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‘Wilton’ tour offers visitors a glimpse of 18th century

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Wilton opens its doors for the public on Saturday, May 10, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

“Wilton” is an 18th century plantation house that was the seat of the Churchill family from the early 1760s through the first quarter of the 19th century and the center of an estimated 6,000 acres of family landholdings in lower Middlesex County. The Churchills were an influential, socially prominent family of Virginia planters, merchants and officeholders. On the basis of their wealth, office holdings, political influence and marital relations, they might be ranked in the top 25 or so families in Virginia in the middle of the 18th century. Wilton, as a structure, is likely an accurate reflection of that position.

The product of inherited wealth, Wilton was built like many other 18th-century Virginia plantation houses, by the sons and grandsons of the ambitious merchants, planters, and officeholders who rose to prominence in the last quarter of the 17th and the first half of the 18th century. This small, elite group, drawn from perhaps two or three dozen families, wielded great political influence in Virginia, largely for their own economic advantage, and they continually cemented their political, economic and social positions through marriage amongst themselves. The Churchills wed with the richest of these families, the dynasty of Robert “King” Carter. Indeed, Carter money may well have built Wilton.

Since it was purchased from Preservation Virginia in 2011, Wilton has undergone extensive modernization and preservation work. The effort at Wilton has been to show the house and its original materials as they have aged over the years—from the wear marks on old floors to the patina of 200-year-old paint.

Wilton remains very much the same elegant plantation house that was built so long ago: a handsomely furnished, T-shaped, 1.5-story, gambrel-roofed, brick structure of simple but elegant Georgian design. Its 4,000 square feet of interior space are distributed over eight rooms with eight fireplaces served by three impressive white-capped chimneys. To this date, its external footprint—made of bricks kilned on the property, laid in Flemish bond and set in oyster shell mortar—stands unaltered. Six of its eight rooms retain their original heart-pine floors, never sanded or varnished. The beautiful pine paneling in the Southwest parlor with its molded cornice ornamented with fine dentils today wears only its second coat of paint ever, an ice-blue applied circa 1790.

On Saturday, May 10, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Wilton opens its doors for the public to view this beautiful historic property. The current owner has graciously agreed to open the doors to Wilton in support of the Middlesex County Museum & Historical Society Inc., whose mission is to preserve, and foster the telling of, the rich history of Middlesex County.

As a fund-raising event for the museum, the admission ticket sale proceeds will be used for operating expenses for the museum and its community outreach programming. Admission to the house is $30 and tickets may be purchased at the door. Wilton is at 2068 Twiggs Ferry Road, Hartfield. (GPS: 37°31’46” N76°25’25”W).

For further information on Wilton, visit http://www.wiltonhousevirginia.org.

Read the rest of this story in this week’s Southside Sentinel at newstands throughout the county, or sign up here to receive a print and/or electronic pdf subscription.

posted 05.07.2014

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