Portions of Windsor Castle and its former plantation are now part of a 208-acre public park overlooking the Pagan River in the town of Smithfield.
Originally, this area was occupied by the Warraskoyack Indians. There is archaeological evidence of activity in front of the house close to the river.
On Sept. 10, 1637, Arthur Smith patented 1,450 acres of land in Isle of Wight County, formerly known as Warraskoyack Shire. The property was described as “a neck of land running S.E. along a creek behind Pagan Shore.”
Arthur Smith I was the third son of Arthur Smith of Blackmore, Essex, England. His date of arrival to Virginia is unknown, but he did represent the district at the House of Burgesses from 1644 to 1645. He had five children: Thomas, Arthur, Richard, Jane and George. Smith died in 1645 and asked to be “buried in the garden by my late and beloved wife.”
Archaeologists have yet to find evidence of the first house on the 159-acre tract where the current house, outbuildings and cemetery sit.
ARTHUR SMITH II, III, IV & V
Arthur Smith II, 1638-1697, inherited the property from his father in 1645. He was the county justice from 1675 to 1680, a colonial in the militia in 1680 and a representative to the House of Burgess in 1685. He married Sarah Jackson, and they had five children: Thomas, George, Arthur, Mary and Jane.
Arthur Smith III inherited the property in 1697. He was the county justice from 1702 to 1714 and a member of the vestry at the Old Brick Church from 1733 to 1740. He married to Mary Bromfield, they had six children: Arthur, Thomas, Martha, Jane, Olive and Mary. He died in 1742.
Arthur Smith IV inherited the estate in 1742. In 1750, he petitioned the General Assembly to dock his entailed estate to create a town which he would call Smithfield. The town was established in 1752 with four streets and 72 lots. He married Elizabeth Bray-Allen, but he died without children in 1755.
Based on the material evidence found in cellar excavations and the style of brick work, archaeologists believe that the current house was begun by 1740. Part of the cellar dates to a previous structure, perhaps an earlier house.
Thomas Smith inherited the estate from his uncle in 1755. Thomas was the son of Arthur IV’s brother Thomas. Young Thomas was a captain in the militia in 1782. He married Elizabeth Waddrop, and they had six children: Arthur, Elizabeth, Sarah, Fanny, Lelia and Jenny. Thomas died in 1799.
Arthur Smith V inherited the estate from his father in 1799. He was a captain during the War of 1812, a colonel in the militia and a member of the House of Delegates from 1818 to 1820 and from 1837 to 1838. He studied law at the College of William & Mary and never married. Arthur V sold the manor house and plantation to Watson P. Jordan on Oct. 17, 1838.
Archaeological evidence shows that the house was modified in the early 1800s. The artifacts found show a change in political views - shifting from one of a British colony to that of a new republic. Additionally, the current configuration of the outbuildings including the kitchen, smokehouse and barn were constructed. Archaeological evidence also suggests that slave quarters were located in the area that the vineyard now occupies. Colonoware, everyday ware made by Native Americans and used by enslaved people, was found in that general location.
Watson P. Jordan, 1798-1860, married Ann Marshall Boykin in 1818. They had 12 children live to majority. Historians feel that the full English basement in the house was a small school was set up for the Jordan children and other local students. Jordan hired a tutor and asked parents to contribute to the cost. Upon his death, he left the house to his youngest son, M. Filmore Jordan.
M. Filmore Jordan lived in the house until he sold it on Jan. 1, 1884, to Jeremiah J. Johnson. The deed for the estate refers to the site as “the Smith tract or Windsor Castle.” This was the first mention of the house as Windsor Castle. The reason for the name is unknown.
Jeremiah J. Johnson was born in 1841 and moved to Isle of Wight in 1870. He married Antoinette Vick in 1868 and had two daughters. The youngest, Effie, married Charles Samuel Betts, and they inherited the house upon her father’s death. Their son, Charles Samuel Betts Jr., owned the house until 1977.
The cemetery has two existing markers - dated 1870 and 1921. It is felt that this was the 18th century Arthur Smith family cemetery. Closer examination of the site could prove the cemetery dates to the 17th century as well. When Arthur Smith V sold the property to Watson P. Jordan in 1838, he reserved the right to enter the burial ground.
Currently, Windsor Castle is a one and a half story, gable-roofed, stuccoed masonry dwelling with twin semi-exterior end chimneys on each gable end. Windsor Castle is an excellent example of a Tidewater Virginia colonial farm dwelling later remodeled with Greek Revival features. It was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.
In 2007, Joseph W. Luter IIIdonated $5 million to the town for the purchase and development of Windsor Castle and is surrounding 208 acres as a park. The 46 acres immediately surrounding the manor house are protected by a historic easement controlled by the state of Virginia. The park was formally opened during a ceremony officiated by the Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell on May 22, 2010. The park features hiking trails, a dog park, a mountain bike trail, a fishing pier and a canoe launch. The manor house overlooks the junction of Cypress Creek and the Pagan River.
Archaeology is a science which draws from many disciplines. Since 2010, the Wheatland Foundation, a non-profit organization, in Williamsburg, Va., has worked with the Town of Smithfield at Windsor Castle to conduct field investigations and preliminary laboratory processing and analyses. This ongoing work will help guide proposed improvements as the property has never been the subject of a systematic archaeological survey, and it will allow for continued planning and help extend our knowledge of Windsor Castle's history.
Archaeology can address many unknowns about the Windsor Castle property such as the age of the existing house (thought to be the 1740s), the layout of the plantation, where kilns and other craft areas were located as well as the patterns of consumer behavior and diet.
The Wheatland Foundation, working in conjunction with students enrolled in historical archaeology at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va., has mapped the site to proceed with excavation, screening, documenting and recovery.
Artifacts found on site to date include prehistoric lithic flakes, handwrought iron nails, 18th century stemware fragments, wine bottle glass fragments, 18th century ceramics, animal bones and more. A cellar next to the house has recently been located.
Windsor Castle is a sensitive resource which requires professional care, and all artifacts on site belong to the Town of Smithfield. Please feel free to view the site and ask questions of the archaeological staff when they are on site. Questions may also be referred to the Isle of Wight County Museum at 757-356-1223.