An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

May 31, 2008

Bacon's Castle - Surry County Day Trip Pt. I

I took a day trip this week to Surry County, which is about an hour west of home. Before Michael Vick made it famous for dog fighting, Surry County's best known landmark was Bacon's Castle. The site is owned and managed by The Association for the Preservation of Virgina Antiquities, and any pilgrimage of Virginia history should include a stop. Bacon's Castle is considered to be one of the oldest surviving brick houses in Anglo-America, and was built in 1665 at a time when everyone else was living in simple wood structures. Its builder was Arthur Allen who became wealthy from tobacco, and he choose a combination of Jacobean, Tudor and Stuart styles. Bacon's Castle got its name from fact the followers of Nathaniel Bacon occupied the house during Bacon's Rebellion in 1676 against the Royalist, however Bacon probably never set foot in the house.

In the first shot you can see the original portion of the house is on the left of the lower connector. The connector and the portion on the right were added much later.
No old Virginia house is complete without a certain number of boxwoods.
The triple chimneys are my favorite part of the house, and there is a set on each end of the original structure.

The garden at Bacon's Castle was restored based on archaeological evidence. It is divided into six large sections with a central axis down the middle. Two of the sections have been planted with vegetables that are appropriate to the time of the house.
The paths are made with packed sand.
There is a forcing wall on one side of the garden that was used to keep tender plants and to bring vegetables and fruit into season earlier.

The perimeter of the garden is planted with flowers that would have been familiar to the colonists in the late 1600's.


  1. Wow! That triple chimney is gorgous. Here I am, a Virginian, and I've never seen the place. I should be ashamed.

    Hanging out in Charlottesville this week - a place that definitely loves it's old brick homes.

  2. What,no pictures of Cecil, the Black and Tan Coonhound that lives at the caretaker cottage ?

  3. Thank you for coming by my blog cause I wanted to add your site to my blog. Hey I just read this two part post on Bacon's Castle and loved it. Pretty impressive for that time. We've got lots of old boxwoods too and I love the smell.

    You talked about the word burned in the second post. I was wondering if it's because so many churches were burned by the British that belonged to colonitst who were not loyal. Is the date too early for that to be applicable?

    I am in to genealogy and we have a Surry County down here that relates to your Surry up there. When I get moved in--I'll try to locate that info and pass it along to you. Right now, my mind is blank on that.

  4. The colonists grew runner beans? I'm surprised.

    I attended a very disappointing lecture on the history of gardening in the U.S. She didn't mention this place.

  5. Pam,
    Don't be ashamed, maybe one day you will see it. It has been in the same place for a few centuries so it will probably wait for you.

    You know me well enough that if I knew there was coon hound there, I would have sought it out. Loretta was with me, and I am sure she would have loved to give him the cold shoulder.

    I like the smell too, it reminds me of old houses and churches. My wife says it smells like some of here student's B.O. The date of the burning was after the Civil War, so the Brits or the Yankees can't be blamed, unless of course that is what they wanted us to think.

    We would have never known about the garden if it wasn't for the good ladies of the Garden Club of Virginia; restoring places like this is there raison d'etre. I am fairly sure that Bacon's Castle did not make gardening history, other then the meticulous research that was used to bring it back.