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Boston - The Small Town With A Big Story


David Radford

Boston began as part of Skirbeck, unlike today when it is the other way round. The Normans turned it into a thriving settlement they called ‘St Botolph’s Town’ after a saint who had been given land by the River Witham for a monastery. It was shortened around the year 1400 to ‘Boston’. In 1066 three people claimed the throne of England after the death of Edward the Confessor. Harold II who was chosen by the English earls and crowned their new king; Harald Hardrada, king of Norway; and William of Normandy who claimed that Edward the Confessor had promised him the throne. At this time Boston was an insignificant settlement in the Skirbeck Hundred where ancient fenland routes crossed the River Witham. The Lord of the Manor was Ralph, a leading Saxon nobleman known as the Constable. Its inhabitants had a strong Viking heritage and more than half were sokemen, peasants with considerable personal freedoms.

While William was making preparations to invade England, Hardrada landed in the Humber estuary. Earl Edwin, King Harold’s brother-in law, led the men of Lincolnshire against him but they were beaten. However Harold soon arrived and defeated the invaders at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. By this time, however, William had landed in England and Harold rushed south. In the ensuing battle at Hastings the Saxon army was destroyed and Harold was killed.

stone carving of St Botolph

The medival stone carving of St Botolph keeps watch over the town from the 'Stump' (drawn by CW Pilcher)

Crowland Abbey

Crowland Abbey

In the years that followed the Normans took control of the country building castles and ruthlessly supressing any resistance, including Hereward the Wake and his fenland guerrillas. William divided up England between himself and his supporters. He gave them new titles and made them swear an oath of loyalty to him, known as the Oath of Salisbury. So none became too powerful William scattered their new lands throughout England. He made a list called the Domesday Book so he knew exactly what tax they should pay and what military service they should give him.

Boston and the surrounded area was split many ways. The Count of Brittany, nicknamed Alan the Red, because of his red beard, became the Earl Richmond. His lands included Ralph’s manor at Skirbeck that covered all Boston’s east bank. The ‘Skirbeck Quarter’ went to Eudo, son of Sperwic, and Guy de Croun received the land on the west side of the river. The Croun family later married into the de Roos family; Rosegarth Street, Boston, and Roos Hall, Frieston are named after them. Villages such as Wyberton, Frampton and Fishtoft were split between the de Croun’s and the Earl of Richmond. Bicker was shared between the Earl, Guy de Croun, the Archbishop of York and Countess Judith.

Countess Judith, niece of William the Conqueror, married the Saxon Earl Waltheof in 1070. He had been a supporter of King Harold but changed sides after the Battle of Hastings. In 1075 he became involved in a rebellion against William and when Judith found out she told William. Waltheof was arrested and executed. He was secretly buried in Crowland Abbey by its monks who later included his effigy when the abbey was rebuilt. Countess Judith inherited the Earl’s lands that included a manor at Bicker where she lived for a time.

The Norman Conquest set Boston on course to become the tenth richest town in England. Yet, in spite of the changes, one thing remained constant: the independence inherited from its Viking past. This would one day inspire the creation of a new and grander Boston on the other side of the Atlantic.

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Boston and the Founding of Massachusetts

Pilgrims from Boston, Lincolnshire left to persue religious freedom, helping to found the city of Boston, Massechussets in 1630.

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St Botolph's Church

Rising above the Fens, St. Botolph's is an impressive historic landmark for Boston.

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Maps of Medieval and Victorian & Edwardian Boston

Visualize the historic changes to Boston over the centuries.

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Edward the Confessor

Edward the Confessor, known by this name for his extreme piety, was canonised in 1161 by Pope Alexander III. He became one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England, reigning for an impressive twenty four years from 1042 until 1066.

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The Battle of Stamford Bridge

The death of the King Edward the Confessor in January 1066 caused a succession struggle across northern Europe, with several contenders willing to fight for the throne of England.

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William the Conqueror

William I was the first Norman King of England. He reigned from 1066 to 1087. He invaded England after the death of Edward the Confessor, defeating the Anglo-Saxon forces led by Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings.

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King Harold

King Harold was the laste Anglo-Saxon King of England. His death at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 at the hands of the invading Duke of Normandy, is depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry.

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