Sunday, November 27, 2011

Agecroft Hall

By Muna Futur

Built in Lancashire, England in the late 15th century; came to Richmond in 1926.                    

Welcome to the historical Agecroft Hall! Agecroft Hall a former Tudor estate that was previously located in England. This historical place is currently located in the heart of Virginia’s capital, Richmond. However before you can completely understand the significance of Agecroft Hall, you must understand the history behind it. In order to comprehend any thing or anyone, it is always beneficial to research the history.

Let’s take it back a little more than 500 years ago to 1485 in England. During this time the Tudors were in power throughout England. The Tudors were “A Welsh-English family that ruled England from 1485 to 1603. Henry Tudor was the son of Margaret Beaufort, who was descended from King Edward III through an illegitimate line, and Edmund Tudor, the son of Princess Catherine of Valois and her second husband, Owen Tudor.” (Hanson 1)

As you can see, the Tudor family was an extremely large dynasty that was reining England. The Tudor family line goes on for years and years. “Through Catherine of Valois, Jasper was the half-brother of the last Lancastrian king, Henry VI. The Yorkist branch of the Plantagenet dynasty would eventually seize the throne from the incompetent Henry VI, but their reign ended when Richard III was killed at the battle of Bosworth Field on 22 August 1485. Henry Tudor then claimed the throne as King Henry VII. He promptly married Elizabeth of York, daughter of the only successful Yorkist king, Edward IV, and niece of Richard III. Henry VII and Elizabeth of York's second son, three of their grandchildren and one of their great-grandchildren, would rule England as part of the Tudor dynasty. When their rule ended, the throne passed to the Scottish branch of their family - James I was the great-grandson of their daughter, Margaret Tudor.” (Hanson 1)

By understanding the Tudor history and rulers, it will allow you to visualize the state that England was in starting in the 1480s. Throughout the beginning years pertaining to Agecroft Hall, Henry VII (also called Henry Tudor) was ruling England. He ruled from 1485 to 1509. During this time England was in a state of change and reinventing itself. “Henry VII's first task was to secure his position. In 1486 he married Elizabeth of York, eldest daughter of Edward IV, thus uniting the Houses of York and Lancaster.” (The British Monarchy 1) Henry VII wanted to bring the York and Lancaster families together in order to bring unity and also to avoid any battles that could occur between them. This may be looked at as a smart war tactic on Henry VII’s behalf.

After Henry VII died in 1509, his son Henry VIII took over the throne of England. Henry VIII ruled from the years of 1509 to 1547. He is considered to be a different kind of ruler than his father was.

“From his father, Henry VIII inherited a stable realm with the monarch's finances in healthy surplus - on his accession, Parliament had not been summoned for supplies for five years. Henry's varied interests and lack of application to government business and administration increased the influence of Thomas Wolsey, an Ipswich butcher's son, who became Lord Chancellor in 1515.” (The British Monarchy 1)

One of Henry VIII’s main focuses while he was ruling was England’s foreign policy agreements with the surrounding countries. He wanted to create stable and beneficial foreign policy relations with these countries to secure the safety of England.

“Henry's interest in foreign policy was focused on Western Europe, which was a shifting pattern of alliances centered round the kings of Spain and France, and the Holy Roman Emperor. (Henry was related by marriage to all three - his wife Catherine was Ferdinand of Aragon's daughter, his sister Mary married Louis XII of France in 1514, and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V was Catherine's nephew.)” (The British Monarchy 1)

Henry VIII reign consisted of several other events that would forever change the way that England, during that time, was run. One of the biggest events that took place during his reign was the Protestant Reformation.  The way that the Protestant Reformation began is a very common event that most people can remember easily. It began in 1517 when a man named, “Martin Luther, a German Augustinian monk, posted 95 theses on the church door in the university town of Wittenberg. That act was common academic practice of the day and served as an invitation to debate. Luther’s propositions challenged some portions of Roman Catholic doctrine and a number of specific practices.” (Protestant Reformation 1)

