Monday, November 26, 2007
39 27' x 77 24': This church is located just off Route 95 and US Route 1 in Stafford Virginia. It is one of the easiest churches to find as the interstate exit, accessible from north or south, is labelled Aquia Harbor. The church is immediately north-east of the first light off the exit from 95.
This is truly a splendid building. According to Rawlings (184ff), the brickwork dates from 1751 to 1757 and was destroyed by Union soldiers during the Civil War. The walls as well as the interior have been rebuilt to the pre-Revolutionary War state sometime around 1915-16. Large patches of the walls are obviously rebuilt, in some cases carelessly even to my non-architect's eye. Apparently there was a coat of yellow paint on the building as recently as 1933.
Aquia is a true cruciform church with the walls 64' both east-west and north-south. Each arm is approximately 16' 2 1/2" long with a width of 32' 4". The walls are 24 1.2 " thick. Unlike Abingdon or Lancaster Churches, while in the interior, one can clearly see the cruciform structure, probably due to its Greek Cross construction. Like few colonial edifices, it has two levels of windows with the lower ones being rectangular with a keystone and angled soldiers and the upper being of typical compass construction. The front, west facade is two stories with a tower with a complicated cornice (See Rawlings 190).
It is surrounded by an attractive churchyard with many curious graves of colonial and modern origin.
In a later posting, I will describe the interior and many lurid stories surrounding the church.
This is a must visit.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
N37.33120 W77.15853 1731 Erected 1731
This rectangular church, like most, is not the first near the site but the exterior in general remains in a state of remarkable preservation. It is located a half-mile or so to the east of Route 5t in a grove of trees beyond a brick and iron gateway. A colonial cemetery surrounds the church and the later, but matching, rectory buildings within the churchyard.
The parish itself is one of the oldest in America, dating from the mid 1620s and, in the early days, encompassed the land on both sides of the river until the establishment of parishes on the other side of the river. Most likely the present edifice was moved after permanent churches were built in surrounding areas.
The walls are laid in Flemish bond with glazing on all sides with a two-row layer of English bond in the very shallow water table whose top row is beveled. It is of average size – 60’ x 28’ and has clipped gables with a cedar shake roof as most churches originally did. There is rubbed brick at all four corners and around the windows. The west doorway was repaired in 1956 and is obviously of new brick while the arches above the windows were repointed in rowlocks that do not match the colonial brick. Rawlings considers the rubbed brick throughout the structure similar to that of
The greatest changes are in the interior that is still one large room with a gallery on the west end and low slip pews with doors that are a post Civil War alteration due to Yankee destruction of the interior. In 1867 the east end was altered to make a deep chancel with small vestry rooms on each side of it. The Ten Commandments are posted to the side of the narrow window with a communion table and an altar rail before it. On the north side of the chancel end is a stone baptismal font; the pulpit, more correctly a rostrum, is on the south side.
I wonder about the windows. Rawlings does not mention them, but the mullions, particularly the y-tracery elements at the top do not seem colonial. He also mentions the lack of clipped gables, so the roof was redone after 1963? One element of the roof’s restoration that seems curious to my eye is the height of the windows. They are so high as to actually touch the eaves that are decorated with a dental molding that seems quite new. Did the parish lower the eaves with the clipped gables were restored?
All in all, this a pleasant edifice in an equally pleasant setting and well worth a hour or two visit; be sure to examine the graveyard as well as the church.
Thursday, July 5, 2007
Old Donation Church (3rd
This is the third church of the Lynnhaven Parish. The first church was most likely had wooden frame construction and eroded so that little is left except part of its cemetery on the Western Branch of the
The name Old Donation refers to the gift of the Rev. Dickson of his slaves and property to the church which used it as a free school for orphan boys.
The church is 65’ x 30’, so it is a tad larger than the average colonial one and laid with English bond in the water table and Flemish bond above it. The walls are 18” thick and, according to Rawlings, were originally higher by thirteen courses than they are presently. The walls show much evidence of rebuilding from an 1882 forest fire that destroyed all but the walls. A picture posted on the church’s web site shows utter destruction. http://www.olddonation.org/history.htm. The 1912 reconstruction of the church greatly altered its colonial character by using glaringly different brick and adding an entrance door (reminiscent of Upper Chapel, Middlesex) and a southern vestry addition. There is a dating brick by the western doorway with the year 1736 on it. The windows are the area of principal interest as the small windows in the northern and southern walls were inserted to accommodate the construction of private hanging pews for wealthy members of the congregation. What is surprising is that there are so many of them.
