Boston

Saturday, April 22nd 2017

Boston lies in the county of Lincolnshire and is the main town of the Borough of Boston. It sits beside England’s biggest sea inlet and estuary, called the Wash. For a brief history of Boston see here. As the map below shows, Boston is almost due north from London. When the railway first came to the town in 1848, the line from London was the main route to the north and Boston was an important station. Those days have passed, however, and going to Boston from London today requires at least one change of train.

Boston on the map
Boston on the map
(Click for Google Map)

Today, we had to break our journey at Sleaford and take a shuttle train from there to Boston. While on the station at Sleaford we noticed that a family had taken up residence there.

Dad arrives with food...
Dad arrives with food…
And goes off for more...
And goes off for more…


A couple of pigeons had built a nest on top of a cabinet holding a cctv camera. We couldn’t see the eggs but there must have been some because the female was sitting still and quiet in the nest while the male flew in and out bringing her food.

This provides people with a rare opportunity to see a side of pigeon life that is usually kept away from public view. I am sorry that I shall miss the rest of the story – the appearance of the fledglings, their first attempts to fly and so on.

Boston Railway Station
Boston Railway Station

We at last reached Boston’s Victorian railway station and admired the entrance arcade which has been restored to its original 1850 appearance. A new booking hall was added in 1911 but the former entrance was restored in 1992-3.

We then set out to explore Boston. What we found was a town full of fine buildings of historic and aesthetic interest. There was so much, in fact, that I can only provide a few samples in this post. If you know and admire Boston, you will no doubt miss some of your favourite buildings but difficult choices had to be made about what to include and what to leave out.

Swan House

Swan House
Swan House

Near the station stands the first of our discoveries, a handsome building with a swan on top, called Swan House. Originally an industrial building now converted for residential use, Swan house was was a factory making bedding with the goose feathers for which Boston was famous. In was built in 1877 to replace a previous factory that was destroyed by fire and only later became known as Swan House. The present swan atop to the building is a glass fibre replacement for the original. Why a swan, I wonder, when the trade carried out within was the manufacture of bedding made with goose feathers? Perhaps the owners thought that ‘Swan House’ sounded more elegant than ‘Goose House’.

I might add here that thanks are owing to Boston Borough Council, Heritage Lincolnshire and The Boston Preservation Trust for the plaques and information boards installed throughout the town to help us understand and enjoy the buildings we are seeing and visiting.

Municipal Buildings
Municipal Buildings

This beautiful building with its unusual ceramic finish was opened in 1904 (architect James Rowell) as the town’s Municipal Buildings. Here were to be found not only the Council Offices and the Mayor’s Parlour but also the Fire Station, the Police Station and Police Court (complete with cells and exercise yard), the School of Art and the Public Library, the latter a beneficiary of a financial contribution from Andrew Carnegie.

Shodfriars Hall
Shodfriars Hall

I will admit that on my first sight of this building I was sceptical as to whether it was what it appeared to be. For one thing, it is very large and the subsidence and warping that you expect to see in genuine Tudor buildings weren’t evident. I thought it might be a ‘Tudorbethan’ construction of the 1930s when such were common. However, a plaque on the side tells us that the original 15th century building was subjected to remodelling and restoration by John Oldrid Scott (son of the rather more famous George Gilbert) in the 1870s. Historic England nonetheless accords it a Grade II* listing and, in a separate report (NB PDF file), goes into its complex history in more detail.

Town Bridge
Town Bridge

The town of Boston sits on the River Witham. Depending on your point of view, the Witham either becomes, or drains into, the River Haven, which itself empties into the Wash beside the outfall of the River Welland. Boston grew up in the neighbourhood of a ford across the Witham but that wet crossing was iater improved by a series of bridges. One such was built by John Rennie in 1806-7. According to Historic England, this bridge was ‘largely rebuilt 1913 by John Webster’, although they state that ‘The site of the bridge was moved slightly southwards from the site of the C18 and earlier bridges’. Other sources have it that the 1913 bridge replaced the old one which was demolished. I am unable to arbitrate between those two views.

The Custom House
The Custom House

Following the east bank of the river southwards, we came to Custom House Quay (previously called Packhouse Quay) which served as the town’s port until Boston Dock was opened in 1882. It would have been a busy and thriving port with goods arriving from, and sailing to, ports all around the world. The port’s custom house was built in 1725 to replace an earlier one. It is Grade II listed.

Fydell House
Fydell House

Nearby stands the striking Fydell House, built 1726 for the Fydell family. Various notables lived in the house over the generations, until 1934 when it was faced with demolition. Opposition to this led to the formation of the Boston Preservation Trust who were able to buy the house and preserve it for posterity. It has been awarded a Grade I listing.

