A Preservation Virginia property, Bacon’s Castle is the oldest standing brick house in Virginia with the oldest English formal garden in North America. This Jacobean-style home was built by Arthur Allen who arrived from England in 1649 and patented 200 acres in Surry County in 1650. Allen purchased another 500 acres in 1661, and in 1665 the wealthy merchant and planter built this magnificent home in the wilds of Surry. The home’s distinctive architectural features include a cruciform shape with a central stair tower, triple-stacked chimneys and curved gables. A Greek Revival west wing was added in the mid-1800s.

The home received its nickname of Bacon’s Castle after it was occupied by rebels during Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676. Allen’s son, Arthur Allen II, known as Major Allen, hid the family silver, evacuated the home and proceeded to lead attacks on the rebels from ships on the York River. Led by Nathaniel Bacon, the rebels helped themselves to the Major’s cattle, wheat and tobacco. They looted the house and stole saddlery, linens, and pewter and emptied the liquor cabinet.

Fueled by declining tobacco prices as well as declining relations with local Indian tribes that left the colonists fearful, Nathaniel Bacon lead a rebellion against royal governor Sir William Berkeley. Bacon issued a declaration claiming that Berkeley was corrupt and colluded with the Indians for his own gain – a charge that does seem to have some validity. Bacon began a campaign of looting, ransacking and marauding around the Tidewater towns and plantations and burned the capital at Jamestown.

bacons castle trees bacons castle reenactor

A tree-lined drive leads to the manor home and 17th-century gardens. Bacon's Castle offers seasonal events, activities and reenactments.

This first American rebellion against the crown made the ruling aristocracy of Virginia wary of bonds between the English and African indentured servants who teamed up during the rebellion. Their unease grew and ultimately became the basis for racial segregation, white supremacy and race-based slavery in Virginia with the passage of the Virginia Slave Codes of 1705. The codes legalized slave trade and permitted the arrest of suspected runaways. Separate courts were created for African Americans, and they were forbidden to bear arms.

The self-guided grounds tour at Bacon's Castle features the original pre-Civil War slave quarter, smokehouse and barn. The gardens are modeled after 17th century English ‘pleasure gardens’ - the center of fashionable social life for English nobility and gentry. The gardens and grounds at Bacon’s Castle are open daily for self-guided tours. The manor home is open seasonally on weekends for guided tours, special events and reenactments.

Pictured at the very top: Bacon's Castle is the only surviving example of Jacobean architecture in America.

bacons castle the hall

The Hall at Bacon's Castle is furnished as it would have been when the Allens used it for dining and entertaining guests.

bacons castle parlor

The Chamber features rich paneling, beams, fireplace and other architectural details.

bacons castle wine cellar

The wine cellar was looted during Bacon's Rebellion.

bacons castle slave quarter

The Slave Quarter survives as one of 18 such buildings that were home to numerous enslaved families in the 1800s.