The interior is plastered with beveled window openings while the chancel, vestry door, and pew arrangement is clearly nineteenth-early twentieth century in style. The baptismal font of a reddish marble was being used as a boat anchor in the nearby creek, and there are black and white pictures of the communion silver that is used for special occasions.
All in all, the church has lost the definable simplicity and classical balance in its appearance, but at least it is an active congregation that relished the use of its original building. We attended a free concert given on eighteenth century instruments. Tom Marshall from William and Mary who played harpsichord and organ as well as the oboist who played (I can’t recall his name) were splendid and Dr. Marshall commented that the size and reflective walls of the church give it excellent acoustics. Don’t miss the opportunity to attend a concert if you see it advertised.
Saturday, June 30, 2007
The interior of Newport Parish is composed of little that is actually colonial as well as a conglomeration of objects and mismatched features of questionable authority.
The first impression upon entering is that of the stained-glass windows that are said to be of Tiffany design; they are luminous and beautiful. However, they are incorrect as colonial
This church is less of a room church as
All that remains of the original interior woodwork is part of the architrave over the entrance door and one of the balusters on the alter rail from which the other balusters were copied (Rawlings 34). The roof uses massive tie beams to support the rafter surface that enclose the space in a manner reminiscent of medieval structures. Some of the window sills and plaster may be colonial (Rawlings 34). There was clearly a rood screen, unlike almost all of Virginia’s churches, and the bench pews may have been reconstructed in the nineteenth century from original ones (Rawlings 35). The box pews to the west of the altar screen are reconstructions of those constructed for wives of local officials (Rawlings 35). The rest of the pews are simple slip pews that may be derived from the original pews. Were they cut down like those of Vauter’s parish? The pulpit on the south wall is reconstructed from original models in other churches; the only original piece is reputed to be the sounding board (Rawlings 35).
Other elements that are on display are of either American or English origin and include:
- A white walnut communion table
- An arched-wainscot chair
- Another early American chair by Thomas Dennis
- A seventeenth century credence table
- Iron torch holders on the west wall
- A restored 1665 organ (1630??)
- A silver-gilt chalice
- A brass alms box
- Two 1629 combination Common Prayer Books and Bibles
- A pair of brass alms basins
- An altar cloth
- A tasseled pillow
- A reproduction baptismal font “hewen hollow like a canoa” like that of the 1610 church at
- Other items of colonial style (all from Rawlings 35-36)
I didn’t think to catalogue all of the items, but, if the church was built in the 1680s, many are of dubious authenticity.
All in all, the effect of the interior is charming and gothic, almost like a transplanted English church. The light though the windows is muted by the deeply colored windows and makes it dim and moody rather than open, airy and luminescent as seems to be the effect in the room church in its full development (consider Merchant’s Hope). I do not go so far as Rawlings who asserts that “…it must reluctantly acknowledged that several false steps have been taken, and it is to be hoped that other colonial churches of great significance will not err in the same ways in the future (37). It is an important building, and it is to be hoped that future research will reveal more concrete information about the architecture, the dating, and the original interior.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
- The vestry records were concealed by burial during the Revolutionary War by Colonel Josiah Parker and read by his daughter, a Mrs. Cowper and other reliable witnesses who assert a brick church was built in 1632. Upon reading, the records were used as wadding for muskets during the war of 1812 (Meade I 299) or crumpled into dust (Mason 193)>
- Local tradition links the name of a militia Colonel Joseph Bridger who is interred in the chancel of the church to the construction of the church (Rawlings 8),
- A set of dating bricks, discovered in a roof collapse in 1887 (Rawlings 8) or 1886 (Meade 193), bear the date 1632.
- Architectural elements such as buttresses, crow step gables, and the principal rafter roof were characteristic of early 17th century churches (Upton 60-61).
Other evidence calls into doubt the verisimilitude of these assertions:
- It was common for several churches to be built on the same site generations apart. The presence of a brick church on this site does not mean that it was this brick church. On the contrary, according to the guide with whom we toured the church, no evidence has been found of other church foundations on the site (as in Bruton Parish for which there is clear documentary and archaeological evidence of previous churches.) (King 2007 interview with tour guide).
