About Boston Preservation Trust

In 1935, the fate of Fydell House in South Street was in the balance. A Birmingham consortium were 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, a limited company, whose aim to save other historic buildings in the town and bring them back into meaningful use continues to this day.

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, who had bought the land behind the site of The House for £20 from Boston Corporation. This land had been owned by the Corporation since 1554 and had been horticultural land attached to St Mary’s Guildhall.

The Jacksons were Mercers: dealers in textiles, silks, velvets and other expensive cloths. Prominent in Boston, one of the family, Edmund, had been Mayor of Boston in 1668 and 1678 but the decline of the cloth trade eventually led to The House being sold. The House then passed to Joseph Fydell. The ownership of such a fine house immediately raised his social standing although ultimately it proved to be an expensive investment.

Fydell House was thus given its name by Joseph Fydell (1687 – 1731), a merchant who could trace his associations with Boston back to William Fydell, an apprentice to Alderman Thomas Marcall back 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 when The House owned by Samuel Jackson became available, Joseph quickly made the purchase, and in work carried out following his acquisition had the date and his initials embossed on the lead work. The Fydells were granted a coat of arms in the same year. This used a pun on the surname “Esto Fidelis usque ad finem” (always be faithful and just).

Joseph Fydell only survived until 1731 and was buried at Freiston. He never married. Financial troubles had caught up with him and his executor John Browne had to pay off debts, probably with money from Robert Fydell, to whom with his son Richard, the property was transferred in 1733.

The House then passed on through several generations, including Robert who almost lost it when he was declared bankrupt in 1738 and his son Richard, a wine merchant (1710-1780), who served as Boston’s MP and three times Mayor of Boston from 1734-54. He was educated at Charterhouse and Trinity College Cambridge. After Richard died, his widow Elizabeth (nee Hall), to whom he was married in 1740, lived on in the house until 1783, after which the eldest son, Thomas (1740-1812), was increasingly in residence though he also had many other interests in Chepstow and Gloucestershire.

His business expanded to include banking, property and livestock. Gysor’s hall, opposite Fydell House, was leased first by Richard Fydell and later bought from the corporation by his son Thomas for wine storage etc. Eventually Thomas demolished and rebuilt Gysor’s Hall re-using some of the stone which cans still be seen. Richard also owned nearby various stables, granary, outhouses, counting-house, vaults, a scalding yard and coopery.

At about the time of Joseph’s acquisition in 1726, the garden was walled along the Beadsman’s Lane boundary. This lane, which runs between Fydell House and the Guildhall, has at different times been called Townshall or Beadsmans Lane and Guildhall Lane.

To the rear, part of the garden and pasture were once owned by the Greyfriars Monastery, extending to the Maud Foster drain and including a ropewalk and fishponds.

It was here that plain Mr Joseph Banks visited Richard Fydell when they were involved in the Witham drainage scheme and with the plans for the Grand Sluice, and the proposals for the fen enclosure. When Sir Joseph later became recorder for Boston in 1809, Thomas Junior, son of Thomas Senior became his deputy.

Fydell House remained the family home until 1816 when it was leased to tenants. These included Henry Rogers, a solicitor and Lord of the Manor of Freiston and Butterwick. In 1831 a mob broke some windows in Fydell House while rioting over the Reform Act. Francis Yeatman was a wine merchant whose skill as a gardener meant that the garden at the rear of The House was acclaimed to be “the finest garden in the borough”. He lived in The House from 1844-66. His widow, Caroline, continued as a tenant from 1866-75 with 8 children and 5 servants.

She was followed by Mrs Jane Collins, widow of the vicar of Freiston, from 1875-85. Then Samuel Waddington from 1890-1905. He was a trader, president of the Liberal Club, Alderman and Mayor. Tom Kitwood followed from 1906-23, then Fred Miller, a Customs Officer and artist who lived there from 1926-35.

Since its purchase from the Fydell-Rowley family in 1925 for £1600 by The Boston Preservation Trust, Fydell House has served a number of uses, including being the base for the WVS during WW2. Stencilled messages for bomb raid assembly in the cellars can still be found today. The roof and second floor were extensively damaged by a fire bomb in April 1941, but no-one was hurt. Miss Phoebe Rennell was the resident caretaker at that time.