Boston Guildhall and Guildhall Museum
Boston Guildhall and Guildhall Museum

Next door to Fydell House is this ancient building that was originally the Boston Guildhall, home of the religious Guild of St Mary. It was built in the 1390s and merits a Grade I listing. Today it is a museum. A notable feature is the large kitchen – members of the Guild of St Mary clearly liked to dine well. To sum up the building’s long history, I can do no better than to quote the information board:

Boston Guildhall was built in the 1390s for the Guild of St Mary whose members comprised some of Boston’s wealthiest and most influential merchants. Upon the dissolution of the religious guilds by Henry VIII, the Guildhall subsequently became the first Town Hall; also serving as a court and gaol, as well as other occasional uses including warehousing. The Pilgrim Fathers were tried and held in the Guildhall in 1607 for trying to leave the country without the consent of the crown, before ultimately reaching Leiden in Holland and then sailing on the Mayflower to the New World in 1620. The courtroom and cells are still to be seen in the Guildhall…

Boston Coat of Arms
Boston Coat of Arms

On the gate of the Guildhall is displayed this colourful plaque showing Boston’s coat of arms. This in fact is the coat of arms granted to the town in 1568. It was replaced by a slightly modified version in 1974. In the centre, upon a black shield are three coronets, representing the three large landowners of Boston in 1568, the Duke of Richmond, the Duke of Suffolk and the Duke of Brittany. Above the shield at the top is a wool pack with a ram on it, symbolizing Boston’s historic importance in the wool trade. The motto PER MARE ET PER TERRAM means ‘By sea and by land’ and what more fitting symbol for this concept than two mermaids? Some think, however, that there is more to this than meets the eye and that the mermaids in fact represent Anne Boleyn and Princess Mary, Duchess of Suffolk, who had connections with the town.

Late 15th Century Muniments Chest
Late 15th Century Muniments Chest

To visit the museum thoroughly and learn all it has to tell you would take many hours but ours had to be a short visit. There was a lot of information on display and interesting artifacts such as the muniments chest shown above. We also peeped into the cells where the Separatists, later known as the Pilgrim Fathers, were held pending their trial.

A view of the Guildhall Kitchen
A view of the Guildhall Kitchen

The kitchen is palatial and has a number of ovens and fireplaces with spikes for roasting meat. A looping sound track suggests the presence of an irascible chef and his sous-chef assistants as they prepare a dinner for the Guild members.

Court Room
Court Room

This ground floor room was perhaps originally the council chamber for the Guildhall but later it became a court room. It lacks the usual fixtures of a courtroom and it is thought that when the court was to be in session, furniture had to be brought in and set out appropriately. A looping video recounts typical cases that would have been heard here and the punishments likely to have been meted out. Perhaps the most controversial from our modern point of view was the case of the wife, condemned for scolding her husband and being forced to wear a scold’s bridle, a cage-like accoutrement fitting over the woman’s head and incorporating a plate that projected into her mouth and held her tongue down flat and spikes to discourage movement. The punishment was as much the public humiliation and mockery as the physical discomfort.

Spiral staircase
Spiral staircase

In the middle of the floor was the top of a steep spiral staircase leading to a lower level to which visitors did not have access. What was its purpose? I have no idea. I thought at first that it might be for bringing prisoners into the court but then I remembered that the cells were on a level with the court. Unsolved mystery!

Quaker Meeting House
Quaker Meeting House

After viewing the museum, we continued our rambles and visited the Unitarian Church whose schoolroom is used by the A. J. Dance School and by Boston’s Quakers as their meeting house.

Part of the Dominican Friary
Part of the Dominican Friary

Our attention was attracted by this obviously ancient building. A plaque tells us that it once contained the refectory of the Dominican Friary. Parts of it date from the 14th century but it was rebuilt in 1309. After the dissolution of the monasteries, the building went into decline and was finally rescued by the Boston Preservation Trust and turned into a theatre and arts centre. We went in and had a cup of tea!

Exchange Building
Exchange Building

This large and imposing building dates from the late 18th century when the then Boston Corporation sought to improve the aspect of the west side of Market Place. Thomas Lumby designed the building which was to contain dwellings in the upper level and a fish market on the ground floor to replace the market fish stalls lost to the development. Later, the fish market was discontinued and the space it occupied converted into municipal offices. These changes occurred in the mid-19th century when the name Exchange Building started to be used. These days, the ground floor consists of retail units and the upper floors accommodate offices. The building has a Grade II* listing.

