A beautiful day, warm and sunny, caused me to abandon my plans for unpacking moving boxes, grab my camera and head out to the James River plantations. I have visited two of them in past years, and have wanted to return to see the others.
My first destination was Westover, built in about 1730 by William Byrd II. An article in the May 1871 Harper's New Monthly Magazine set the stage for my trip, describing a festival sponsored by the Virginia Agricultural Society. The article described the house and the grounds, including a cemetery about a quarter of a mile walk from the house.
It is a grand house. It is a private home, not open to the public, although the owners graciously allow visitors to walk through the grounds. Guided by the Harper's article, I photographed the gateway opposite the back entrance with its wrought iron monogram and two large martlets, one on each post. I found my way to the garden and the tomb of William Byrd, who died on August 26, 1744. "It is considerably dilapidated, and that dilapidation was increased during the occupancy of the estate by the violence of some disorderly soldiers, who not only desecrated it by chipping away pieces as mementoes, but robbed it of the escutcheon, bearing the arms of Colonel Byrd, which adorned the front of the shaft. Let us hope that it was some one ignorant of the historical importance of the relic, and who may be induced - if he should ever see these pages - to return it to its owner, to be replaced where it belongs, and where, for over a century and a half, it had adorned the tomb of one of the accomplished of our land."
The escutcheon is still missing.