Thomas Howard the Third Earl of Effingham
Boston Castle is a square, two storey building standing on one of the highest points in Rotherham. It was built as a hunting lodge in 1775 for the Earl and Countess of Effingham, and acquired the name Boston Castle to commemorate the Boston Tea Party.
It is now a visitor attraction which opened on the 4th July 2012.
Thomas Howard, 3rd Earl of Effingham, was an important local figure and politician, known for his radical political views, as well as being a philanthropist and colonialist. He was an eccentric free thinker and chose to dress more like a commoner than the flamboyant aristocrats of his day. He lived life by the standards he thought to be just and right, displaying great sympathy for the common man.
Earl of Effingham - Early life
Thomas Howard was born on the 13th January 1746 in Great Bookham, Surrey. He was the eldest son of the 2nd Earl of Effingham.
At the age of 16 he joined the Coldstream Guards as Ensign. Just three years later he was promoted to Captain of the 22nd Regiment of Foot.
Upon his father’s death he became the 3rd Earl of Effingham, Baron Howard of Effingham, and Deputy Earl Marshal of England.
In 1765 Thomas married a Yorkshire woman, Catherine Proctor. Her father was a successful industrialist from Leeds. Local rumour is that their families didn’t approve of the match and they eloped to Scotland and married on the 14th October 1765.
Catherine was 19 at the time so she would have been too young to marry without her parents’ consent. The following year they had a formal wedding ceremony in Rotherham. The couple began their married life in Holmes Hall, Masbrough.
Military career and politics
Keen for promotion and wanting to prove himself to the king, Thomas became a mercenary and travelled to Russia in 1768 to fight against Turkey in the service of the Tsarina of Russia. Newly wed and adventurous, Catherine accompanied him on the arduous journey. Thomas was recognised for his courage in battle in 1770, when almost the entire Turkish fleet was destroyed off the coast of Anatolia in Turkey. Unfortunately his actions didn’t help him win promotion in the English army.
By the onset of hostilities between Britain and America in the 1770s his principles overcame his desire to fight, and he resigned his commission.
Building of Boston Castle
Late in 1773 Thomas decided to build a hunting lodge on the south side of Rotherham, so the foundations for this were laid high on the hillside of Rotherham Moor. The lodge was first referred to as ‘the house upon the common’.
Later in that year a group of men disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded ships at Boston Harbour, Massachusetts, and emptied 342 chests of tea into the water. This became known as “The Boston Tea Party” and was seen an act of defiance against the British, who had imposed a tax on tea on the colonists without representation in the British Parliament.
Before long the American War of Independence was raging, between the British Army and the Colonists, and Thomas, as Captain in the 22nd Regiment of Foot, was ordered to America to fight the rebels. Despite his desire to serve king and country in battle, he resigned his commission in the army.
In support of the colonists and to show that he felt the war was unjust he renamed his hunting lodge ‘Boston Castle’.
In that same year, Thomas started work on a larger mansion in Kimberworth. The area surrounding Holmes Hall was becoming increasingly industrialised, so he built a new home, surrounded by acres of open countryside, which he called Thundercliffe Grange.
By the late 1770s the earl became more involved in local affairs. He became a close friend and supporter of the 2nd Marquis of Rockingham.
They were both involved in many political causes, including the acquittal of Admiral Keppel in 1779. He also served in Rockingham’s government in the 1780s, holding the important post of Master of the Mint in 1784.
Governorship and death
In 1789 the Earl was appointed Governor and Vice Admiral of Jamaica. The Earl and countess travelled together hoping the warmer climate would improve their health.
The Earl was charged with preparing the island for possible conflict with Spain. His life as a colonialist was brief but productive, overseeing improvements in the living and working conditions of slaves. He has been credited as a moderating influence helping to maintain peace on the island.
Meanwhile Catherine’s health grew worse and she departed by ship for New York for a change of climate. Having almost reached her destination she died at sea in October 1791. News of her death greatly affected the Earl back in Jamaica, and he died just over a month later - they were both age 44 at the time of death.
The Earl is remembered for holding some radical social, economic and political views. His eccentricities have also been well documented.
He was known for his witty political songs, unconventional dress sense and his ban on tea within Boston Castle itself. His life and work have been commemorated in several ways, through a monument in Jamaica’s Spanish Town cathedral, and in the two counties that bear his name in Georgia and Illinois, USA. Within Rotherham he is most closely associated with Boston Castle.