Bringing Home the Bacon

01/07/12 12:14 PM

Today I had the privilege to meet one of our fellow bloggers, Dianna. She lives close to us here in Chesapeake and had invited me to come a see her ancestral plantation near Smithfield, Virginia. What an honor it was to see this beautiful home and plantation!  The plantation home is called “Bacon’s Castle” and it is located in Surry, Virginia.

Below is a brief history on this plantation that I took from Wikipedia:

Bacon’s Castle, also variously known as “Allen’s Brick House” or the “Arthur Allen House” is Virginia’s oldest documented brick dwelling. Soon after Surry County was formed in the Royal Colony of Virginia in 1652, Arthur Allen built a Jacobean brick house in 1665 near the James River, where he and his wife Alice (née Tucker) Allen lived. He was a wealthy merchant and a Justice of the Peace in Surry County. Allen died in 1669, but his son, Major Arthur Allen II, inherited the house and property. Major Allen was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses.

Bacon’s Castle is a rare example of American Jacobean architecture and the only surviving “high-style” house from the 17th century. It is one of only three surviving Jacobean great houses in the Western Hemisphere — the other two are in Barbados. Notable architectural features include the triple-stacked chimneys, shaped Flemish gables, and carved compass roses decorating the cross beams in many of the public rooms. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

About mid-September, 1676, a number of the rebel followers of frontiersman Nathaniel Bacon seized the brick house of Major Allen and fortified it. The garrison, commanded at various times by William Rookings, Arthur Long, Joseph Rogers and John Clements, retained control of the house for over three months while their cause declined. The death of Bacon in October left his forces under the leadership of Joseph Ingram, who proved to be unsuited to the command. Ingram dispersed his army in small garrisons, and as the demoralized troops began to plunder indiscriminately, the condition of the colony was soon deplorable.

Royal Governor Sir William Berkeley began to conquer the isolated posts one by one, some by force and some by persuasion. On December 29, a loyal force aboard the vessel Young Prince captured an unidentified “fort” which many historians have identified as Bacon’s Castle. After withstanding a brief siege early in January, 1677, the loyalists used the “fort” as a base of operations for the last engagements of the rebellion, which ended before the month was out.

The Allen family’s brick home became known as “Bacon’s Castle” because it was occupied as a fort or “castle” by the followers of Nathaniel Bacon during Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676. However, contrary to popular folklore, Bacon never lived at Bacon’s Castle, nor is he even known to have visited it. Bacon was the proprietor of Curles Neck Plantation in Henrico County; about 30 miles upriver on the northern bank of the James River. Many historians believe the name “Bacon’s Castle” was not used until many years after Bacon’s Rebellion. In 1769, the Virginia Gazette newspaper in the capital city of Williamsburg used that name when it published several articles about Bacon’s Rebellion.

Between the mid to late-nineteenth centuries, Bacon’s Castle underwent several modifications. An original one story service wing was replaced by a taller Greek Revival wing. Around this time, the entrance was moved from the center of the main block to the hyphen between the original house and addition, and diamond-pane casement windows were exchanged for double-hung sash windows. Moving the door left a scar in the location of the original pedimented surround. All of these changes were maintained in the restoration.

Bacon’s Castle was acquired by Preservation Virginia (formerly known as the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities) in the 1970s and restored. Preservation activities continue while guests visit the Site. Bacon’s Castle now operates as a house museum and historic site with 40-acres of outbuildings and dependencies including barns, slave and tenant quarters, smokehouses, and a rare example of a 17th-century English formal garden.”

When we pulled up this morning, they were not yet open, but because Dianna knew the place so well, she was able to give me a personal tour of the grounds before they opened. We viewed the garden and the back outbuildings.  It was great because she could point out things like an old tree stump that had been there since her childhood and was able to tell me about personal memories of her time there.

Todd, Site Coodinator for Bacon’s Castle.
Special Permission by Bacon’s Castle for interior photos

On entering the home, we were warmly greeted and allowed to walk around before our tour.  We also had the opportunity to meet Todd, the Site Coordinator. After telling him about our journey in opening Belle Grove Plantation and that we also had a blog documenting our adventures, he was gracious and gave me special permission to photograph the interior of Bacon’s Castle to use on the blog.  He also gave us access to the house at our own leisure since Dianna knew it so well. So off I went on my own special tour with my own personal tour guide! I felt like mistress of the manor!

English Wine Bottle Artifacts
Special Permission by Bacon’s Castle for interior photo

Nathaniel Bacon Stained Glass
Special Permission by Bacon’s Castle for interior photo

Dianna walked me from room to room, showing me the old construction and pointing out restorations and preservations that had been done. She also pointed out personal spots such as the wood carved initials for her ancestors and etching in the windows.

