July 23, 2013

Berkeley Plantation

A quick shout out to the royal couple and their new son!  My assistant's husband is a Brit, and distantly related to the Middletons, so we heard the news quickly at my workplace yesterday.  I have been a royal family watcher all my life, probably because my mother loves English history and literature so much.  Long before I was fascinated by Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie I was creating my own Royal Family paper dolls at home, so it's really no surprise that I have enjoyed all the hoopla about William and Kate's wedding and pregnancy.  Most of all, though, I've just really enjoyed watching two lovely young people who look like they have their heads screwed on straight fall in love and start a family. Call me romantic, but who doesn't love a happily ever after fairy tale?
Royal proclamation announcing the royal birth
But there are some rather startling facts to go along with this little guy's birth.  Who knew what a royal birth could do for the British economy?!  Here are some surprising statistics surrounding today's historic news:
No doubt there will probably be some money spent on this side of the pond as well.  You do know what this birth really means, don't you?  It's time to start planning a christening party for the fall!  And yes, I am sure it will involve Pimm's Cups in one way or another. 
Two of my friends concocting Pimm's Cups for our Royal Wedding party

And now on to the rest of my post, that if I stretch it a little (okay, maybe a lot) has a royal connection as well.  Yesterday I wrote about my love for Grouseland, home of the first Indiana territorial governor, William Henry Harrison.  Having discovered his "ancestral home" was only a short drive from Williamsburg, VA, my husband and I spent a lovely morning touring the home and grounds of Berkeley Plantation.

Here is a little history from the official Berkeley Plantation website (you can find more information here.)
Eleven years after the settlement of Jamestown, in the spring of 1618, four gentlemen met in London to negotiate the formation of a company to start the town and hundred at Berkeley, in the colony of Virginia. Their motive was strictly profit making. Those four Gloucestershire adventurers were William Throckmorton, Richard Berkeley, George Thorpe and John Smyth. All except Smyth were related by blood or marriage. Smyth became a family member 18 years later when one of his daughters married Thorpe’s son.

King James I (there's the royal connection!) had granted a large tract of land in Virginia to the four. The land was over 8,000 acres with 3 miles of waterfront. The land grant to the Virginia Company of London show the Patent letters are dated February, 1619, just 6 months before the expedition across the Atlantic.  Over the next one hundred years this site was occupied, then abandoned after an Indian uprising, then eventually the original Georgian mansion was built in 1726 of brick fired on the plantation, occupying a beautifully landscaped hilltop site overlooking the historic James River. The date of the building and the initials of the owners, Benjamin Harrison IV and his wife, Anne appear in a date stone over a side door. The mansion is said to be the oldest 3-story brick house in Virginia.
I'll give you a private tour of the interior of the plantation tomorrow, but today let's stroll through the magnificent gardens.  They were truly breathtaking, affording beautiful vistas of the James River. 
The five terraced gardens, dug by hand before the American Revolution, are stunning, and the plantation's one thousand acres are filled with miles of old gravel roads that meander through field and forest, pastures, ponds and the river.  Here is the map we were given before we started our exploration of the gardens:

I only wish there was a way I could share the lovely scents of all the blooming flowers that were wafting through the air, and the quiet lapping sounds of the waves at the river's edge.  But if we can't engage all our senses in this visual tour, we can at least enjoy the beauty of the gardens and leave the rest to our imaginations.

I hope you have enjoyed the garden tour, and here's a poem by ee cummings, titled "This is the garden:  colors come and go" to start our day on a pleasant note:

This is the garden: colors come and go,
Frail azures fluttering from night’s outer wing,
Strong silent greens serenely lingering,
Absolute lights like baths of golden snow.
This is the garden: pursed lips do blow
Upon cool flutes within wide glooms, and sing
Of harps celestial to the quivering string,
Invisible faces hauntingly and slow.

This is the garden. Time shall surely reap
And on Death’s blade lie many a flower curled,
In other lands where other songs be sung;
Yet stand They here enraptured, as among
The slow deep trees perpetual of sleep
Some silver-fingered fountain steals the world.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful garden and grounds! I share your interest in the royal family ( I grew up singing "God Save The Queen" at school) and do hope Will and Kate and their family will have a fairy tale life.