Boston Market
Boston Market

We paid a quick visit to Boston Market which operates every Wednesday and Saturday in the appropriately named Market Place. The market has been in existence from at least the time of Henry VIII.

Boston Central Post Office
Boston Central Post Office
Now closed pending conversion for new use

In Wide Bargate, on its corner with Park Gate, we found the Central Post Office. This building, we thought, was obviously Edwardian, its style being so much like many others of that period. Just to make sure, we looked for a date, as post offices of the period usually include a plaque with the date under the royal cipher. We could find no date, though we did notice on an adjoining wall (not the post office itself) in Park Gate a small plaque bearing the number 1935. Here was a little mystery. So…

Boston Library
Boston Library

We betook ourselves to Boston’s public library and ransacked the local history section. Books that we might have expected to help us, such as Pevsner, didn’t even mention the post office, while those that did all gave the spurious date of 1935. Sure of obtaining correct data from what I thought of as an impeccably reliable source, I went online with my iPhone and sought Historic England’s list entry for the post office. Imagine my incredulity to find that this bastion of expertise and accuracy also quoted the 1935 date! (I have to say that this has severely shaken my confidence in Historic England whose records I now treat with caution.)

Despite this setback I was determined to get to the truth and so I continued searching online. My luck was in because I discovered an excellent site with the name British Post Office Buildings and Their Architects : an Illustrated Guide. Did this site have an entry on Boston’s Central Post office and did it give a date? Yes, to both, and you can read that carefully researched page here. It proved, by citing irrefutable evidence, that the true date of completion of the post office was 1907, right in the Edwardian period as we had supposed. I have retained the URL of that site and emailed my appreciation to its author!

These fine old post offices are closing all over the country. We cannot argue with economic necessity, of course, but it is sad to see them put at risk or being ‘developed’ for some unsuitable alternative use. This post office is also closed and awaiting its fate. Historic England has at least given it a Grade II listing so let us hope this provides a measure of protection for this fine old building.

Centenary Methodist Church
Centenary Methodist Church

This remarkable structure is the Centenary Methodist Church, built in 1839 by Stephen Lewin and still in use. It has received a Grade II* listing despite being partially destroyed by fire in 1909 and having to be rebuilt. We did not visit the interior and I will say no more about its history. You can find more about this in the Historic England listing or, more succinctly on the site of Heritage Gateway.

St Botolph's Church
St Botolph’s Church

As you move around Boston, you continually notice a tower in the background of most views. The tower is tall and fairly slender and it is therefore puzzling when you learn that it is affectionately know as ‘the Stump’. The tower belongs to the Church of St Botolph, the saint, so it is thought, who gave his name to the town. ‘St Botolph’s Town’, it is alleged, became eroded to give ‘Boston’. St Botolph’s is one of the largest parish churches in England and possesses one of the tallest medieval towers with an approximate height of 272 feet or 83m.

There were churches on the site from very early times but construction of the present one started in 1309. The tower was not begun until 1450 and work on it continued until the first couple of decades of the 16th century. Why it is called ‘the Stump’ is uncertain and although there are various theories about this, none has been proven correct.

We went inside for a look.

Interior view, St Botolph's
Interior view, St Botolph’s

The font
The font

The pulpit
The pulpit

As the view from outside the church correctly suggests, the inside is also very large and it would take a long time to catalogue all of the church’s features and treasures. The above samples will suffice for now.

Boston had kept us busy and the evening was approaching. So was the time of our train. We found a friendly little pub where we could relax for a while over tea and then we started back to the station.

The Stump from St Botolph's Bridge
The Stump from St Botolph’s Bridge

I took my last photo of the ubiquitous Stump from St Botolph’s Bridge. This is a pedestrian bridge across the Witham that was installed in February 2014, replacing an earlier bridge.

Boston left us with the feeling that we had seen a lot but by no means all of it. Much remains still to be seen and enjoyed. Perhaps we will return another time and capture some more of the intriguing town of Boston.

Copyright 2017 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Tilbury and Tilbury Fort

Sunday, April 16th 2017

Today’s jaunt was to Tilbury whose position, on the Thames to the east of London, is shown on the map below (click for the corresponding Google Map).

Tilbury and London on the map
Tilbury and London on the map
(Click for Google Map)

The favourable location of Tilbury means that it has long been, and still is, an important port handling, among other goods, paper, containers, grain and cars. There is also a ferry service between Tilbury and Gravesend on the south bank of the river.

