Please note – This is private property and there is absolutely no metal detecting or relic hunting on this property. The owners are kind enough to open up these wonderful and historic grounds to the public for a nominal fee and we must respect their private property rights.
Located a short walking distance west of the grand Westover Plantation house is the site of the original Westover Parish church. It was built around 1630 by Theodorick Bland, 100 years prior to the erection of the brick Georgian mansion on the banks of the James River in Charles City, Virginia. Like all of the original Virginia parish churches, not only was it a house of worship, it also served as a court house and even a prison! Below is a Google Earth screen shot of the location of the church site and it’s proximity to the plantation house which was later built by William Byrd II, the founder of the City of Richmond.
As noted in the screen shot above, the church would have either been accessed via boat or land. Both the original carriage path and pathway from the James River still exist. The below photo shows the carriage path. This is the view towards the church site with the plantation house behind me.
The church site is about 1/4 of a mile from the plantation house down this carriage path. Before you get to the church site, you will encounter the path that leads down to the river. This is where the other inhabitants of the parish would have sailed and moored at the base of this path to attend church or court.
Below is what the parishioners would have seen as they entered the church grounds. Notice the ancient boxwoods and trees.
As you enter the grounds, to the right is the cemetery
Buried here are some of the original members of the parish including Theodorick Bland and William Byrd I.
Below is the tombstone of Capt. William Perry. This is (or was) the oldest known legible tombstone in America
Between the cemetery and the church building location are two more tombs of Benjamin Harrison III and his wife. Harrison’s son, Benjamin Harrison IV, built the neighboring Berkley Plantation House which is the ancestral home of two future Presidents.
The below Google screen shot actually shows the outline of the ancient church which has been gone for over 250 years!
There is so much more to this church site and the Westover Parish as a whole, which in the 1730’s, was eventually moved to the present site a short distance away on Rt 5. If you do ever visit Westover and the other wonderful James River plantations, don’t forget about this forgotten site.