Fydell House has also helped strengthen Boston’s connection with the United states on a number of occasions, most notably with US Ambassador Joseph Kennedy, father of President JF Kennedy, whose visit to Boston in 1938 included Fydell House where he dedicated the American Room.

From 1946-2003, The House and some of the buildings in Spain Court were occupied as an outpost of Nottingham University, providing adult education alongside the Workers’ Education Association. The residential flat on the second floor was, throughout this period, occupied by successive Wardens of Pilgrim College, as it was known.

Close to Fydell House are smaller noteworthy grade 2 listed buildings which provide income for The Trust. The member ship, volunteers and trustees have recently set themselves afresh to providing a well maintained, beautiful and relevant building which can be used as a community asset and as a place for lectures and events or for interest groups to meet. A place where Boston’s history can be displayed and explained, with a tranquil walled garden of outstanding merit which can be shared with others as a place for enjoyment and celebrations.

Sir Nikolas Pevsner commented that “few buildings in the area show the ‘swagger’ of Fydell House in Boston”

(many details from Brenda Lane and others)

Join BPT

Membership of Boston Preservation Trust (BPT)

We are always looking for new members.   As a member you would be adding a little financial support to our charitable aims, and gaining influence over the way the Trust works and in the activities of the Trust.   The covid emergency has had a temporary dampening effect on many of the things which normally happen in Fydell House, but this is now recovering as we look forward to seeing members again in greater numbers. 

 We will be returning to our programme of activities which include lectures, historical tours, field trips and visits to local places of interest.   Members enjoy reduced entrance fees for much of this.   We also look to our membership for their input into the Annual General Meeting of the Trust, at which the business is approved and trustees are elected.

We welcome any interested person,  but would especially like to recruit younger people and new arrivals in the town.   It is one of our aims to involve more people who haven’t until now considered Fydell House to be a local asset or who haven’t been involved with us before.   Please come in and see us if you want to know more, or e-mail us on manager@fydellhouse.org.uk

We are also eager to welcome new volunteers for as many or as few hours as can be spent. There are several roles within the volunteer group.   Training will be provided where necessary, and health and safety and the wellbeing of our volunteers is very much in mind. Volunteers can help with the running of the office, or in the kitchen or catering operation, or with explaining the history and the building to visitors, or meeting and greeting, or with wedding and events in the house, or in the garden.   Details and role descriptions are available at the same e-mail address, or from the office at Fydell House.   Our phone number is 01205 351520.

The aims of Boston Preservation Trust (BPT) are to improve and protect the architectural heritage of the town and local area.  Fydell House is the central focus of our efforts, both the building and the uses to which it is put.   The house is a community asset and is used for events of all kinds, weddings, exhibitions, displays, room hire for interest groups, and as a base for small businesses.   We aim to improve the wellbeing of our users, and welcome volunteers who may be looking for a purpose or just a period of support or adjustment.   Without our volunteers, we could not exist.

BPT also has a Civic Group which carries a wider remit of observing, documenting, rewarding and commenting on aspects of the local area relating to our heritage, architecture or local environment.  Planning applications are inspected and comments are agreed for submission to the planners. You are very welcome to join this. The trust also involves itself with Blue Plaques to identify notable buildings or inhabitants.

We are supported by the National Heritage Lottery Fund.

If you would like to become a member of Boston Preservation Trust you can do it by contacting the Operations Manager at Fydell House on 01205 351520.  Or by e-mail on manager@fydellhouse.org.uk  giving the following information-:

Your name………………………………………………………………………………….

Your address, including postcode……………………………………………….

Your phone number……………………………………………………………………

Your e-mail address…………………………………………………………………..  

You will be asked to sign our standard form giving permission to store your e-mail address securely on our database and to use your data to inform you about trust events but not for other purposes.

Subscriptions

Annual membership………………………….£10.00 payable on joining and once a year on January 1st.

Life membership……………………………….£150.00

Junior membership……………………………£1.00

Couple life membership…………………….£200.00

Please return this information by e-mail to the e-mail address above or by post to Operations Manager, Boston Preservation Trust,  Fydell House,  South Street, PE21 6HT or contact us for our bank details to make payment by standing order or BACS.

