Boston Castle and its Park Keepers - Explore the history
Boston Castle and Park
Boston Castle is a square, two storey building which stands within Boston Park on one of the highest points in Rotherham. The castle is a visitor attraction which opened on the 4th July 2012.
It was originally built as a hunting lodge in 1775 for the Earl and Countess of Effingham. In the 18th century the castle was an ideal location for hunting surrounded by the ancient woodland known as Canklow Wood.
By early Victorian times the Birks family had moved into the Castle. They were masons and quarry owners, and leased the property and the grounds from the Earl of Effingham until around 1872. The Birks quarried Rotherham Red Sandstone from the area surrounding the castle and within Canklow Wood.
Development of the Park
In 1873, John Guest, local historian and alderman, and a number of inhabitants of the town promoted the idea of developing the quarry overlooking Canklow Woods, for use as a public park. In May 1873, a signed memorial was presented to the Town Council, and it was agreed that steps would be taken towards developing a public park. The Earl of Effingham granted a 40 year lease of the castle and lands for an annual rent of £50, and despite opposition work on Rotherham’s first public park went ahead.
Opening of Park
Three years later, on the 4th of July 1876, commemorating the centenary of American Independence, Boston Park was opened to the public.
A lavish opening Gala was given a year later with thousands of people attending. Visitors and press praised the park’s “picturesque charms of nature” and beautiful floral displays.
The “Peoples Park”, as it became known locally, was 20 acres with about half of this plants and flowers.
The grounds were laid out with considerable artistic taste. This included wooden benches, placed along a series of meandering gravel footpaths, and a stone archway once part of the entrance to Rotherham College of Jesus, which was placed in the old quarry face near the bowling green.
Boston Park became famous for its floral displays but also boasted extensive sporting and leisure facilities. An adjoining grass field was adopted for gymnastics, cricket and football. Other recreations included an American bowling alley, quoits, skittles, a tennis court, and a racket alley. The large green in front of the old quarry face was utilised for bowls and croquet.
Many galas and sporting events were held at the park, but by the turn of the 20th century it was eclipsed by Clifton Park, which opened in 1891 and soon became the town’s most popular recreational ground. Most sporting events moved to the town’s new park, but Boston Park retained its beautiful floral displays, natural beauty, and expansive views of the surrounding area.
The Park Keepers
The First Park Keeper: Mr Henry Albiston
To appoint Boston Park’s first Park Keeper, Rotherham Corporation offered a £25 prize for a plan showing the best layout for the park. The winner was a highly regarded and experienced Lincolnshire gardener, Mr. Henry Albiston. So great were his abilities and confidence, that after submitting the chosen design, he proceeded to implant a different design that he preferred.
Mr. Albiston was 53 years of age when appointed as Park Keeper, and like all future Park Keepers he lived with his family in Boston Castle. Already famous for his carpet bedding, he became known as ‘The King of Tree Lifters’; an acknowledgment of his extensive work laying out the park grounds.
Upwards of 40,000 plants were laid out, which included two special varieties of lobelia named “Boston Castle” and “Boston Park”. Visitors from throughout the district came to see his elegant floral displays. The carpet beds near the Bowling Green became regarded as Mr. Albiston’s greatest achievement.
In 1906, Mr. Albiston was 84 years of age and still carrying out his duties at Boston Park. He served as Park Keeper until his death in 1908, completing a commendable 32 years service for Rotherham Corporation.
The Other Park Keepers
From 1908 until 1924 James Newey was listed in Rotherham’s trade directories as the Park Keeper and Confectioner (sweet seller). He moved into the castle with his wife, and remained Park Keeper until he died in 1924 at the age of 59.
Frank Foers was the next Park Keeper until 1946. He was a veteran of the First World War and fought with the York and Lancaster Regiment, before coming to live in Boston Castle with his family.
Wilfred Albiston, the grandson of the first Park Keeper Henry Albiston, was the very last Park Keeper to live with his family, in Boston Castle. Along with Wilfred, and other members of his family he also worked in Clifton Park and Boston Park until 1957.
From around 1957 until 1996 Boston Park no longer had its own Park Keeper. Boston Castle was rented out as a home to local people who also worked in other Borough Council parks. The families who lived there included the Shaws, Sidaways, Hadfields and Dickens Family. In 1996 the last family moved out of the Castle and the building was left empty until restoration works in 2012. Today the park still boasts an attractive garden area and has a large open area for recreation.