Virginia House

The origins of an American home

What is a house in Virginia doing on a site about Warwickshire? At first, this may appear to be a strange choice for an article on this website, at least until we uncover the fact that its links with Warwickshire are particularly strong. Any visitor to the County Record Office will see echoes of the former Priory on the right as they walk up the drive, a couple of the buildings being the last trace of the grand old house.

Demolition, rebuilding

A previous article looks at the earlier history of the Priory, but its story does not end with its demolition. The Priory was bought by A.W. Weddell (later U.S. ambassador to Spain) at a demolition sale in 1925, and amid local and national controversy the stones were numbered, packed up and shipped 3,000 miles to Richmond, Virginia, U.S.A. As well as stone from the old house the Weddells also enthusiastically tracked down and purchased some of the Priory’s staircases, window glass, panelling, lead pipes and rain water heads which had been dispersed at the sale. The carved stones and other ornamental work were carefully protected by being packed in boxes with sand and the ashlar went as ballast freight, all in all several thousand tons of materials. The Tudor-style building lovingly erected by the Weddells and known as “Virginia House” was not a faithful reconstruction of the Priory, although it retained its essential features. It still stands and is now a museum maintained by the Virginia Historical Society.

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