Boston Castle and its Stonemasons - Explore the history
Boston Castle as a home
Boston Castle is a square, two storey building which stands within Boston Park on one of the highest points in Rotherham.
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.
Following the death of the 3rd Earl of Effingham in 1791 Boston Castle was left empty and was not used by any of his successors. The first record of people living in Boston Castle was around the 1820s, when Joseph Birks and his family were recorded as living there. Joseph was a mason and quarry owner, and rented the Castle with garden and adjoining land from the Earl of Effingham.
The Birks Family
We know that Joseph Birks and his family lived in the Castle because his name appears in electoral registers and commercial directories. He is recorded as a stonemason and quarry owner who came from Thorpe Hesley near Rotherham.
The census returns of 1851 to 1861 record Joseph Birks living in Boston Castle, with his son Charles and his wife Elizabeth, and their children. Joseph and Charles are both recorded as stonemasons, quarry owners and also farmers. It is likely that they would have used the land around the Castle as a farm, as well as using the quarries near the Castle and in Canklow Wood for their quarrying business.
From 1837 the lease for Boston Castle and the grounds passed to Joseph’s son Charles and his family. It is likely that the small extension to the building on the north side dated from the 1840s, and was built by Charles to give more room for his family.
Joseph and Charles Birks quarried stone from Boston Wood (now Canklow Wood) until around 1872.
The 1851 Ordnance Survey Map extract shows three sandstone quarries near to Boston Castle. There was also an additional two quarries within Boston Woods. These quarries would have ensured a plentiful supply of sandstone for the Birks’ quarrying business.
Charles’ and Joseph’s quarries were a rich source of the beautiful Rotherham Red Sandstone which has a distinctive pink and red colouring. It is often called “Rotherham” or “Mexborough Red Rock” or simply “Rotherham Red”.
Boston Castle was made from Rotherham Red Sandstone, as were many older buildings in the local area. It was also used in many of our prominent local buildings including the Rotherham Minster, Chapel on the Bridge and Thomas Rotherham College.
The Quarry Face
Within Boston Park the remains of the quarry which exposed the sandstone has become a permanent feature of the Park.
Boston Park opened in 1876, the floral displays and grounds were laid out around the striking sandstone quarry face. A stone archway, once the entrance to Rotherham College of Jesus, was also placed against the quarry face in the Park.
Today there are still striking outcrops of these rocks that can be seen in both the Park and Canklow Wood. The exposed rocks in the quarry faces show how extensive the quarrying would have been. They also reveal the ‘cross-bedding’ which would have resulted from the way the rocks were deposited in layers on the edge of a shallow sea.