Special Permission by Bacon’s Castle for interior photos

Special Permission by Bacon’s Castle for interior photos

Wall Drawing exposed during restoration
Special Permission by Bacon’s Castle for interior photos

What the rooms would have looked like back in the late 1600s. Exposed wood ceiling and diamond cut frosted windows. The furniture is also period.
Special Permission by Bacon’s Castle for interior photos

Second view of room
Special Permission by Bacon’s Castle for interior photos

Up to the Attic – Dianna
Special Permisson by Bacon’s Castle for interior photos

Looking down from Attic Space
Special Permisson by Bacon’s Castle for interior photos

Attic Space – This is where the servants would sleep
Special Permisson by Bacon’s Castle for interior photos

Basement Kitchen
Special Permisson by Bacon’s Castle for interior photos

Ladies Parlor
Special Permisson by Bacon’s Castle for interior photos

Ceiling Beam Detail
Special Permisson by Bacon’s Castle for interior photos

Wood Craving made by Dianna’s Uncle
Special Permisson by Bacon’s Castle for interior photos

Window Etching
Special Permisson by Bacon’s Castle for interior photos

Main Room – This is where they ate, drink tea and meet for business
Special Permisson by Bacon’s Castle for interior photos

After our tour of Bacon’s Castle, Dianna took me down the street to the cemetery that her ancestors and previous owners of Bacon’s Castle rest. In the cemetery, there is the ruins of a brick church that was built in 1639. The church, Lower Surry Church in Lawns Creek Parish, burned in 1868 and was later damaged during Hurricane Isabel in 2003. They are currently working on restoring the church.

Lower Surry Church Lawns Creek Parnish built in 1639 -burned in 1868

After we finished touring the cemetery and she took me back to my car, I headed back into Smithfield to, yes go antique shopping! You may remember Smithfield from my “Hamtown” post. While I was there, I found some really nice pieces to add to my tea sets. Today, Smithfield was having their “Heritage Days Festival”. They had closed off the main street and had booths lining the street for five or six city blocks. There was food, art, crafts, and much, much more! And the antiques didn’t disappoint! I stopped by Olde House Antiques to see Patsy and she had some butter pat plates and a beautiful rose plate for me!

Olde House Antiques – Patsy
Stop by and tell her Belle Grove sent you!

Butter pat plates

It was another great time in Smithfield and Surry, Virginia. If you have a love for beautiful old historic homes, you must make a point to visit Bacon’s Castle. You can check out their information through their links.!/baconscastle


If you would like a personal view of Bacon’s Castle – you can visit Dianna’s blog – Look under Bacon’s Castle

Thank you to Dianna and Todd for a great day!!


Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 47 Comments »

47 Comments on “Bringing Home the Bacon”

  1. Terri O.A. Says:

    Enjoyed your post. I love the old brick colors and age.

  2. It was beautiful! Hard to believe it was built in the 1600s!

  3. Another wonderful and entertaining post. I didn’t know about this house. Very interesting. Looking forward to the next amazing piece of information you will be sending out way!

  4. Thank you! We are discovering so much about Virginia as we work on our house! It’s amazing considering we have lived here for so long and didn’t even know about it ourselves!

  5. Your blog is certainly making me want to plan our next trip out there to see more of our nation’s fantastic history! Thank you for your very informative posts and fantastic pictures! I also wonder about that little orange circle in the photo of the side view of the house – that’s odd!

  6. Thank you! Brett and I are transplants to Virginia since 1992, but I don’t think we could have pick a better state for us. Our love of early American history is definitely is satisfied here 🙂 You know I have been wondering the same thing about that little orange light. You can see the sun dot just about it from the sun, but that orange on looks different as well as it had a star in the center. Who know?? Could it be a past spirit posing for the shot? :0

  7. belocchio Says:

    We are such a young province. It is really quite wonderful to travel with you and explore your history. Virginia

  8. Thank you! I glad you are coming along with me! Now I don’t feel so lonely. 😉 And I am having a great time sharing thsi beautiful state with everyone!

  9. KatZ Says:

    such a beautiful house in fantastic landscape! Really makes me want to go to Virginia! Simply breathtaking!

  10. Thank you! Bacon’s Castle was very beautiful! I would recommend it as a must stop and see. If not for its beautiful and history, but because of it’s unique standing.

  11. Dianna Says:

    Thanks so much, Michelle, for helping to promote ‘The Castle’! I had a wonderful time showing you around. If any of your readers would like to read more about this magnificent old home and my family’s connections. they’re welcome to visit my blog and click on the Bacons Castle category link. Thanks again!

  12. Thank you Dianna for giving me such a wonder day! I have added your blog at the end of this post so others can find your blog!