The town grew up from an Anglo-Saxon settlement and although there are uncertainties concerning the derivation of the name, the general consensus is that it combines the personal name Tila with burh, meaning a fortified settlement, thus ‘Tila’s stronghold’.

At Tilbury, the Thames narrows. This makes it a fine place to site defences against enemy ships seeking to approach London. This logic caused Henry VIII to build a fort here whose cannons could fire upon such unwanted guests. It was this fort that we had come to see.

Tilbury Town Station
Tilbury Town Station

We took the train from Fenchurch Street Station and disembarked in Tilbury. The railway reached Tilbury in 1854 when a station called Tilbury was opened to bring passengers to the docks for the steamboat services. In 1885, a second station, called Tilbury Dock, was opened to serve the town. Perhaps this latter name caused confusion because in 1934, Tilbury Station was renamed Tilbury Riverside and Tilbury Dock became Tilbury Town, a name which it still bears today. Riverside closed in 1992, leaving Tilbury Town as the only station. (There is a bus to take passengers from this station to the docks.) The present station buildings obviously do not date from 1885 but I don’t know where they were put up.

A pause for refreshment
A pause for refreshment

From the station, we walked down Dock Street. We thought of having a cup of tea somewhere but the town was very quiet and most shops and businesses were closed. We eventually happened upon a cafe called The Dock. It was very busy but we managed to find a table. It seemed likely that this was the only place open so we decided we’d better have lunch while we were there!

We set out again after lunch, making for the fort. Perhaps there is a bus service that takes you there but if there is we never discovered it. We therefore walked, both there and back. I don’t know how far it is but it took a while and on the return I was glad when we finally reached the station again.

The only Website I have found for the fort is Tilbury Fort on the English Heritage site and that offers no clues as to how to get there. Perhaps they assume we will all roll up in our Rolls Royces.

Whose horses?
Whose horses?

Here and there we saw the odd sign pointing the way to the fort but we mostly relied on Tigger’s Inner Pigeon, assisted by the map application on her iPhone. We left Dock Road to join St Andrews Road, crossing a grassy area on which we found a number of horses (or are they ponies?) grazing. There were also a couple of donkeys. There was no sign of their owner and nothing to prevent them from straying apart from the grass which they were consuming. (On our return journey, we saw one of the donkeys walking along the main road with a lengthening queue is motor vehicles forming behind him.)

Approaching the fort
Approaching the fort

We eventually reached the neighbourhood of the fort and walked along this path, looking for the entrance. I read somewhere that the V-shaped notches in the wall on the right once each contained a gun capable of firing on shipping on the Thames. This picture on the Thurrock Local History site shows the layout of the fort which, because of its shape is called a star fort.

The Water Gate
The Water Gate

One enters the fort through the elaborate Water Gate. The original fort was built between 1539 and 1540 by Henry VIII but the structure that we see today dates largely from the reign of Charles II. It was begun in 1670 and the gate was designed as a monument to commemorate its building or, more likely, as self-advertisement by the King whose supposed achievements it celebrates. Comically enough, the niche where a statue of the monarch should reside remains empty.

This, however, is more than just a gate as it also contained the quarters of the master gunner and a chapel. The latter can be visited (see below). When you buy your ticket, you are given a guide to the fort and a brief lecture on where everything is.

Parade Ground
Parade Ground

In the centre of the star formation lies the Parade Ground. This is of considerable size and it’s virtually impossible to give an impression of it with photos taken on the ground. The nearest I could come to itt was by stitching several photos together, which leads to some perspective distortion. (Click for a larger version.)

Remains of soldiers' barracks
Remains of soldiers’ barracks

Part of what is now open space would once have been occupied by the soldiers’ barracks of which only the outlines of the foundations remain.

The Chapel The chapel and the vestry
The chapel and the vestry

If you go up the steps at the side of the Water Gate to an upper floor you find that chapel and beside it a small room described as the vestry. It was constructed in the late 17th century and a notice tells us that ‘This is the oldest chapel within a fortress in Great Britain. The chapel was last used in 1940 as a gun operations room for the anti-aircraft defences of this area’. Judging by its relatively small size, I imagine that when it was used as a chapel, this would have been for officers only.

View of the moat
View of the moat

From the battlements, one has a view of broad stretches of water. These are part of the moat system created to protect the fort from possible attack on land.

The moat system
The moat system
(Click for Google Map)

The above map section shows the elaborate moat system surrounding the fort on all but the side on the river. (Click to see the corresponding Google Map.)

