Frith Bank Drain is one of the innumerable channels which bisect the flat lands around Boston. Parts of the area are fens, meaning land reclaimed from fresh water inundation, while others are marshland, i.e. land recovered from salt water flats. Needless to say, the land rarely rises to much more than a couple of metres above sea level and, visually, it presents the visitor with huge skies and long horizons.
Our story centres on two people who lived beside the Frith Bank Drain. William Enoch Kirk was born in the village of Kirkstead in 1846. Kirkstead sits on the River Witham and at Anton’s Gowt, the Frith Bank Drain branches eastward. Gowt, by the way, is believed to be a corruption of ‘go-out’, meaning a sluice or outlet. Ellen Mountain was born in Boston in 1853. Her parents lived in Blue Street. A newspaper report contemporary to the tragic events about to unfold wrote:
Will and Ellen lived at Kirton for a time, but eventually moved to Frith Bank. Will had a decent job as a plate-layer with the Great Northern Railway Company, and their modest cottage overlooking the Frith Bank Drain was described as “a pleasantly situated dwelling of the plain brick type, comfortable if not exactly roomy within. Attached is a piece of garden land, whereon much produce is cultivated, and the rent is only £5 year, and there were a couple of pigs in the sty, so the family lived “passing well.”
The 1891 census tells us that the Kirks had six children ranging in age from Herbert (14) to Arthur (1).
The address is given as 1 Frith Bank Road which, if we follow modern numbering, puts in north of the drain, but a newspaper reported that the Kirk’s house was on the Boston side of the drain. The adjacent page of the census mentions Pepper Gowt Lot and part of Tattershall Road, which seems to confirm that.
It is rather ironic that when the 1901 census was taken, on the evening of Monday 1st April, the Kirk family were no loner a unit. Arthur, for example, now 11 years old, was described as a boarder in the house of George and Ellen Taylor, of Frithville, while Frank Kirk, again described as a boarder, was living with Henry and Caroline Nixon, Henry Nixon being a stockman on a nearby farm.
The circumstances that led to the terrible events of 22nd March, 1901 are, again, best described in the words of a contemporary newspaper report.
Money – or the lack of it – was clearly preying on Ellen Kirk’s mind, and she was glad to be offered paid employment as a nurse to supervise the impending birth of a child to Eliza Robinson, the wife of Henry Robinson, who ran a farm on the other side of the Frith Bank Drain. Although the two households were almost a stone’s throw from each other, Ellen Kirk had to cross a trestle footbridge (almost certainly the one pictured below) across the drain to be at the Robinson home. She told William that she would be staying there until the new baby was safely brought into the world.
For reasons best known to himself, William Kirk was convinced that the main reason for Ellen’s visits to the Robinson’s house was that she was having an affair with Henry. In the days leading up to 22nd March, he was haunting the house, turning up at all hours and demanding to speak to his wife.
IN PART TWO
The dreadful events of Friday 22nd March 1901
A family is destroyed
Another job for Mr James Billington
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