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Boston - The Small Town With A Big Story


Suesan Brown

The recent creation of the Boston Docks and the much-improved Haven had the potential of making Boston into an east coast fishing port on a scale similar to Grimsby. Supported by a number of influential people of the town, the Boston Deep Sea Fishing and Ice Company was formed in August 1885 by a group of Boston businessmen. The company started with seven second-hand sailing smacks and two newly built steam-screw trawlers, the Witham and the Holland both built in Hull. The company eventually phased out the sailing smacks in favour of the more profitable steam driven boats.

A picture of a dock in Boston, with the docking bay having fish on the floor

Landing the catch. (Roy Hackford)

A picture of the Bostons Fishing Fleet boats

Steam Trawlers alongside Boston’s Fish Quay. (Roy Hackford)

By 1890 Boston was a viable fishing port and the Company’s 24 trawlers were operating alongside other fishing companies, such as the Boston Steam Fishing Company with whom it was to amalgamate. Fishing has always carried risks and Boston was to bear its human cost on many occasions. One such incident perhaps illustrates this most; during late December 1902 one of the Company’s fishing vessels, the Grecian, was lost in Icelandic waters with all hands. The news so touched the people of the town that the Mayor immediately launched a public appeal for the families of those lost and for which the local Salvation Army band raised money by holding a torch light procession.

Further tragedy struck the Boston fishing fleet when it became an early target at the outbreak of war in August 1914. In a surprise attack 16 boats were sunk. The Boston Deep Sea Fishing and Ice Company immediately suspended all fishing activities. The fishermen who were captured did not return home until the war ended. The Merchant Navy Memorial in London records the names of Boston boats and their crews lost in WWI.

Advert for the Fishing Fleets that said Deep Sea Fishing and Ice Company Ltd, offering boiler makeers and ship repairs

An old advert for Dead Sea fishing in 1918.

A picture of a crashed boat from the Fishing Fleet

The SS Lockwood with Skirbeck Church in the background. (Neil Watson Collection)

In 1919 Fred Parkes joined the Company, bringing with him his four fishing boats. He lived in Wyberton and had sold his farm to buy his first fishing vessel. Wanting to secure the commercial viability of the company he proposed selling off older trawlers and buying new ones. He was opposed by other board members who claimed it would not be in the town’s best interests. In 1924, having bought sufficient shares to take a controlling interest, he implemented his policy and successfully returned the company to profit and into the largest privately owned fishing fleet in the world.

In 1922 the SS Lockwood capsized whilst carrying coal to Hamburg, blocking the Haven for three months. The Boston Deep Sea Fishing Company eventually salvaged the vessel but had difficulties in recovering its costs from the Corporation. This problem, together with a general decline in the industry, led to a decision to move the Company’s base from Boston to Fleetwood in Lancashire. Without enough fish being landed each day to satisfy the wholesalers, Boston began its slow decline as a viable fishing port.

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Boston in the First World War

Thousands of men and women from Boston enlisted to serve in the war effort.

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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.

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Royal Museum Greenwich history about Deep Sea Fishing Fleet

The house flag of the Boston Deep Sea Fishing and Ice Co. Ltd. On a blue swallow-tailed burgee, there is a white shield with three red crowns.

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The Straightening of The Haven

The Haven is the stretch of the Witham between the Grand Sluice and the outfall to the sea.

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