- Joseph Bridger was born in 1628 and was four years old in 1632. Some sources (Meade 206ff and Mason 1994ff) cite clumsy efforts to link Bridger’s father with the site, but his name was Samuel, and he can not be documented as having come to
- The bricks have indeterminate numerals that can be read as 1632 or 1682, and the style of numerals does not match colonial scripts. According to
(1985) the bricks are clearly forgeries. The bricks also have a mortar coating indicating that they may have been re-used as interior bricks in later repairs, alterations, or new construction. Upton
- Two other local figures, Charles and Thomas Driver, are also associated with the church, but they, like Colonel Bridger, are associated with records in the later 17th century when they were adults. There are two bricks in the third story of the tower bearing the initials CD and TD usually associated with these two men (Rawlings 8).
- The architectural features of the building can all be documented in English churches of the later 17th century or much later time periods (
General historical data militate against the establishment of such an elaborate edifice in 1632 and generally agree with a date in the 1680s:
- The other
buildings with gothic features were all constructed in the late 17th century or after: Virginia
Bacon’s Castle 1665;
Yeocomico 1706. (Dates from Rawlings Table of Contents; Upton 61-62)
It is unlikely that one of these buildings predates the other by fifty years or more.
The population of
The association of Joseph Bridger with the church agrees with a date in the 1680s as does the local links to the Driver brothers (Rawlings 8; Upton
Funding for the
A compromise theory that the church was begun in the 1630s and then modified fifty years later, resulting in the current edifice is also posited. According to the guide who gave me the information, there is no physical evidence of multiple building times (King interview with tour guide).
My personal view is that it is most likely that the church was constructed in the 1680s on the general site of an earlier church, possibly one with brick foundations under wooden walls. The assertion of 1632 construction is predicated on dubious evidence and is not accepted by dispassionate authorities who have no particular viewpoint to advance. Occam’s Razor, or the rule of simplicity in drawing conclusions, states that of multiple theories to explain an event, the one that is simplest and agrees with most data is likely the correct one. I would like to hear from those who disagree with me so that I can post their comments. Like them, I await archaeological evidence to clear up the dating.
Sunday, June 3, 2007
Newport Parish church, locally called St. Luke’s Church or the
The basic building structure contains in full blown form the essential elements indigenous
- West main entry door
- Flemish bond and English bond
- Water table
- South vestry entry door
- Rectangular, room-church plan.
- Decorated west pediment
As well as several unique or seldom seen features of architecture that link it structurally to Yeocomico and St. Peter’s Churches:
- Flemish / crow stepped gables
- Covered west entranceway
- Large, arched east window
And features surviving only in this building:
- Y-tracery windows
- Integral bell tower
The bell tower stands on the west wall, is three stories high, and was built as an integral part of the church. Its dimensions are 18’ east-west by 20’ north-south. There is a round, brick arch under a simple triangular pediment as the western entranceway leading to a replica of Yeocomico’s wicket door as the church’s entrance. The pediment over the arch is articulated by raised brick decoration and the interior of the triangle is filled with flat white plaster. On the north and south sides are oval openings three feet wide (I didn’t measure). The corners of the tower are decorated with brick quoins and between the two stories are a horizontal row of brickwork dividing them. Note that the quoins are smaller on the third story. There are green, shuttered windows on the outfacing windows and a triangular cornice surmounted by a weather vane.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
N37.75761 W77.13587 1751
Cattail Church, what is left of it, is in King William County at the end of a country lane in a suburban looking neighborhood. When we first saw it, we thought it was a nineteenth century church as the brick was overlaid with a thick layer of stucco, steeples with bizarre spikes have been added, the original rectangular room-church was shortened, and an addition was erected at the eastern end of the edifice. The buttresses, reminiscent of St. Luke's in Smithfield are a non-original addition. On close inspection, the bevel of the water table can be identified; all else, including the window frames, is substantially altered. As reported by Rawlings in 1963, several benches may be original (he cites four of them), and, indeed, Tom and I saw what seemed to be an old bench left out in the open portico east of the church that seemed to have been left there for some time.
Its original dimensions were most likely 60' x 30'; the more or less standard size for rectangular room churches. There is little for the student of colonial churches here. Note the curious quoins on the north steeple opposite the triangular cap for the southern one. In Rawlings' account, he mentions that the steeples are painted green although they are now silver. Cousin Tom mentions that European steeples are invariably green. Does anyone have documentation or a raison d'etre for green steeples?