During this time in England, and majority of Europe, questioning the church had not been done. Luther’s accusations toward the church were surprising for this society to see and experience. Some of the specific accusations and problems that Luther wanted to vocalize for the church and people to hear was, “that the Bible, not the Pope, was the central means to discern God’s word — a view that was certain to raise eyebrows in Rome. Further, Luther maintained that justification (salvation) was granted by faith alone; good works and the sacraments were not necessary in order to be saved.” (Protestant Reformation 1)

“Luther had been especially appalled by a common church practice of the day, the selling of indulgences. These papal documents were sold to penitents and promised them the remission of their sins. To Luther and other critics it appeared that salvation was for sale. Rome enthusiastically supported the use of indulgences as a means to raise money for a massive church project, the construction of St. Peter’s basilica.” (Protestant Reformation 1)

In relation to Henry VIII, the Reformation was the time period that most associate with him wanting to get a divorce. During this time Henry VIII was married to Katherine of Aragon. He was so determined to make this happen that he would stop at nothing to get what he wanted. Henry VIII was turned down by the Pope several times, but that did not deter him from what he wanted; a divorce.

Most people would wonder why Henry VIII wanted a divorce so badly from Katherine of Aragon. It would appear that she was a horrid wife because of Henry VIII’s persistence to be free of her. The actual reason why Henry VIII wanted the Pope to grant him a divorce from Katherine of Aragon is because he desperately wanted a male heir to the throne. He wanted his own child to be the one to take over after his death. Katherine of Aragon tried to give him a son, but the few times she was pregnant it with a boy, they soon passed away. Katherine of Aragon was only able to give Henry VIII a baby girl, Mary, who was born in 1516. She would later on be known as Mary Tudor and sometimes even called Bloody Mary.

Since the Pope would not grant Henry VIII a divorce from his wife, he decided to take matters into his own hands. “In the end, he simply declared himself Supreme Head of the Church of England and confiscated all church lands and money in his country. This is known to history as 'the dissolution of the monasteries.' However, Henry VIII remained a spiritual Catholic; he disliked Luther's ideas and was never a Protestant himself. He simply rejected Roman Catholic influence in England.” (Hanson 1)

After Henry VIII opened up the door of challenging the church and believing in other religions, this trend continued throughout history long after his death in January of 1547. “The influence of the Roman Catholic Church in England declined while the new ideas of the Reformation began to slowly gain adherents. The resulting religious convulsions would consume most of Europe for the entire century. In Tudor England, the conflict between the old faith and the new consumed its rulers. Henry VIII was a lapsed Catholic; his successor Edward VI was a devout Protestant; his successor Mary I was a devout Catholic; her successor Elizabeth I was, understandably enough, a religious pragmatist.” (Hanson 1)

Now that the historical, political and social background of England during the 15th and 16th century is clear, it will be much easier to understand the importance of great Agecroft Hall estate. This historical estate directly ties in to the history of England.

As stated earlier, Agecroft Hall is a historical Tudor estate. It was originally built in 1485, which is in the late 15th century. “The original name of the house was Edgecroft, as the house sat on the edge of a field, or croft.” (Waddelove 1) The name was soon after changed to Agecroft Hall.

This historic estate was originally built in Lancashire, England; which is close in proximity to the city of Manchester. (Lancashire is about 200-300 miles from London). Agecroft Hall’s “primary residents were the Langley and the Dauntesey families, wealthy members of the gentry just a step below nobility on the social ladder.” (Elvgren 1)

The Langley and the Dauntesey families were prestigious families during this time. Most people are unaware of how these two families are connected throughout history. “When Sir Robert Langley died in 1561 his estates were divided between his four daughters. He left Agecroft and the adjacent lands to his daughter Anne, who married William Dauntesey.” (The Agecroft Collection 1)

Anne and her husband William Dauntesey owned Agecroft Hall for years to come. Then, Agecroft Hall was passed down throughout the Dauntesey family. “The hall began to deteriorate during the 1800s. Following the discovery and mining of coal near the house, the placement of railroad tracks through the grounds and finally a fire in 1894, Agecroft Hall was abandoned and remained unoccupied from 1910 until 1925.” (Elvgren 1)