Part of the Gunpowder Store
Part of the Gunpowder Store

An important part of the fort is the gunpowder store. It is very large, consisting of two chambers, each capable of holding 3,600 barrels of powder. The size reflects the fort’s role as a distribution centre: gunpowder was delivered here from gunpowder factories in London and Faversham and then issued to other forts in the area or to the army. There were also smaller magazines near the guns which could be used straightaway and replenished as necessary from the store.

Powder Magazine Crane
Powder Magazine Crane

Cranes such as this one were used for moving and stacking barrels of gunpowder. They travelled around the store on wooden rails and were operated by ropes. The cranes were made entirely of wood to avoid the use of metal which could give off sparks – something you obviously did not want in a gunpowder store!

Studded door
Studded door

One of the doors in the storage building in which the studs have been arranged to form a decorative pattern.

Officers' Quarters
Officers’ Quarters

This terrace of houses was built to provide accommodation for senior officers and their families. One can now only speculate what it must have been like for wives and children living here in a military establishment in which the drilling of soldiers and the firing of cannon would have been familiar events. The houses were built in 1685, rebuilt around 1772 and modified again in the 19th century. In this, they reflect the evolution of the fort as a whole.

Pumps for domestic water supply
Pumps for domestic water supply

In front of the houses, between them and the parade ground, stand two pumps. These would have provided water for the houses and for other purposes. The ground in the area of the fort is marshy and its water not suitable for use. Rain water was therefore collected and stored in tanks beneath the parade ground to be drawn as necessary by the pumps.

Container ship  sailing down the Thames
Container ship sailing down the Thames

I am glad to have visited the fort though it was less interesting than I had hoped – ‘underwhelmed’ was Tigger’s word for her impression of it. I don’t doubt that maintaining a site such as this is challenging and expensive but there was a certain lacklustre quality to it. We gained very little impression of what the fort would have been like at various stages in its operational history and it felt little different from the many castle ruins dotted about the country. Could they not, for example, have opened one of the officers’ houses to visitors, restored as it might have been when in use?

The World's End pub
The World’s End pub

Conveniently located beside the fort is a large pub called The World’s End (and after our long walk to arrive at the fort, we felt we had reached the end of the world!). Here we stopped for rest and refreshment before undertaking the journey on foot back to Tilbury and the railway station.

Copyright 2017 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Some street art in Croydon

Saturday, April 15th 2017

Among the many attractions of Croydon is the extensive areas given over to street art. We visit Croydon regularly to see what is new in the art of the street painter. Today’s expedition was one such catch-up session.

Park Hill Park and Recreation Ground
Park Hill Park and Recreation Ground

The first thing we did, however, was to take a walk in the park. To be precise, we visited the Park Hill Park and Recreation Ground.

Trees in Flower in Park Hill Park
Trees in Flower in Park Hill Park

I was quite impressed with it, finding it well laid out and impeccably kept. There were flower beds in bloom and trees in blossom adding welcome colour to what was unfortunately a grey and rather chilly day. Park facilities include a netball and basketball court and tennis courts with changing rooms and public toilets. There is even an open-air cafe.

Park Hill Water Tower
Park Hill Water Tower

Among the cited attractions of the park is the water tower, with its curious central turret. It was built in 1867 and is Grade II listed. It fell out of use in the 1920s, I think, and there may be uncertainty as to its future. You need special permission to visit it.

The self-powered skateboarder
The self-powered skateboarder

Another item of interest in the park was this colourful character travelling round and round it on what appeared to be a self-powered skateboard.

Croydon Town Hall
Croydon Town Hall

Moving on from the park, we had this rather fine view of the Victorian Town Hall, becomingly framed by greenery. I had already photographed the building close-up (see Rambling around Croydon and Morden) but I found this glimpse of it particularly charming.

And so to the street art. What follows is my own selection and not intended as anything approaching a complete catalogue. I will acknowledge the artists but not go into details of location. The artists’ names are linked to my evolving page, Street Artists, if entries exist for them. For best effect, click to see a larger version of each picture.

Art by Samer
Samer

Art by Sr. X
Sr. X

Art by Woskerski
Woskerski

Art by Giusi Tomasello
Giusi Tomasello

Art by Olivier Roubieu
Olivier Roubieu

Art by Airborne Mark
Airborne Mark

Art by Ali Hamish
Ali Hamish

Art by Dreph
Dreph

Art by Carleen de Sözer
Carleen de Sözer

Art by Autone
Autone

Art by Samer
Samer

Art by JXC
JXC

There is plenty of scope for street art in Croydon and many shops have also commissioned paintings for their shutters and shop fronts. While the latter works are likely to be fairly long lived, the art elsewhere in the streets changes continually, making Croydon a rewarding district to return to again and again.

Copyright 2017 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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