Bacon's Castle

Bacon's Castle, also variously known as "Allen's Brick House" or the "Arthur Allen House" is located in Surry County, Virginia, USA, and is one of the oldest dateable brick buildings in Virginia.

The house 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.

History

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.

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.

Preservation

Bacon's Castle was acquired by Preservation Virginia (formerly known as the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities) in the 1970s and restored. It is now open to the public as one of Virginia's historic houses which are also museums. Visitors can tour the house, stroll through the recreated 17th century garden, or view a variety of outbuildings including an original 18th century smokehouse and a 19th century slavequarter. As of January 2011, Bacon's Castle is temporarily closed for maintenance and interpretive planning. The 1100 acre plantation is still actively cultivated as a working farm, and visitors are welcome to tour the grounds.

Architecture

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.

Between the mid to late-nineteenth century, 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.

Building Activity

  • Robin Schoppe
    Robin Schoppe commented
    Loved the tour. The castle has many personal and unique things to see from the past residents. Loved it.
    about 5 years ago via Mobile