Wartime photographs inspire book promoting Boston’s buildings

Architectural historians looking at Boston buildings for new book.'L-R Steve Lumb - head of built environment and development, John Minnis, Katie Carmichael - historians, Peter Bedford.
Architectural historians looking at Boston buildings for new book.'L-R Steve Lumb - head of built environment and development, John Minnis, Katie Carmichael - historians, Peter Bedford.

Wartime photographs of Bostonwill feature in a new book on the town’s historic buildings which the authors hope will encourage more visitors.

In 1942 photographers from the newly-formed National Buildings Record were despatched to Boston to record historic buildings under immediate threat of destruction by bombing.

A wartime view

A wartime view

The photographs had been hidden away at English Heritage’s Archives in Swindon but they have now inspired architectural historians from the organisation, John Minnis and Katie Carmichael, to visit modern-day Boston to write a book about the town’s buildings.

John said: “Boston is a special place. In keeping much of its medieval street layout, it’s one of the most complete ancient towns of England. It has one of the finest parish churches in the country, with a tower that is one of the greatest sights in the country. The church is the focal point of an enormous market square that is one of the most impressive to be found anywhere in England, both for its size and for the wonderful variety of historic buildings in it.

“There are just so many buildings that are worth seeing – the Georgian houses and shops and the old warehouses along the Haven that act as a reminder of Boston’s maritime past. A lot of the Victorian homes have tremendous character.

“But it’s not just the buildings. The setting of Boston, with houses lining waterways, is really striking. The town’s history is quite extraordinary too - once one of the greatest ports in England with its links to the Hanseatic League, it then became the springboard for so much of America’s history when many of its most important citizens left to found Boston, Massachusetts, and played an important role in the state for generations.

“People should be flocking to see Boston – it may not have a cathedral like Salisbury or Winchester – but St Botolph’s is the next best thing. I’m hoping that our project here will encourage far more visitors to come to Boston and also get people who live in Boston to perhaps see the town in a different light.”

The book that John and Katie are writing will be published by English Heritage in late 2014. They will be in Boston over the next few months and are particularly interested in visiting some of the interiors of the older houses and business premises in the town, especially as some of them are much older than they appear on the outside.

Coun Peter Bedford, Boston Borough Council leader, said: “It is refreshing to hear the opinion of people who are not from Boston confirm we have a town to be proud of.

“I hope the comments of experts such as John and Katie do help people who live here to see the town in a different light.

“It’s wonderful that academics from Cambridge, of all places, can come to Boston and be impressed by what we have.”

Katie, who will be keeping people updated as to their progress on Twitter using #EHBostonProject, said: “We’re really keen for the people of Boston to get involved and use this as an opportunity to tell us which buildings they feel we should be looking at – are there any buildings that they feel have not been fully understood or recognised for their true importance?”

John and Katie can be contacted by phone on 01223 582780 or email at john.minnis@english-heritage.org.uk