THE PORT OF BOSTON
For most of Boston’s thousand years the port was on the banks of the river Witham where it passed through the town centre. Several features of this riverside port still remain. The sea-port was downstream of the town’s bridge as sea-going vessels with their tall masts could not pass underneath it. Boats using the river for navigation to Lincoln would use the churchyard of St Botolph’s as a quay, but after the Grand Sluice was completed in 1766 river craft used the wharf above the Sluice.
For most of history the river banks sloped down to the water with vessels being loaded and unloaded at wooden wharfs and jetties. We know little about the medieval buildings of the port. One of the few that survived until the 19th century was Gysors Hall at the north end of South Square. That was demolished in 1810 by Thomas Fydell but some stones were re-used in a new warehouse on the site, now converted into apartments.
The second great period of activity for the port of Boston was in the Georgian era with several warehouses surviving from that time. These include the second warehouse in South Square and the Sam Newsom Music Centre of Boston College. Along the north side of Spain Lane is a former seed crushing mill, and between Sibsey Lane and Craythorne Lane are two more warehouses that now form a nightclub.
Harbour improvements in 1815 included a brick and stone wall that runs from the Assembly Rooms to Packhouse Quay, and a similar wall on the west bank at Doughty Quay. Both quays had public warehouses; and the tall narrow one on Doughty Quay still survives as a private house.
By the late 19th century ships could not safely rest on mud at low tide, so in the 1880s Boston Corporation built the wet Dock that is still in use today. This was built at the same time as the river from there to the Wash was straightened with a new curving channel out into the Wash. The Dock’s facilities were developed to include granaries, a coal chute, ice store for fish, ship repair slipway along with offices and workshops. All of the original buildings have gone. They have been replaced by modern warehousing that is required for the storage and handling of the one million tonnes of cargo that is shipped in and out each year.