reinstated. Soames Ales from Spalding are long gone, the firm being taken over by Norwich-based Steward & Patteson in 1949, themselves absorbed by Watney's in 1967. Lincoln's warehouse immediately behind the pub also still exists as the Sam Newsom Music Centre but the one beyond, the handsome London warehouse, built by Boston Corporation in 1817, was demolished in 1951. A group of servicemen are walkin past the railings of Fydell House and an Austin with white-painted bumper and blacked-out headlight stands parked.

High Street

Today, you would have to stand more or less in the middle of John Adams Way to take this photograph, which is looking south along High Street. Towards the left, the junction with Liquorpond Street can be seen and the building on the corner and its neighbour to the left, together with a few of the buildings on the east side of the street, are the only ones in the photograph still in existence. When it was built in the 1970s, John Adams Way cut a swathe through some of the most historic parts of Boston and this photo shows some of the fine buildings that were lost, including the Royal Oak pub. The windows of F Herring's boot and shoe repair depot are taped up to protect against blast.

Some of the war-time National Buildings Records photographs which have never been seen before. These were all taken on June 5, 1942.

Reproduced by permission of English Heritage.

In 1942, with the German threat at its most potent, photographers from the newly-formed National Buildings Record were despatched to Boston to record historic buildings under immediate threat of destruction by bombing.

The photographs have been hidden away at English Heritage's Archives in Swindon until now and some of them are shown here for the first time.

They have assisted architectural historians from English Heritage, John Minnis and Katie Carmichael, both based in Cambridge, who are working in modern-day Boston to write a book about the town's buildings.

John said: "Boston is a special place. In keeping much of its medieval street layout, it's one of the most complete ancient towns of England. It has one of the finest parish churches in the country, with a tower that is one of the greatest sights in the country.  The church is the focal point of an enormous market square that is one of the most impressive to be found anywhere in England, both for its size and for the wonderful variety of historic buildings in it.

"There are just so many buildings that are worth seeing - the Georgian houses and shops and the old warehouses along the Haven that act as a reminder of Boston's maritime past. A lot of the Victorian homes have tremendous character.

"But it's not just the buildings. The setting of Boston with houses lining waterways is really striking. The town's history is quite extraordinary too - once one of the greatest ports in England with its links to the Hanseatic League, it then became the springboard for so much of America's history when many of its most important citizens left to found Boston, Massachusetts, and played an important role in the state for generations.

"People should be flocking to see Boston - it may not have a cathedral like Salisbury or Winchester - but St Botolph's is the next best thing. I'm hoping that our project here will encourage far more visitors to come to Boston and also get people who live in Boston to perhaps see the town in a different light."

The book that John and Katie are writing will be published by English Heritage late in 2014. They will be a familiar sight in Boston over the next few months as they carry out the fieldwork and research for the book.

They are particularly interested in visiting some of the interiors of the older houses and business premises in the town, especially as some of them are much older than they appear on the outside.

Cllr Peter Bedford, Boston Borough Council leader, said: "It is refreshing to hear the opinion of people who are not from Boston confirm we have a town to be proud of.

"I hope the comments of experts such as John and Katie do help people who live here to see the town in a different light.

"It's wonderful that academics from Cambridge, of all places, can come to Boston and be impressed by what we have."

Steve Lumb, Boston Borough Council's head of built environment and development, said: "It is good to receive such attention from the likes of English Heritage and academics such as this, and goes to show that Boston is indeed a very special place and worthy of investment in its public spaces, its buildings and its heritage.

"This is no real surprise, but adds weight to our efforts to encourage further private sector investment in the town and for current landlords and building owners to take pride in what they have and consider helping in our restoration and improvement efforts. For those owners lucky enough to be within the central area of the town our generous repairs and shop-front restoration grant scheme remains available, but time is running out!"

Katie, who will be keeping people updated as to their progress on Twitter using #EHBostonProject, said: "We're really keen for the people of Boston to get involved and use this as an opportunity to tell us which buildings they feel we should be looking at - are there any buildings that they feel have not been fully understood or recognised for their true importance?"

John and Katie can be contacted by phone on 01223 582780 or email at, or by using #EHBostonProject on Twitter, and they hope to be available for people to talk to at some pre-arranged times in the town over the course of the summer.