Surry County: Bacon's Castle

Southwest front of Bacon's Castle

Courtesy of Library of Congress

In 1665, Arthur Allen built a high style brick house near the James River. Allen was a wealthy merchant and a Justice of the Peace for Surry County. After he died in 1669, the home was inherited by his son Arthur Allen II, who was a member of the House of Burgesses.

In mid-September 1676, Nathaniel Bacon's followers seized the house and fortified it. Led at various times by William Rookings, Arthur Long, Joseph Rogers, and John Clements, the men retained control of the house for over three months. After Bacon died suddenly in October, Joseph Ingram took command. Ingram was ill-suited for the command and split his army into small garrisons. These garrisons began looting, leaving the condition of the colony in shambles. Governor Berkeley began conquering the isolated posts one by one--some by force and others by persuasion. On December 29th, 1676 a force aboard the vessel the Young Prince captured an unidentified "fort". Many scholars believe this to be the Allen house. After a brief siege in January 1677, the "fort" was used as a base of operations for the last engagements of the rebellion.

From then on the Allen house was known as Bacon's Castle. However, contrary to popular folklore, Bacon himself never lived at Bacon's Castle, nor is it known whether he actually visited. Scholars believe that the name "Bacon's Castle" was not used until many years after the rebellion.

By the Civil War, Bacon's Castle was owned by the Hankins family. Following the war, like many other plantations, Bacon's Castle was faced with serious problems. The emancipation of the slaves created a shortage in man power. The plantation was also in considerable debt. John Hankins, the owner of Bacon's Castle, mortgaged the property prior to his death in 1870. Unable to raise the money to pay the mortgage, Virginia Hankisn, John's daughter, sold the 1,200 acre estate in 1872.

Bacon's Castle was acquired by Preservation Virginia in the 1970s and restored. It now operates as a house museum and an 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. Bacon's Castle was listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register on September 9, 1969 and the National Register of Historic Placed in 1966. It is located at 465 Bacons Castle Trail, Surry, VA 23883. For more information please visit: Preservation Virginia or call (757) 357-5976.