When the Williamses shipped the manor house over from England, they also had Charles Gillette, a prominent landscape architect, design English-style gardens on the grounds of the manor. The English style of gardens includes brick walls, boxwood hedges, courtyards, and walkways. There wasn't enough time to kill before the 1.30pm tour to do a full garden walk. Besides that, the weather was less desirable than my good friend Phil deserved on the last day of his holiday and, being early spring, not everything was in bloom. In another month or so, these gardens would have resembled an artist's pallette. The featured photo is of the Sunken Garden. There are many more gardens on the property with all manner of flowers.
The Great Hall served as a main gathering place and dining room. It was ornately decorated with wooden paneled walls, a tapestry, and a large leaded glass window. The armor, ready for use in case of trouble, made an impressive display rather similar to the Great Hall of the Governor's Mansion inWilliamsburg.
The Great Parlour is the English manor house version of the modern living room. Family members and guests would retire to this more private oak-paneled room for more privacy. This was the "fun room" where there was an inlaid game table, musical instruments, and books. The number of books in one's possession was a good indicator of the level of education.
The Dining Parlour has a fireplace, a bay window, and window seats. The table was put close to the window to make maximum use of natural lighting. Lunch was the main meal and supper was served informally and sometimes even eaten in the bedchambers.
The bedchambers very much reflected the personality and the interests of the occupants. At that time, the bed referred to only the feather sheets. The bedstead was the ornately carved frame that was such an important thing that it was often featured in wills.
The Williams Library appears much as it did when the family lived here before the house became a museum. The library was used by the Mortons to entertain important Richmonders. The room is dominated by the big refectory table. Portraits of Mr. and Mrs. David Morton hang in the library.
When we got there, security guards directed us to the entrance which really was unusual. Many staff members were elderly volunteers. They joked they were providing "English weather" to add flavour to the experience. Phil and I were the only two on the 1.30pm tour. The tour began with a 13-minute film describing the background of the manor. Like the South Carolina State House documentary (in Columbia), the narrator spoke in a Southern dialect as opposed to a neutral "six o'clock news" accent. Photography from the inside was prohibited- the light would have been lousy anyhow. The guide had to carry a flashlight with her.
Agecroft Hall was originally built before Columbus discovered America near Manchester, England. By the late 16th Century, the house contained approximately 20 rooms including a kitchen, great hall, great parlour, dining parlour, several bedrooms, and a private chapel. The house was designed when the emphasis had switched from fortress to comfortable abode. Coal mining and the railroads served to undermine the foundation and attempts to mitigate that fact did more harm than good. Increasing industrial development caused the house to go unoccupied from 1904-1925 when it was put up for auction. Thomas Williams, a rich guy from Richmond (who made his millions in tobacco, banking, and shipping) bought it and had it shipped over bit by bit. The incredible thing was not a single pane of stained glass was broken during the long trip across the Big Pond. He wanted to have this English manor house built on 23 acres overlooking the James River. It took 2-1/2 years from auction bid to completion. Sadly, Thomas Williams died in 1929, only a year after this monumental project was completed. In Mr. Williams' will, he stipulated that after Mrs. Williams died or moved elsewhere, Agecroft Hall would become a museum, which it did in 1969. TO BE CONTINUED...
This manor house was actually built in Lancashire, England in the late 15th Century (1400s). For hundreds of years, Agecroft Hall was the distinguished home of England's Langley and Dauntesey families. At the end of the 19th century, however, Agecroft fell into disrepair, and in 1925 it was sold at auction. Richmonder Thomas C. Williams, Jr. purchased the structure, and had it dismantled, crated, and shipped across the Atlantic, and then painstakingly reassembled in a Richmond neighborhood known as Windsor Farms. Today, Agecroft Hall stands beautifully re-created, in a setting reminiscent of its original site on Lancashire's Irwell River.
Visit Agecroft, and you'll walk into the lives of the landed gentry in England's Tudor and early Stuart periods. Tour the Great Hall, and you'll imagine the feasts and merriment its richly-paneled walls have seen. Enter the manor's Great Parlour, where family and guests retreated for comfort, privacy and 16th- and 17th-century diversions. Peruse the sleeping chambers, where residents not only rested, but also dressed and dined. From its "dyninge parlour," up its intricately carved staircases and through its noble passageways, this manor home has 500 years of stories to tell.
Agecroft Hall is a portion of a vast Tudor Estate that stood in England for hundreds of years. But it fell into disrepair and hovered over mining concerns. The house was slated for demolision, but the owners decided that maybe it could be sold at auction.
Enter Thomas C. Williams Jr. from Richmond, Virginia, a tobacco and banking heir with money to burn. Williams bought Agecroft Hall and had it disassembled, boxed, put on freighters and shipped to the U.S. It was unboxed, reassembled and voila a genuine Tudor manor came into being on American soil.
The only way to see Agecroft is to take the tour. It is mildly interesting. The rooms that are shown are portrayed as they might have been in 15th or 16th century England. But the artifacts on display were not original to the manor and I guess I'm less than impressed when shown a fake feast with plastic food. The only room that is presented the way it was used by Mr. and Mrs. Williams is the library which is the most interesting room in the house.