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Boston - The Small Town With A Big Story

 Boston Industrialised 

Neil Wright

In the early 19th century Lincolnshire started to see changes that the industrial revolution brought to this country and Boston became the first town in the County to be industrialised. The main occupation then, as now, was agriculture and large industrial concerns in Boston arose to design implements and machines to make the growing of crops more labour efficient. Some of these machines went on to transform agriculture across the world.

There had been blacksmiths, wheelwrights and other ironworkers in the county for centuries and as the 19th century progressed some workshops started to grow into large engineering works. In 1803 William Howden started the Grand Sluice Ironworks at the inland port of Witham Town adjacent to the Sluice; this was the first in Boston. By 1827 he had made the first steam engines to be produced in Lincolnshire and they were used on river craft trading between Boston and Lincoln.

Image of Boston's industrial skyline

Boston's industrial skyline. (Neil Watson Collection)

Image of Tuxford & Sons threshing machine

Tuxford & Sons threshing machine, 1855. (The Illustrated London News)

William Wedd Tuxford built a windmill at Mount Bridge, just outside Boston, in about 1822. He invented a machine to clean the wheat before it was milled, which he patented about 1830. Other millers wanted this machine so he set up a workshop beside his mill and when his sons joined him at the end of the decade, it developed into the Boston and Skirbeck Ironworks.

Tuxford and Sons produced the successful conception of the threshing drum which transformed agriculture round the world. These impressive machines were powered by a separate steam engine connected to it with a driving belt. The first ones were pulled by horses from farm to farm but later Tuxfords were involved in developing the steam traction engine. Such threshing sets, pulled by these traction engines were in use until the 1950s. Tuxfords’ products were exported worldwide, including to France, Russia, and Australia. Examples of their machines can still be seen in museums in Edinburgh, Paris and in Sweden.

Image of Shoe and boot laces being manufactured in Boston

Shoe and boot laces were manufactured in Boston until the 1970s. (Neil Watson Collection)

Image of Cigar making at Whittle & Cope's norfolk street

Cigar making at Whittle & Cope's, Norfolk street, 1900. (courtesy of Neil Wright)

John Fisher invented a strong form of luggage label, important as the railways made it easier for more people to travel long distances. His business flourished for over a century. At the end of the 19th century there were large steam mills that crushed imported seeds to produce oil cake for cattle feed and in the first half of the 20th century several factories were canning locally grown vegetables.

Other industries in Boston included the processing of feathers and water filters made by George Cheavin. Several firms made snuff and then cigars, the last works closing in the 1920s. Shoe Laces were made by Arthur Whittle & Co until the 1970’s. There were windmills in Boston town, all but one now gone, and also breweries and tanneries.

 Discover More! 

The Grand Sluice Ironworks

Founded in 1803 by William Howden, the grand sluice iron works was the first engineering works in Lincolnshire.

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The Feather Industry

The Wash with its intertidal creeks and inland fresh water marshes provided a rich habitat for wildfowl. For centuries, the wildfowlers, known as Fen Slodgers, survived by hunting them.

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Tuxford & Sons

William Tuxford & Sons Ltd founded in 1841 in Boston. Lincolnshire, England. They were one of the earliest firms building Portable engines for the mainly agricultural market.

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