How high is Boston Stump?
Boston 'Stump'. as it is affectionately known to the residents of this small East Lincolnshire market town, is the largest parish church in England. It is the parish church of St. Botolph, and Christians have worshipped on this site since the seventh century. It is said that St. Botolph was a pious Benedictine monk with 'locks as white as wool, and a heart like the down of a thistle.' After the Norman Conquest, some land was given to Alan Rufus, Earl of Brittany. and in 1309 work began on the building of our magnificent 'Stump', replacing the Norman church whose foundations lie three feet under the south aisle.
In those days, Boston was still known as St. Botolph's Town. Sitting on the edge of the Wash, it was an extremely prosperous port, second only to London. Merchants came from all over Europe to the 'Great Fair' which began on St Botolph's day, 17th June, where they traded their wines and furs for wool and cloth. It's hard to imagine that wool from the backs of three million sheep was exported anually from this small town.
The church is situated on the bank of the River Haven and the building was completed around 1390, except for the tower. the building of the tower didn't start until around 1450. It is believed the architect was Reginald of Ely, who also worked on King's College chapel at Cambridge University. The foundations apparently go five feet deeper than the river bed, down to the boulder-clay. He obviously didn't want to take any chances of his wonderful fete of engineering falling down at some later date. It took seventy years to complete the tower, which stands at two hundred and seventy-two feet! No one knows why it was built so high, or why it has been called 'The Stump'.
Towards the completion of the tower, Boston's prosperity was dwindling commercially, however, it remained a centre for religion. The guild of the Corpus Christi was the only religious guild in Lincolnshire, and it is believed that as they were very wealthy and owned most of the properties in the area, it was their wealth that paid for the construction of the tower.
Nowadays, it's not often you can look up at the tower without seeing scaffolding on one side or another, but today I didn't spot any. You can climb the two hundred and eighty - odd steps to the first balcony - if you're fit that is. I once suggested they had a first-aider on hand at the top to administer oxygen! It's well worth the climb for the view though. On a clear day you can see Lincoln Cathedral, and on most days it's possible to see Tattershall Castle, and in the other direction way out to the Wash. Some say it's an eyesore and others (mainly Bostonians) have an affection for their landmark. It's always good to see it when you're traveling home after a long journey (and you can see for miles and miles out here - it's so flat) because love it or hate it, you know you're almost home.
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