After remaining unoccupied for 15 years, Thomas C. Williams Jr. then purchased Agecroft Hall. Williams, a Virginia businessman, bought this historic estate at an auction. A man named Henry Morse, an architect, was the one who actually sought out and bought Agecroft on Williams’ behalf. During this time Williams was a client of Morse. “An American buying what was, basically, a piece of English history raised quite the uproar in England, all the way to Parliament. However, in the end, everyone came to realize the gift Williams was giving this roughly five hundred year old manor.” (Visit Agecroft Hall 1)

Being that Williams lived in Virginia, it was only natural that he would have wanted to have his newly purchased property in Virginia with him. However due to the fact that this was a large property, most would have thought that this was not at all possible. The businessman in Williams led him to ultimately do the unthinkable.

“Morse arranged for Agecroft Hall to be carefully dismantled, crated, and shipped across the Atlantic to Norfolk, Virginia. From there the crates traveled by train to Richmond where Morse hired contractors to put the pieces back together. The recreated Agecroft Hall now stands in a setting similar to its original one on the banks of the Irwell River in Lancashire.” (Decoteau 1).

Most people always think about moving their house with them when they move to a different city and Williams did exactly that. He now had the property he purchased in Richmond with him. “Williams, who had earned his fortune in tobacco and as an investment banker, owned multiple acres of land in Richmond, on which his dream was to create an English village, called Windsor Farms, reminiscent of those he’d seen in England. (Visit Agecroft 1)

“He had no intention of replicating Agecroft Hall as it had stood in Lancashire. Instead, Williams salvaged sixteenth-century materials--timbers, window casements, paneling, leaded glass, door frames, the stone roof and the courtyard gates--and combined them with twentieth-century conveniences.” (Elvgren 1) It has been reported and researched that Williams spend about $250,000 to reconstruct this historical estate.

Sadly, Thomas C. Williams Jr. passed away not too long after Agecroft Hall was brought to Richmond in 1929. He was about to live in Agecroft Hall for about a year after its 2-2 ½ year reconstruction period was over. Marion Elizabeth Booker, Williams’ wife, continued to live at the estate for years to come. She remarried years later to a man named David Morton and continued to live in Agecroft hall until 1969.

It has been said that in Williams’ will, he said that he wanted Agecroft to turned into a museum after his wife either died or moved out of the estate. In 1969, that is exactly what happened. Years after his wife remarried, their former home was turned into a museum for all to visit.

Once you step inside of the reconstructed Agecroft Hall turned museum, you will instantly feel like you are back in the Tudor years in England. The museum does a fantastic job of keeping the estate looking as the Langley and Dauntesey would have lived. 

When it was located in England, Agecroft Hall was a very large estate. “Today, the house is similar in style to the original building in England, but different in configuration. The original building was a quadrangular structure surrounding a central courtyard. However, there were many parts of the house that were not viable, so Agecroft today is only one-third the size that it was in England.” (Decoteau 1) 

One of the most remarkable rooms in Agecroft Hall is the Great Hall. This room was primarily used for gatherings, business, entertaining guests, meals and for other various activities. Being the Great Hall is the room that most guests of the residents’ would enter through first, there are several lavish items in this room. One entire wall in the Great Hall is made of glass that serves as a window into the front of the house. This glass window is one of the first extravagant items that guests would see.

“An expansive 10 foot by 30 foot window that was original to the house and was shipped complete from England. Glass was expensive in the period, so a window as large as this was a clear sign of the importance and prosperity of the family. The Langley family installed the window and the Daunteseys added their coat of arms later.” (Decoteau 1)

Another great feature of Agecroft Hall are the magnificent gardens.  Agecroft Hall sits on about plenty of acres, thus the space to create several beautiful gardens. The Williams’ hired a talented landscaper by the name of Charles Gillette to construct the stunning gardens at Agecroft Hall and that is exactly what he did. The gardens are filled with a variety of flowers, herbs and plants that all help in creating a warm and romantic feeling.

