Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
John Boys was born in 1607 at Bonnington, in Kent, and died on the 8th of October, in 1664 at Bonnington. The eldest son and heir of Edward Boys of Bonnington, by Jane, a daughter of Edward Sanders (of Northborne), and was baptized at Chillendon, on the 5th of April, in 1607.
He is best known as the Royalist captain who was the Governor of Donnington Castle in Berkshire during the English Civil War. This castle, within a mile of Newbury, was garrisoned in 1643 for King Charles I and commanded the road from Oxford to Newbury, and the road from London to Bath.
Donnington Castle is located north of the town of Newbury and was from 1643 under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel John Boys who spent £1,000 on earthworks to strengthen the defences to guard the route from London, and the road from Oxford to the port of Southampton.
The Kings defence of Donnington Castle.
A division of the Royalist Regiment of the Earl Rivers consisting of 200 foot, 25 horse and 4 guns under the command of John Boys, 'a professional soldier from Kent', were put into Donnington Castle and held the castle from 1643 until the 1st of April, 1646.
On the 31st of July 1644 Donnington Castle was attacked by a division of the New Model Army of 3000 horses and dragoons, under the command of Lieutenant General John Middleton, without any artillery support who attempted to compel a surrender from Boys, but the Parliamentary army was repulsed with the loss of at least 300 men.
About a month later on September the 29th, Colonel Jeremy Horton began a 12 day blockade laying siege to Donnington, having raised a battery at the foot of the hill, near Newbury he was able to shatter the southern towers of the castles medieval defenses and reduce a part of the wall to rubble. It has been estimated that at least 1000 missiles were projected against the fortress during this engagement. Even though Colonel Horton had been reinforced, with additional men, Governor John Boys refused to concede and even invited Horton to surrender his forces.
A parliamentarian army soon after returned on the 4th October led by the Earl of Manchester. An attempt to storm the castle failed, but the bombardment continued for several days without avail, frustrated, the whole army dispersed, as Charles I, at the head of the Royal army, moved towards Donnington. For his great services in defense of the castle Governor John Boys was knighted on the 21st of October, 1644. The king also promoted him to Colonel of the regiment which he had before commanded as Lieutenant-Colonel to Earl Rivers.
On the 27th of October the second battle of Newbury was fought, and Colonel Sir John Boys secured the King's artillery under the walls of Donnington castle. Even that great Parliamentarian soldier Sir William Waller with his army surrounded the castle and again Boys refused to surrender.
After the battle of Newbury, when the King had gone to Oxford, Essex besieged Donnington Castle but abandoned the attempt before Charles returned in the first week of November 1644 to relieve Donnington and retrieve his 'treasure and guns' leaving some of the heavier pieces for use by the garrison.
Some time after the 14th November, 1645 Oliver Cromwell himself turned his attention to the problem of the Royalist stronghold of Donnington castle. The following spring a furious bombardment with cannon and mortars was ordered, and by the 30th of March a truce was concluded so that Charles had no option other than to instruct Boys to obtain the best possible conditions for the surrender of his garrison. Finally, it was on the 1st of April, in 1646 that the surrender of Donnington Castle was accomplished. Boys garrison was permitted to march to the Royalist garrison at Wallingford, with their colours flying and drums beating.
John Boys had returned to his home county of Kent by 1646 when he was appointed a Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, probably as a reward for his gallant services at Donnington.
During the August of 1648, he made a futile attempt to raise the Siege of Walmer Castle in Deal, one of the Cinque Ports, and customary home of the Lord Warden. Sir Algernon Sydney replaced him as Warden in 1648. In 1659, Boys was held as a prisoner in Dover Castle for 'petitioning for a free Parliament', but was released on the 23rd of February 1660.
He was later reported to have been granted the office of Receiver of Customs at Dover from Charles II.
A few years later on the 8th of October 1664, Sir John Boys died at his house at Bonnington and was buried in the parish church of Goodnestone-next-Wingham (near Canterbury) in Kent.
He was married twice, and by his first wife, Lucy, he had five daughters.
His second marriage was to the Lady Elizabeth Finch, widow of Sir Nathaniel Finch, and a daughter of Sir John Fotherby of Barham (Kent).
Ref: "Dictionary of National Biography" (1891).
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