HF Bid

Our bid for National Lottery Heritage Fund Support.

Thanks to everyone who buys lottery tickets!

In 2022 the National Lottery Heritage Fund gave us the go-ahead for a 12 month project to develop plans for a full grant application to make repairs and secure the future use of Fydell House for everyone in the town.

This first year was to develop the details of all the repair work needed to repair and heat Fydell House, building on the survey work already completed with our earlier grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. We have also used this Development Phase to explore and pilot new activities and boost volunteers numbers, as we look to the longer term.  Finally, we have prepared plans to transform access to the house and the garden for people with disabilities.

This part of the Project has been funded by grants totalling £117,000 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, and from others including The Architectural Heritage Fund, the Seven Pillars of Wisdom Trust, The Medlock Trust and the Ancaster Trust, amongst others. The CooP and our own BBL have also contributed to the Project.

The next stage will be spent on delivering the building work and all other elements of the plans. This phase is costed at around £2 million and is the subject of our recent Delivery Phase bid to the NLHF.

The renovation and improvements to the house will deal with important structural problems which have built up over the past 300 years, including damaged brickwork, stonework, protection from rain, poor heating and thermal efficiency, damage to the interior, and attention to the electrical system, the cellars, plumbing, lavatories, and the kitchen. We will also improve access to the building by providing a wheelchair route to the front door in keeping with our Grade 1 listed status.  Interior adjustments will improve navigation within and will permit easier access to the rear walled garden.  The former pottery will provide new toilets for events in the garden, and a separate new wooden building at the east end of the garden will provide space for garden volunteers and for skills training.

Fydell House has proved an outstanding place for getting married, celebrating events of all kinds, enjoying a coffee, enjoying a history tour, showing an exhibition, meeting with friends over tea and coffee, business meetings, and many other activities in the house or in the walled gardens behind the house. We will be building on all of this, increasing the range of possibilities and creating opportunities for volunteers and others who come into contact with Fydell House in the years to come.

We are working within a unique and treasured building in Boston. Fydell House has ambitions. But these will be thwarted unless we can renovate the building including insulating and heating it, and make it an even more useful, accessible, and relevant asset for the long term.

Without the support of The National Lottery Heritage Fund and others, places like Fydell House would gradually disappear, but now we have a solid and credible plan for the future.

We expect to hear the outcome of our Delivery Phase bid in the Spring of 2024.

Please continue to support all this by buying lottery tickets.

Civic Group

The Civic Group of Boston Preservation Trust was established to protect and promote high standards of planning, civic amenity, and architecture in the Borough of Boston.

Particular attention is given to ensuring that Boston’s amazing heritage is preserved and nurtured for the benefit of its citizens, tourists, and future generations.

We promote civic pride in Boston and regularly identify special examples of best practice which are acknowledged by the award of a “Certificate of Excellence”. The Annual Awards Reception and Ceremony recognizes the best examples with the “Pride of Boston Winners Shield”.

The Civic Group co-operates with the Council’s planning department by discussion, comment and recommendations on individual planning applications endeavouring to ensure best practice and consistent standards relating to heritage.

The Civic Group meets at 2pm on the second Monday of each month at Fydell House and new members are always welcome to work with us. Please contact us to discuss if you are interested in helping.

Members’ Update

Volunteers

We are incredibly lucky to have some new volunteers on board, and of course our longstanding volunteers who really do make Fydell House! We couldn’t be more grateful and we look forward to thanking them personally at a dedicated lunch this month.

Lottery

As you know, we have just completed the Development Phase of our National Lottery Heritage Fund Project to renovate Fydell House and ensure its usefulness for everyone.   We have been helped in this by our partners from Heritage Lincolnshire to do much of the groundwork for the next stage, called the ‘Delivery Phase’, for which we have submitted our bid for around £2 million.

