The Haven, Boston

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The Grand Sluice at Boston, where the River Witham empties into The Haven. The lock is on the far right.

The Haven is the tidal river of the Port of Boston, Lincolnshire in England. It provides access for shipping between Boston Deeps in The Wash and the town, particularly, the dock. It also serves as the outfall into the sea, of the River Witham and of several major land drains of the northern Fens of eastern England, which are known collectively as the Witham Navigable Drains. (TF 337 426).

Physical and economic development[edit]

The Haven, Boston
River Witham
Railway bridge
Grand Sluice and sea lock
A1137 bridge
(tidal below here)
High Street bridge
A16 bridge
Railway swing bridge
Black Sluice pumping station
South Forty-Foot Drain
Proposed barrage
Boston Docks
Maud Foster Drain
Hobhole Drain and sluice
Hobhole pumping station
The Wash

The English settlers who arrived in The Wash, found tidal creeks which gave them entry to the habitable belt of land, inland from the salt-marshes. These creeks, they called "havens". There was a route inland from The Haven, with which this article deals, on which Boston later developed, to the upland of Lindsey. However, the port of Boston did not develop until after natural events had diverted the River Witham into The Haven during the eleventh century.

Simultaneously, this took the river away from Drayton, which had become the successor port of Swineshead as its estuary accumulated silt. The Swin had been to Swineshead what the Zwin was to Bruges but after the loss of the Witham, Bicker became more important than Drayton so its estuary became known as Bicker Haven.

At the time of the Domesday Book (1086), the accounting for Boston was still done under the heading of the manors of Drayton but the wealth of Drayton's holdings, as recorded in the Domesday Book, in Skirbeck makes the presence of a working port at Boston, which then lay in Skirbeck, near certain.

Before The Witham broke into it, The Haven's head was in the area which subsequently became the Market Place. The likely date for the switch of the Witham from Drayton to The Haven is 1014, the date recorded by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as one of unprecedented sea floods. There was another serious flood, later in the century but that came after 1086.

Subsequently, Boston and its Haven became busy with trade as wool was brought into the town for export, particularly to Flanders.

The modern port[edit]

The "Fehn Cartagena" unloading a cargo of stone while moored on a mudbank in The Haven, opposite the Black Sluice

Nowadays, the activity has moved below the old centre of the town. The fishing fleet moors below the railway bridge and trading vessels lie either in tidal berths beside the dock where there are facilities for handling scrap steel or in the dock itself where there are facilities for handling paper, steel coil and grain as well as timber and general cargo, including containers.

There is a proposal to build a tidal barrage in the neighbourhood of the Black Sluice in order to reduce the incidence of flooding in the town and to manage boat access between the River Witham and the South Forty-Foot Drain. The work will be authorised by a Transport and Works Act 1992 Order, and is expected to be completed by 2013.[1] The Transport and Works Act (1992) was introduced to simplify the process of obtaining permission for the construction or alteration of railways and inland navigations, and any work which interferes with rights of navigation.[2]

Historical connection[edit]

In 1607, The Haven, between Boston and the sea (TF 361 402), was the scene of the first, abortive, attempt of the Scrooby Pilgrims, to leave England. Ultimately, in 1620, they became part of the original settlement of Plymouth, Massachusetts.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lincolnshire Waterways Partnership, Newsletter 17, November 2008
  2. ^ Department of Transport, A Guide to Transport and Works Act Procedures

External links[edit]

  • Flood warning status
  • Terraserver aerial photograph The North is to the top, Boston is to the West and the coast meets the edge of the picture at Freiston Shore. The mouth of the River Welland is to the south-west. The Haven joins Skirbeck to The Wash and is joined by the Hobhole Drain from the north.