This restoration probably came about through the influence that Sir George Gilbert Scott’s father-in-law exerted in Boston. In 1836, even before his marriage to Caroline, Scott was the sole contender for the Boston Union Workhouse Commission, and it is not surprising that in 1843 he was asked to carry out a survey and make a report on the restoration of St. Botolph’s. This is one of the great parish churches of England. It is nearly one hundred yards long and very big by normal parish church standards, but its great size is completely overwhelmed by the so-called stump. This is an enormous tower at the west end of the church, over 270 feet high, which, it is said, can be seen from forty miles away. It was started in about 1425 and took nearly one hundred years to build. The nave and chancel are older than the tower, having been started in the early fourteenth century and completed with an extension to the chancel in 1390. Scott reported on 25 September 1843. It was the usual story of neglect:
The object of every repair should be the faithful restoration of those features of the original building which yet remain, and their preservation from further injury or decay; and no alteration should be attempted which is not the renewal of some ancient feature which has been lost, or absolutely necessary for rendering the building suitable to the present wants of the parishioners; and this should be done in strict conformity with the character and intention of the building.
The Town Council was responsible for the chancel and made a grant of £460 for its repair, while most of the rest of the £3,365 required for the work was raised by public subscription. This was not enough to carry out all Scott’s recommendations and it was decided to defer the less essential work ‘until a more convenient time’.
The work was started in 1844 and completed in the following year. As he had promised, Scott’s restoration ‘was exceedingly cautious’ particularly in comparison with his other work at that time. Perhaps part of the reason for his special case at Boston was that his sister’s husband, who was also his wife’s brother, John Henry Oldrid, had moved from Gawcott early in 1844 to become the Lecturer of Boston and effectively a second incumbent. The work included a new Decorated east window. The completion of the first phase of restoration was in 1845 and this would have been overseen by Moffatt in Scott’s absence. Here, Caroline’s father and brother may have been offended by Moffatt’s treatment of them. Scott makes the point that Moffatt had ‘got into a sad way of offending employers’. On 20 March 1851, a parish meeting decided to continue the work by raising further funds and appointing a committee to manage the work. Scott’s father-in-law and patron had died in May 1849, so it is perhaps significant that the committee decided to hold a competition for the next stage and this may also have been connected to Moffatt’s behaviour. The winner of this was George Gordon Place of Nottingham. A further £7,105 was raised and the work was completed with two re-opening services on 12 May 1853. Perhaps due to John Henry Oldrid, Scott was appointed consulting architect to Place, but had an argument with him over the advisability of vaulting the tower and resigned the post in 1852. However, in 1857, Scott was back restoring the south porch and the adjacent Cotton Chapel, dedicated to John Cotton a former Vicar and early settler in Boston, Massachusetts. His other work includes the sedilia, aumbry doors, choir stall canopies and organ case.
Spurrell, M., Boston Parish Church (Guide Book, Boston, 1987), p. 11.
Pevsner, N., Harris, J. and Antram, N., Lincolnshire, Buildings of England (Penguin Books, London, 1989), p. 156.
Thompson, P., The History and Antiquities of Boston (1856), pp. 167-9.
Scott’s Recollections, II 63.