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Billingsgate ~ Bladensfield

Home of Martha Garner and John Jenkins Sr.

"The original Bladensfield Estate, of 1,000 acres, was patented by John Jenkins in 1653, and the present house was built for Jenkins by Nicholas Rochester, who came from England in 1689. At Jenkins' death, in 1719, Bladensfield was added to the Nomini Hall estate. The house is a large frame building on a brick basement. The walls of nogging covered with clapboards rise two stories to a gabled roof, which has several dormers. The largest of the dormers is over the entrance. Mantels and cornices are hand-carved, and the flooring is dowel-pinned. The house is privately owned and is not open to the public."

From the website of the National Park Service.

"Bladensfield is one of the oldest houses in the Northern Neck, and is a place of great interest. It is set back from the highway, in a lawn of beautiful trees and shrubbery, through which winds the old, old drive-way. The flower garden back of the house is one of the beauty spots of the Northern Neck. The Ward family, who now own and occupy Bladensfield, take pride in preserving the grounds as they were over two centuries ago....
The original name of the house was 'Billingsgate' and it was not given the title 'Bladensfield' until 1847. The basement of the dwelling is brick-walled, but the walls of the house above the ground are of noggin. Some of the original beaded weather-boarding remains. On the interior are hand-carved mantels and cornice, and paneled wainscot, of a different color in each room. The doors have 'HL' hinges, 'to keep the witches out'. From the hall ceiling still hangs the lamp used in Colonial days. Through the facing of the rear door is the Indian peep-hole. This door has no lock... it never had any. A hard-timbered bar secures it. It is the identical bar that held the door closed against the Indians in the late sixteen hundreds...."

From "Historic Northern Neck of Virginia" by Henry Ragland Eubank, published 1934.

The old road to Bladensfield

 

Bladensfield Estate

 

 

 

The old South door

 

Pictures from the book "The Children of Bladensfield" by Evelyn Douglas Ward

"When we were children, although Papa and Mama disapproved, the servants told us many ghost stories. We heard that Mr. John Peck had been a hard drinker and a severe master. Old Uncle Armistead Jackson used to tell us that our room called the studio had been Mr. Peck's office where he did his drinking and kept his accounts. He said that a great many of the colored people saw his ghost there in the late hours of the night, and always a flame of burning sulphur blazed up from his bosom. He was chained and rattled his chains angrily. From that, Uncle Armistead argued that poor Mr. Peck was in the 'bad place' because he had worked his people so hard.
My favorite story was of Miss Alice, the beautiful daughter of old John Peck. My mother used to tell us of her reputation for beauty and goodness. She had a lover who was a very wild, dissipated young man, much given to horse racing. Miss Alice loved him but refused to marry him until he had reformed his life. He left and she went on a visit to the mountains from which she returned ill with the fever that brought her death.
When she was dying her lover came back and tried to tell her something, but she died holding to him and trying to listen... The servants always said that that was why she could not rest - she had not heard - and so she was always wandering about the place... She was the loved companion of our childhood.
One day, a gentle, old clergyman came very unexpectedly to visit us. My mother put him in the room in which Miss Alice had died. In the morning this old gentleman rose by light, and wandered all over the place. At breakfast, my mother said, 'Mr. Temple, I am afraid you did not rest well, you got up so early.' Mr. Temple answered, 'Madam, I could not sleep in that room.' My mother said, 'Oh, I am so sorry I put you there to sleep.' He answered, 'I am glad. I would not have missed it for anything.' My mother remembered that Mr. Temple was Miss Alice's wild, young lover.
Aunt Amy Fauntleroy, a very old colored woman, said when she was a little girl, before we lived at Bladensfield, 'the ghoses' were so troublesome that the Pecks had them 'laid'. Aunt Amy said she was at 'the Laying'. She told us that the grounds were covered with the colored people and that a Baptist preacher came into the hall, from the back of the house, wearing his coat inside out and upside down and read some verses of the Bible going from the bottom line to the top. Aunt Amy said, 'Ef yer hadn't er knowed it was the Bible, yer'd er thought it was pur nonsense.' She added that 'the ghoses' had never been as bad since 'the laying'... However, they were very much in evidence throughout our childhood."

From a written account of the hauntings at Bladensfield by Evelyn Douglas Ward, daughter of Reverend William Norvell Ward, Rector of Cople, North Farnham, and Lunenberg Parishes, who acquired Bladensfield in 1847.

"The house lies more than a half-mile south of the Kinsale Road, at the end of a drive -- now a shady lane -- close-bordered by dogwood, holly, poplars, and one mighty oak, which separate the drive from fields of wheat, corn, and soybean to the east and cool, deep forest to the west. Withdrawing from the outside world, this sand lane passes through a pole gate and an old split-rail fence and subsides into what once had been a formal carriage circle, shaded by great elms.
In forest light, the house rose like a woody growth, dark silver-green with years of weather. Unreasonably, I had expected a white house, but either the paint had worn away or the house had never known a coat of paint at all. The dark green fungus and the rotting weatherboards under the eaves and the broken attic panes deepened its gothic atmosphere; high dormers, narrow gables, black uncurtained windows, and a brick foundation rising two feet out of the ground made the house seem higher, gaunter than it was. Its several doors, served by wood steps, looked irrevocably shut, as if its occupants were long gone or had boarded themselves up to close away the modern world at the distant highway.
Two English box trees by this drive, grown gigantesque, stood watch over the house with that air of melancholy wistfulness that is peculiar to formality untended."

From description of a 1956 visit to Bladensfield by Peter Matthiessen in the book "The Children of Bladensfield" by Evelyn Douglas Ward.

Fire claims historic Northern Neck mansion

Warsaw (AP) - A fire has claimed one of the oldest houses on the Northern Neck and a state and federally recognized landmark.
The fire at the Bladensfield mansion was first reported to the Richmond County Volunteer Fire Department at about 9:50 a.m. Wednesday. When the first firefighters arrived five minutes later, "she was gone completely," said Assistant Chief Dennis Hanks.
"This is a nightmare," said part-owner Evelyn W. Overton as she watched the smoke rise from the rubble surrounding the huge brick chimney stacks that were the only part of the house left standing....
Bladensfield was a three-story frame house that served as a girls' boarding school during the 1840s. It contained 20 rooms and was a trove of antiques, old family portraits and memorabilia, said Mrs. Overton.
Overton, who lives next door to the property, said she left at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday to take her cousin, who lived in Bladensfield, to the hospital for knee surgery.
"He said the heat was off and he had unplugged everything because he knew he'd be gone for a week," said Overton.
She said at least two neighbors noticed smoke coming from the general area of the Colonial mansion, but assumed it was a controlled burn by foresters who had been working in nearby timberland.
State and local investigators were searching for clues.
"It's not suspicious, but we're looking for what caused it," said Richmond County Sheriff Gene Snydor.

From the "Fairfax Journal" November 1996.