There are several different sections of the gardens that all join together to create one spectacular garden. It is interesting to realize that Agecroft Hall was once standing on the Irwell River in Lancashire and now is standing on the James River of Richmond. The view of the James River from the estate’s gardens and from some rooms is truly beautiful. That is just one example of how magical Agecroft Hall really is.

There are several rooms in Agecroft Hall that look very similar to how they would have looked in the earlier Tudor years. The Agecroft Hall museum staff takes pride in occasionally changing the “objects in the rooms to reflect the changes in seasons. The Dining Parlor and Great Parlor are also used to display plaster reproductions of foods representative of the diet of the period. Sometimes dancing or musical performances take place in them as well. In the summer, The Richmond Shakespeare Encore Group performs the Bard’s plays outside in the courtyard.” (Decoteau 1)

Several of the bedrooms in Agecroft Hall still have original 15th and 16th century furniture in them. For example, one of the bedrooms in the estate have an original 16th century complete bed frame set that still has its original paint covering it. This bed was painted in bright colors that were very unusual during this time, making it a priceless item the estate holds on to. This rare bed frame set also tells a story within the carvings. The carvings and decorations are meant to improve the chances of creating a child. This was a common task for the English because the family name was always wanted to carry on. By having children, families would insure that their legacy would not end.

Agecroft Hall also has a number of other original items such as large tapestries, original swords and armor, furniture, books and much more. This museum has kept and provided items to show that have been around for centuries. 

The only room in Agecroft Hall that was not redecorated to resemble the Tudor period in England is the estate’s library. The library was never changed from the time with the Williams lived there. This room still has all of the Williams’ books, magazines and original furniture. The library is one of the largest rooms in Agecroft; it takes up one entire wing, and one of the most used rooms. By leaving this room untouched while the rest of the house was being transformed into the Tudor era, a piece of the Williams family will always be a part of Agecroft Hall.

Agecroft Hall is open all year round to entertain visitors that wish to learn more about the Tudor period of England. (Tuesday-Saturday 10am-4pm and Sundays 12:30pm-5pm). While visiting Agecroft Hall, not only will visitors be given a guided tour of the estate and gardens, but they will also be shown an informative video. This video explains the background history of Agecroft Hall and its significance to history today. A small fee will be charged per visitor, however it is a small price to pay to be exposed to all of the history of this estate and of the Tudor period. This historic estate is located at 4305 Sulgrave Road Richmond, VA 23221. Please visit to learn more information about this historical Tudor estate and how to plan your visit! Or call 804-353-4241.

  1. Elvgren, Jennifer. "To be in England." Historic Traveler 4, no. 1 (November 1997): 58. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed November 26, 2011).
  2. "Agecroft Hall." Accessed November 26, 2011.
  3. Virginia Tourism, "Agecroft Hall-Richmond, Virginia." Last modified 2001. Accessed November 26, 2011.
  4. Museum USA, "Agecroft Hall." Last modified 2011. Accessed November 26, 2011.
  5. Waddelove, Anna., "A Piece of england, on the James." Last modified October 12, 2011. Accessed November 26, 2011.
  6. Hanson, Marilee., "Tudor England FAQ." Last modified 2004. Accessed November 26, 2011.
  7. The British Monarchy, "History of the Monarchy." Last modified 2011. Accessed November 26, 2011.
  8. "The Protestant Reformation." Accessed November 26, 2011.  
  9. New England Antiques Journal, "Agecroft Hall & Gardens: Richmond's Remarkable Tudor Estate." Accessed November 26, 2011. .
  10. Info Barrel, "Visit Agecroft Hall: Richmond, Virginia." Last modified 2011. Accessed November 26, 2011.
  11. "The Agecroft Collection F.3.11-11." Accessed November 26, 2011. 

*Pictures of Agecroft Hall original work of Muna Futur
*Picture of Henry VII from 
*Picture of The Protestant Reformation from 

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