We have already appointed a Lead architect, Carl Andrews, who knows Boston and the building well.   Carl is overseeing the detail of the renovation plans.   Laser surveys have been undertaken on the interior.   The plasterwork and papier-mache decoration has been assessed by a specialist firm.    The floorboards above the north staircase have come up to inspect the ceiling below.   The Architect and Conservation Officer have considered the questions of toilets –the number of them, access to them and suitability; access to the front door and to the garden and new uses for the old pottery.

The NHLF set particular store on the whole question of access to the building, especially for people with extra needs.   This is something we have therefore spent time on, and at this stage nothing is ruled out.    But of course, there will have to be compromises at some point when we have a full picture.    To help with this we have had a specialist ‘Access Audit’.

The reports from all the above have been collated by the Project Board and the board of Trustees.  

Katherine Briggs from Heritage Lincolnshire has also been working up her ideas for future activities in the House and the garden.   Some of you will have been involved.   There has been a programme of history talks; some outdoor yoga; some workshops;  work with the cub scouts;  family nature trails;  work with schools; and a Georgian Day.   The aim has been to try things out and see how they go.    There have been some bulbs that didn’t come up!  The NLHF are very keen on this aspect of the project to see how the building might be used.

The NHLF are in frequent contact and we prepare for all meetings carefully.   Our ‘Mid Stage Review’ went well and was crucial point.  

Our loan

We are assembling details to help decide how best to deal with our loan.   Our benefactor, Adrian Isaac generously invested money in the Trust over the past decade to accelerate the process of improving our stock of rental properties.    We have been paying the loan off gradually, but the balance needs to be repaid at some point soon.   There are various possibilities and we will decide this question well before the last minute.  

Spain Court

You will know that we own the lovely grade 2 houses in Spain Court.   In 2021 we spent about £30,000 doing up number two for letting.   Last year we completed exterior painting of all the houses, with the Spain Lane houses to follow.   They will also need work to improve energy efficiency as soon as the latest regulations are finalised.

Costs of running Fydell House

Everyone is aware that energy costs have rocketed.   We keep a close eye on this and of course look for ways to save electricity and gas.   We hope to balance increased costs by increasing our income from all sources, but this will be a struggle.

Repairs

As for Fydell House itself, we know that there are areas of damage caused by water.  The leadwork, spouting, pointing, stonework and brickwork all need attention.  The decorative work in the north stairway, and the arching in the cellars all need attention.   Heating the building relates to the insulation and energy efficiency as much as the method of heating, all of which concern us in the Project.  

 Many of the members of BPT are fully aware of much of the above, but these reports may help fill in some of the detail.   If anyone wishes to become more involved or to ask about any aspect of our plans, we will welcome that.

Bookings

Activities in the House are on the up and we have had more interest in weddings for this year than last.  This is something we welcome but it throws extra work on the volunteers.  We really do appreciate the efforts and the time which our volunteers give us.   Thank you all so very much.  The volunteers are the lifeblood of what we do.

As well as the volunteers and the  NLHF, we are very much in the debt of other supporters such as the Architectural Heritage Fund, the CooP and the Medlock Trust.

Martin Fairman

Chairman, Boston Preservation Trust

23.01.24

PROJECT BOARD

     A Project Board oversees progress, and meets monthly.   Our financial advisor John Atterby steers us through the accounting and financial planning.

The NLHF watch us carefully and we meet them periodically for a detailed review,   A crunch point will arise in March 2023 when the ‘Mid-Term Review’ will determine our likelihood of further funding.   We work hard to give credit to the NLHF and hope you will continue buying lottery tickets with gay abandon.  They all contribute.

REPAIRS

     As for Fydell House itself, we know that there are areas of damage caused by water.  The leadwork, spouting, pointing, stonework and brickwork all need attention.  The decorative work in the north stairway, and the arching in the cellars all need attention.   Heating the building relates to the insulation and energy efficiency as much as the method of heating, all of which concern us in the Project.   The appointment of a Lead Architect for the Project is about to be announced, and will lead to further appointments and detailed assessments.

   We want to keep our precious volunteers fully informed.  So we have had one meeting with this in mind, and others are planned.

    Many of the members of BPT are fully aware of much of the above, but these reports may help fill in some of the detail.   If anyone wishes to become more involved or to ask about any aspect of our plans, we will welcome that.