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Boston - The Small Town With A Big Story


David Radford

In 1935, the fate of Fydell House in South Street was in the balance. A consortium from Birmingham was planning to demolish it in favour of a housing development. The loss of the ‘grandest house in town’ so alarmed the Vicar of Boston, Canon A.M. Cook and other concerned activists, that they launched an appeal to buy it. The outcome not only resulted in the house being saved, but in the creation of the Boston Preservation Trust as a limited company, whose aim to save other historic buildings in the town and bring them back into meaningful use continues to this day.

A coloured photograph of the front of Fydell House. It is a red brick two storey historic building with white stone accents. There are large windows and an ornately carved stone decoration around the front entrance.

Fydell House.

A coloured photograph of the American room. The room is painted a pale yellow, and has several painted portraits hung on the walls and on the mantel piece. The fireplace contains a black stove surrounded by white and blue tiles. In the centre of the room is a large wooden table surrounded by modern chairs.

The American Room

Fydell House was given its name by Joseph Fydell, a merchant who traced his family’s associations with Boston back to William Fydell, an apprentice to Alderman Thomas Marcall in 1676. Joseph began to establish himself as one of Boston’s more successful merchants around 1717 when he added to his warehouses a yard in Spain Lane. In 1726, the house then owned by Samuel Jackson became available. Joseph quickly made the purchase. In work carried out subsequently he had the date and his initials embossed on the lead work.

From research into the house’s origins by A.A. Garner, it has been established that it was probably built around 1700 for the Jackson family. They were Mercers: dealers in textiles, silks, velvets and other expensive cloths. Prominent in Boston, one of the family, Edmund Jackson had been Mayor in 1668 and 1678 but the decline of the cloth trade eventually led to the house being sold. For Joseph Fydell, however, the ownership of such a fine house immediately raised his social standing although ultimately it proved to be an expensive investment

A photograph Fydell House garden. In the foreground is a large Armillary Sphere on a plinth. The walled garden consists of a large lawn surrounded by a path and low sculpted hedges. In the background is the rear of Fydell House.

The garden

A black and white photograph Joseph Kennedy at Fydell House in 1938. He is wearing glasses, and smiling widely as he leans over to be in frame with six young children. The photograph has been taken outside in front of the house.

US Ambassador to the UK, Joseph Kennedy

Passing down through several generations, including Robert Fydell who almost lost the house when he was declared bankrupt in 1738 and his son Richard who served at Boston’s MP and three times Mayor, Fydell House remained a family home until 1816 when it was leased to tenants. These included Henry Rogers, lord of the manor of Freiston and Butterwick and Francis Yeatman, a wine merchant, whose skill as a gardener meant that the garden at the rear of the house was acclaimed ’the finest garden in the borough’.

Following its purchase from the Fydell family by the Boston Preservation Trust in 1935, Fydell house has served a number of uses. It has strengthened Boston’s link with the USA. In the 1930s there were a number of visits to Boston by prominent Americans culminating in one by US Ambassador Joseph Kennedy in 1938, who dedicated the American Room. Joseph was father of US President JF Kennedy.During WW2 the house was the base for the Women’s Voluntary Service. After the War it became the base for the Adult Education Programme and the Workers Educational Association. It was known as Pilgrim College and hosted a wide range of courses. Today, this role is mainly filled by Boston College.The Boston Preservation Trust continues to serve the town through its balanced approach to preservation and the practical conservation of Boston’s historic buildings. Fydell House is a fine example of this approach. Not only is it the Trust’s offices, a venue for educational courses, events, lectures and formal occasions, it also welcomes visitors who want to come and admire a magnificent historic house and its famous American Room.