Windsor Castle outbuildings now open
Windsor Castle, the 18th century homestead of Smithfield founder Arthur Smith IV, opened to the public for self-guided tours on Saturday.
The house itself, which has been renovated into an event space, remains off-limits, save for its basement. But the smokehouse, laundry, kitchen, slave quarters and farm manager’s office have been fitted with railings and exhibit panels, as well as touchable objects such as fabrics and preproduction 3D-scanned and printed artifacts.
“Separate buildings for kitchens and laundries were commonplace for elite households in colonial America,” states a sign mounted on the siding of a detached combination kitchen/laundry room with upstairs quarters for enslaved people. “All meal preparation was from scratch and cooked in front of an open hearth, while laundering required kettles of hot water, tables for ironing and racks or lines for drying. Both tasks were hot, arduous and smelly.”
The kitchen/laundry outbuilding is thought to date to the 1740s. When Smith died in 1755 — three years after parceling out his family farm into the original 72 lots and four streets that became known as Smithfield — an inventory of his household listed four enslaved people. Arthur’s nephew Thomas Smith inherited the plantation and by 1782, had 28 enslaved people. Enslaved women and children were often given the task of preparing meals and cleaning fabrics, the interpretive sign on the kitchen states.
The smokehouse, which dates to the 19th century, was used to preserve meat and for storage. Inside, visitors will see several replica Smithfield hams hanging from the ceiling.
In the basement of the manor house visitors can see the change in the brickwork where the home was expanded over the years and read interpretive panels on the lives of Windsor Castle’s various owners: the Smith, Jordan and Johnson-Betts families.
“Archaeologists and architectural historians believe that the current house’s construction began in 1720,” states one of the panels. “The one-room deep brick house was similar in style to Bacon’s Castle in Surry and the Matthew Jones House in present-day Newport News, and its high-quality brickwork was indicative of more ambitious dwellings in Tidewater.”
The Isle of Wight County Museum, which Smithfield Parks and Recreation and the Windsor Castle Park Foundation tasked with preparing the outbuildings for self-guided tours, is also offering guided tours once a month. The scheduled tours and exhibit hours are available at https://www.windsorcastlepark.com/walkingtours.html.