  13. I love Bacon Castle, so beautiful. I love historic homes. work in Real Estate and I specialize in selling historic homes (Brownstones, townhomes etc…) I live in a 100+ year old townhome and am fascinated by your posts and the historical significance of these beautiful plantations,

  14. Thank you! It has been great fun sharing them with you! If you find yourself in the area, you might want to plan a side trip to the Castle! It is so worth it!

  15. I plan on visiting a friend who lives in Virginia soon, she is in a tiny town on an inlet of the chesapeake can’t remember the name of town population less than 400 I think it might be sort of near Norfolk. I hope to do it when Belle Grove is open for business so I can stay there also

  16. You can visit you friend and then come stay with us! 🙂

  17. She lives in Eastville, VA. just remembered

  18. Eastville, VA is on the Eastern Shore section of Virginia. You would have to go down the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and then back up to us. It’s about a 3 1/2 hour drive.

  19. Well I love Virginia, lived in DC metro area for 13 years. Falls Church and Crystal City. Worked in Virginia also for a while. Excited to visit again.

  20. We are exciting to meet you!! I know Crystal CIty well. Love that Pentagon Mall!

  21. Amy Says:

    Thank you so much for the grand virtual tour of the Bacon’s Castle! What a privilege to have a personal tour from Dianna. Those dishes are precious and beautiful!

  22. You are so welcome! If you find yourself in or around Smithfield, I would recommend stopping by! It is worth the time! The butter pat plates are sweet! They are so tiny!

  23. oceannah Says:

    Sounds like you all are ok!! Glad to hear. Haven’t heard from the inlaws in Alexandria…I understand there was a crazy wild storm that pushed through.

  24. Yes, but we survived! Whew…. But we don’t know how Belle Grove faired. We have to wait until tomorrow to contact the property manager to see if we lost trees at the plantation. fingers crossed

  25. Debbie Says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I love every one of these mini history lessons!

  26. Thank you! I love sharing them with everyone!

  27. Betty Says:

    Thanks for the “tour” of Bacon Castle. Can’t wait to see more of your B&B also. Hope all is well after the storm.

  28. Thank you! We are scheduled to go back to the plantation next Saturday so hopefully we will have some great new pictures to share. We did ok here in Chesapeake, but we won’t find out about Belle Grove until tomorrow when we talk to the property manager.

  29. jmmcdowell Says:

    Wow, Bacon’s Castle looks amazing. I had no idea such an old house was still standing!

  30. It was so amazing! I also happy that Dianna shared it with me! If you find yourself in the area, you might want to take a short side trip to see it! It is so worth it!

  31. As a Bacon Biscuit, I can only dream of one day living in my own beautiful Bacon Castle. And a trip to Smithfield is only fitting 😉

    Great tour of my future abode 😉 Thank you for sharing!

  32. How well did that fit you!! 😉 Yes, you really need to stop and see this place. It is really worth the time.

  33. Lisa at fLVE Says:

    Thanks for the tour. What a beautiful place.

  34. Thank you! I hope if you are in the area that you will consider stopping by this Castle. It is worth the time to see. Thank you for stopping by!

    Will you help us Save our History?

  35. Belle Grove is gorgeous! Dianna is a good friend and I knew about her connection to Bacon’s Castle but your “trip notes” from your visit with her filled in a lot of details I didn’t know. It’s a wonderful place isn’t it?

    Pam Kimmell, Warrenton, VA

  36. Yes I really enjoyed that visit and I am so glad I went. It was really worth the time to see! Dianna was so gracious to take time out of her busy day to show me the Castle! I don’t think anyone else could have done any better!

    Michelle Darnell
    Will you help us Save our History?

  37. I lit up when it said the other two were in Barbados (where I grew up). Gonna have to do some investigating now.

  38. I am excited it has sparked interest for you! I love doing research so you will have to let me know about the one’s from Barbados! Thank you for stopping by our blog. We really appreciate it!

    Michelle Darnell
    Will you help us Save our History?

  39. Eric Winger Says:

    Fabulous! Having just visited Mount Vernon with my daughter on a trip to Washington DC this spring, I’m interested to “visit” an even older plantation. … Thanks for showing me around. 🙂

  40. Thank you for stopping by! May soon you and your daughter can come and see our old plantation!! We would love to have you!

    Will you help us Save our History?

  41. How cool that you guys met up and what a neat house! I can’t believe all the stairs!

  42. It was a really cool house! I would recommend a stop if you ever get a chance to!

    Will you help us Save our History?

  43. Did you see that I posted on the indigo site saying I was sharing it on fb with my 500+ friends? 🙂

  44. I am sorry, but I don’t see your comment. Did you do it tonight?

    Will you help us Save our History?

  45. I did it about a week ago….

  46. […] also met Michelle, who writes Belle Grove Plantation, and introduced her to Bacon’s Castle. The link will take you to a post she wrote about our […]

  47. Thank you so much for sharing us with your readers! It really means a lot to us!