The surrounding graveyard, begun by a local Black Baptist congregation, has numerous internments and curious features such as grave slabs and concrete crosses on many of the graves. Rawlings calls the church ". . . curious and lamentable" (184) while Upton has eliminated it from architectural analysis completely.
Monday, May 28, 2007
According to Bishop Mason’s book that I just recently received, there are several interesting anecdotes about this edifice.
First Mr. Richard Baylor of
Baylor also reports a dual fought in the churchyard by General Bankhead and a Mr. Buckner on the south side of the church. One or two shots were fired before the parties dispersed.
The most common story is that of local farmers in the early nineteenth century who entered to remove the aisle stones and bricks who were confronted by a Mrs. Moscoe Garnett who threatened to prosecute them for trespass and theft on the legal basis that her family had permitted the church to be built on their land, and, therefore, it reverted to their ownership after the Disestablishment. The farmers, according to the present Rector, Dr. Agnew, were Baptists and fled upon the woman’s assertions, leaving the church preserved (Mason 408-409).
The church silver also has a fascinating tale. With the exception of the chalice, it disappeared during the Civil War, but the platen and the other chalice were found them displayed in an antique shop (?) in the North and raised money to purchase them and return them to the parish where they are still in use. The flagon that was stolen has never been found.
Dr. Agnew is also related to the Rev. John Agnew who in 1776 gave a sermon with the topic “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” and was driven from the church by a patriotic vestryman, William Cowper. Cowper is reputed to have replied, to the assertion that Agnew was serving his master, “Which master? Your master in heaven, or your master over the seas? You must leave this church or I will use force!” Agnew, who has served as rector for over twenty years, left and never returned. He became the chaplain of the
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Another unique aspect of this church is the interior that is one of the few relatively intact ones from colonial days. For some reason, I didn't take extensive pictures, but I will remedy this in a future visit.
As already mentioned, the doors are probably the only original ones still in situ and are in amazingly find condition. Even the frames and moldings are in excellent shape; note that they reflect the general Northern Peninsula structure with a semicircular arch over the west door and a triangular one above the southern one. For a close description read Rawling's book pages 92ff. Note the differentiation between the pilasters (bas relief columns) beside the doors and the square voussoirs above the south door based on continuing the lines of the circular or flat arch. The windows, too, are of colonial origin if not original including the compass frames for those in the walls and the semi-arched square sash windows above the south door to provide light for the balcony.
The flagstones of the aisles are most likely original, but the chancel was first paved with bricks removed in 1925. The wooden floors under the pews are said to cover remains of bricks. The chancel was in colonial days in the east but was moved to its northern, central location in 1827 when the church was renovated. At the same time, the pews were cut down to the present height of three feet or so (I need to measure), but the doors, hinges, and rail caps are original. The present color, a pleasing light blue, is according to Dr. Agnew, derived from colonial paint samples found within the church.
The pulpit, which originally was a three decker with a clerk's deck, a reading desk, and the pulpit itself, was replaced with a simpler, one-level pulpit in 1827. It may has stood against the north wall as it now does, but there is little evidence for the original placement. The interior is plastered with a flat ceiling. From the level of the pulpit, the minister is level with the balconies in the west and south -- not a place for one with vertigo.
All in all, the interior like the exterior of the church is charming and truly evocative of a different era. Like Merchant's Hope, it lets the viewer step back into another era and be surrounded by the past.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Vauter's Church (Vawter's) 1719-1731 N38.08642 W77.06798
This delightful building lies just to the north of Route 17 in Essex County between Port Royal and Tappahannock. There are several interesting features of the structure, so I will post different blogs about the exterior, the interior, and the stories about the church.
Vauter's Church is a T-shaped building with the offset to the south -- the best preserved church of its type in the USA. It is the fourth (?) building of St. Anne's Parish and the first brick church of the parish. St. Anne's Parish was founded circa 1704-1711. Rawlings and Upton both consider this church as a modified one with the basic rectangular structure erected around 1719 and the southern T erected in 1731 according to the dating brick. The present rector, Dr. Agnew, states from his examination of the rafters on a crawl though them that the structure was originally erected as a T-shaped structure in 1731?
