Bacon's Castle

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Bacon's Castle
Bacons Castle 2006.jpg
Bacon's Castle in 2006
Bacon's Castle is located in Virginia
Bacon's Castle
Location Surry County, Virginia
Coordinates 37°06′32.4972″N 76°43′20.5824″W / 37.109027000°N 76.722384000°W / 37.109027000; -76.722384000Coordinates: 37°06′32.4972″N 76°43′20.5824″W / 37.109027000°N 76.722384000°W / 37.109027000; -76.722384000
Area Hampton Roads
Built 1665
Architect Unknown[1]
Architectural style Jacobean and Greek revival
NRHP Reference # 66000849
VLR # 090-0001
Significant dates
Added to NRHP 1966[1]
Designated NHL October 9, 1960[3]
Designated VLR September 9, 1969[2]

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 Virginia's oldest documented brick dwelling.[4] Built in 1665, it is noted as an extremely rare example of Jacobean architecture in the New World.

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.

Today Bacon's Castle is an historic house museum and historic site open for guest visitation. Bacon's Castle is an official Preservation Virginia historic site and operates under its 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit status.


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.[5] 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.[5]

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.[5]

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.[5] 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 and Current Operations[edit]

An external building part of the site.

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. Visitors may self-tour the grounds, outbuildings and gardens throughout the year. Between March and November guests may tour the Castle and purchase merchandise in its gift shop on Fridays and Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and Sundays between 12 and 4 p.m. Group tours are available with advance reservations.


Bacon's Castle is a rare example of American Jacobean architecture and the only surviving "high-style" house from the 17th century.[6][7] It is one of only three surviving Jacobean great houses in the Western Hemisphere — the other two are in Barbados. They are Drax Hall Estate and the Great House at St. Nicholas Abbey Plantation. 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, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960.

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.[8]

Bacon's Castle, 2014
Bacon's Castle, perspective showing chimneys. 2014

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Staff (2006-03-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ "Virginia Landmarks Register". Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  3. ^ "Bacon's Castle". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  4. ^ Preserving Virginia 1889-1989: Centennial Pictorial. Virginia: The Art Band. 1989. p. 12. 
  5. ^ a b c d National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, Bacon's Castle, p. 2.
  6. ^ "Bacon's Castle". Preservation Virginia. Archived from the original on 17 July 2010. Retrieved 25 July 2010. 
  7. ^ McAlester, Virginia; Lee McAlester (1984). A Field Guide to American Houses. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. p. 110. ISBN 0-394-73969-8. 
  8. ^ Howe, Jeffery (2002). The Houses We Live In: An Identification Guide to the History and Style of American Domestic Architecture. London: PRC Publishing. pp. 125–6. ISBN 1-85648-637-0. 


  • Wertenbaker, Thomas J. (1914). Virginia under the Stuarts, 1607-1688. New Jersey: Princeton University. 
  • Morrison, Hugh (1952). Early American Architecture. New York. 
  • Kimball, Fiske (1922). Domestic Architecture of the American Colonies and of the Early Republic. New York. 

External links[edit]