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Boston Town Defences

In the civil parish of Boston.
In the historic county of Lincolnshire.
Modern Authority of Lincolnshire.
1974 county of Lincolnshire.
Medieval County of Lincolnshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: TF32854427
Latitude 52.97938° Longitude -0.02267°

Boston Town Defences has been described as a probable Urban Defence.

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains.


The town of Boston began as the port of St Botolph shortly after the conquest. In 1203 the citizens were granted a charter by King John. At some uncertain period the town on the east bank of the Witham was ditched and walled, and in 1285 the walls were repaired. There is mention of Wormgate, Bargate and St John's Gate, St John's Bridge, mentioned in 1567 when it was ordered that a gate should be placed there, was at the south end of the ditch where it meets the river. In 1643 the town was besieged and taken by the Parliamentarians. Excavations by M. Barley in the grounds of Fydell House at TF32854387, on the inner lip of the ditch, revealed a brick wall, going down to brick and stone foundations, 6 feet thick, on a timber platform. On pottery evidence the wall appears to be early 14th century. The Barditch had been piped in a brick conduit about 1725, and 'no clear indications were found of the medieval ditch which probably lay further east'. (This appears to be a somewhat ambiguous reference to the line of the ditch before it was piped or to its outer lip.) Further excavations at Fydell House by P. Mayes and also east of the Odeon Cinema, yielded a large range of pottery from the 11th century onwards. In all the cuttings the wall and ditch were found on the expected line. There was no proof that the wall was ever defensive. (Lincolnshire HER)

There are no murage grants: that claimed as support for the statement that walls were begun in 1285 (P. Thompson, Collections for an account of Boston, 1820, 32) is in fact a pavage grant (CPR, 165). There is no certainty that the ditch marked on Hall's map of 1741 was ever defensive in character ( Med. Arch., II. 200; ibid., V, 323). (Turner 1971)

Thompson does actually reference the patent roll entry as pavage (Thompson 1856 p. 44n1) but cites, as his source for a grant of murage, Records of the Court of Chancery, Tower. Both sources quoted by Thompson have the same date (22 May 1285). Gatehouse has no idea what Thompson's source _Records of the Court of Chancery, Tower_ actually is/was; It may have been a handlist copied by someone from the original parchment rolls, previously held in the Tower of London but now at The National Archives Kew. It may be these two sources are two different official duplicates of the same lost original patent letter sent to Boston where murage was used in one and pavage in the other; equally it may be these are both copies taken from the same roll where one person has transcribed murage and the other pavage. In print this sort of transcription error seems pretty obvious but the highly abbreviated and minuscule hand of the original court scribe is difficult to read particular in the rather dark conditions of the Tower of London in the C19 using candlelight. Even in good light sometimes transcription is a bit of guesswork. The scholarly Calendar, done by experienced men who had their eye in for the medieval hand, is more likely to be the correct transcription. However, this could be resolved by looking at the original roll at The National Archive.
From C12 the east side was enclosed by a moat or open sewer known as the Barditch which had an internal earth bank of which there are some scant traces remains. The name of the ditch might suggest there was a gate of some form, although Bar gates tend to have been simple wooden gates designed to stop animals wandering in or out rather than anything more substantial or defensive. There is some doubt if Barditch was defensive in nature although there may have also been a thin brick wall. As a major port and market there will have been some need to control access of market goods as these were liable to tolls and taxes. However it seems the people of Boston felt they could best express their civic pride via their famous church rather than through town walls and gatehouses.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:01

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