In any case, the location of the church on a small knoll surrounded by picturesque trees and a small graveyard, makes this the most pleasing site I have visited so far. The rectangular east-west structure is 56'6" x 30'2" -- of average size -- while the T-wing is 30'2' wide by 16' long. The T of the chancel is 10'3" wide. Rawlings cites the irregular placement of the southwest windows so that the shutters overlap and irregular flagstones in the aisles as evidence of later construction of the south wing. I, sadly, didn't think to examine them. The walls are 2' thick.
The walls are in superb shape with the checkering of the glazed brick particularly noticeable. The water table is beveled with the expected English bond below and Flemish bond above. A small number of glazed headers are used in the water table itself. Along the angled rafters of the roof (barge boards) is a row of glazed headers as, to a disorganized extent, in Yeocomico and, in a similar manner, in St. John's, King William. Rubbed brick is present in doorways and window jambs, and there is as well fairly consistent use of queen closers in doorways and windows.
The doors themselves are possibly the oldest ones in the state; an interesting feature of the south doors is that they seem to have been put on backwards -- the door panels are concave instead of convex and the weathering on them suggests that they were always that way. the size and spacing of the arches shows great craftmanship. The south door has a triangular pediment while the west door has a semicircular arch as seems typical in these Northern Peninsula churches compared to those south of the James. The pilasters also show great evidence of symmetry and master brickwork.
The windows have circular (compassed) arches with some replacements in the arches. The west facade has two small windows for the balcony that are square with semicircular arches. The roof appears at first to have a consistent angle but is actually kicked gently at the eves, giving it a graceful look.
All in all, this church is beautifully preserved in an idyllic setting and a must visit. It is still an active congregation, and while, we were there, a tour bus arrived, and we were invited by the genial pastor and visitors to tag along with them.
Mangohick Church 1730-32 N37.80782 W77.27191
This greatly modified church is located some twenty miles northeast of Richmond on Route 30 in King William County to the south of the roadway in a large, grassy area with mature cedar and hardwood trees. The name Mangohick is reputed to be of Native American origin as is as well the name of a nearby creek.
The original building was of average size, 61' x 28' and is of typical bonds: English bond below the water table and Flemish bond with glazed headers above it. There are several bricks with initials, some modern and some of possible colonial origin: particularly over the south doorway with the date 1731 and the initials WV? The water table is characterized by a beveled edge where it meets the walls, and there are ventilation holes still present in the lower courses. The south door frame shows the effect of a clumsy restoration as do several of the windows and sections of brick about the structure, most notably the north wall. The west doorway was likely originally a segmental arch but is now a flat one with voussoirs and, as the south door, a recent set of doors.
Added to the east wall is a completely new structure that obscures the brickwork almost entirely. There is a one small window asymmetrically placed on the north wall that is, I believe?, behind the original pulpit. The dental molding at the roof is considered to be original, and the glazed brick is of considerable interest -- a closeup of a glazed brick is included in the illustrations.
The church was abandoned after the Disestablishment and taken over by a local Black Baptist congregation that still uses it to this day. It is again pleasing to see an ancient edifice still in use.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Lambs Creek Church N38.26366 W77.26908 1769-1770
This church is unusual in dimensions, reflecting a change in church architecture in the shape and organization of the building. It is a huge structure, 79'11" x 33'11', approaching the 80 foot limit of audibility in a structure.(Upton, 1985). Tellingly, the pulpit was located on the north wall opposite the south door, thus in the center of the church. In general perspective, the building resembles the meeting house of the northern colonies. It is likely that the south doorway was the main entrance (Rawlings, 1963).
The brick is laid in Flemish bond both below and beyond the beveled water table. The walls themselves show little evidence of repair outside minor repointings and repairs. There is the usual use of rubbed brick in corners and doorways along with queen closers at windows. Because of the length of the church, there are fourteen windows, all covered by ghastly, but most likely, needed metal screens. The wood trim on the north chancel window and the third from western north window are of old, possibly colonial, origin (Rawlings, 1963).
Both doorways are marked by triangular pediments and raised brick pilasters with rectangular wooden doors of later origin. The date, 1770, is prominently incised on the western doorway.
Opposite the western doorway is a boulder with the name and date of erection of the church inscribed on it. The setting, near several houses, and characterized by rank grass diminishes the presence of the building which is set on a small rise near a crossroads just off Route 3 east of Fredericksburg.