This historic plantation house is a travel destination in its own right. But Wilton is also a convenient jumping off point to explore the quiet pleasures of Tidewater Virginia, from kayaking along the nearby Piankatank River, to sailing from Deltaville, eating fresh oysters along the Rappahannock, or exploring the nearby villages of Urbanna, Kilmarnock and Gloucester Courthouse. Richmond, Colonial Williamsburg (intimately tied in spirit and history to Wilton House), and a host of James River Plantations are within an hour’s drive.
The House: Reception Rooms
Sit for a while in the paneled parlor, the most elegant room in the house, with walls wearing only their second coat of paint ever, “Williamsburg blue,” applied over 200 hundred years ago. Mr. Churchhill entertained his most important guests in this showpiece room. Today the furnishings are intentionally simple -- just four early Queen Anne chairs around a 1760 drop-leaf table, placed in the center of the room -- the better to appreciate this remarkably well preserved paneling, in the high-style of the late Colonial period. This can be a place for a game of cards, for animated conversation, or for simply imagining what has transpired within these four walls over the past two and a half centuries.
Across the hall, the Red Room awaits, a less formal, but no less striking parlor with its stunning red-painted woodwork. This gathering room is the perfect spot for conversation among friends, drinks before a fire, board games, reading, or listening to music. (One of two Bose music systems is here in The Red Room.)
There are no TV screens at Wilton, but there is high speed Wi-Fi throughout the house and in this spacious room you might comfortably catch up on your email or otherwise connect to cyberspace while sitting on the Sheraton period sofa, or one of two the circa 1790 lolling chairs. Or you may be inspired to sit at the impressive ca. 1800 Virginia slant-front desk and bookcase and pen a letter to an old friend. The antique furnishings here, as in the rest of the house, are not just to be viewed and admired but to be used for their intended purposes. Make yourself at home.
Formal Dining Room and Country Kichen
Walking from the two front parlors and the central passage between them toward the back of this T-shaped house takes you to the staircase hallway. This is the heart of Wilton, and, yes, it’s all original: the painted paneling, the heart pine stairs themselves, the walnut balustrades and handrail.
Passing through the staircase hall, the elegant dining room beckons. The mostly Federal period furniture here includes the ca. 1800 mahogany Hepplewhite table, with its impressively figured wide boards; eight Federal period dining chairs, and a 1790 Baltimore serpentine sideboard with two Federal knife boxes sitting atop. A tall clock keeps the time, and sparkling period-style lighting illuminates several 19th century American paintings on the walls. Plus, all you need for an elegant dinner setting is at hand: gleaming crystal stemware, Havilland Limoges 'Vieux Paris' china, and flatware to match.
Despite all the attractions of the foregoing rooms, you may find yourself spending a lot of time in the kitchen, with its warm hearth of 250-year old brick fabricated on the premises. Abundant bright natural light from its three windows on the east, north and west walls reflects off newly plastered white walls over 18-inch thick masonry. Underfoot are warm (and well worn!) heart pine floors. There are top of the line appliances here, of course, and gleaming white French Limoges porcelain as well as everything you need to cook -- for two or ten (or not at all.) The feeling is of a country style kitchen, simple yet elegant. A late 18th century hutch table and six Windsor chairs provide an inviting setting for everyday day meals, or perhaps an intimate chat over a spot of tea.
Head up the steps from the stairway hall and you will find three bedrooms and three full baths. To the right at the head of the stairs is the privately situated master bedroom suite, in the rear portion of the house. You first enter the bedroom, with its inviting antique queen-sized, four poster bed, ca.1820. Early red-painted wooden shutters here will keep out the unruly morning sun. Beyond is a large, full bathroom and dressing area, where a 4-foot square Carrera marble and glass rain shower mixes company with 250-year old heart-pine floors and the most unusual of the 23 window seats in the house. In front of the hearth, a 1760 mahogany, “colt-footed” Irish drop leaf table and accompanying desk chair invite you to linger.
The two other bedrooms and bathrooms sit across the upstairs hallway in the front of the house. The large Churchhill Room, on the Southwest corner, has its own en suite bathroom, with tub and shower wand. This amply proportioned room features an antique Southern black walnut acorn-top bed, retrofitted as a California king. Two easy chairs (ca. 1980!) and a stunning 1790 mahogany slant front desk make this an inviting space for sitting, reading, writing, study -- and sleeping!
On the Southeast corner is the smaller third bedroom, the Salem Room, with its mahogany carved double bed, ca. 1820, a ladies dressing table and a 1790 shield-back arm chair, (all from the Massachusetts North Shore, possibly Salem.) This bedroom is served by the adjacent hall bath, with its spacious subway-tiled shower.
And, yes, there is more. Outdoors, two patios and several benches invite you to enjoy the fresh country air and the massive English boxwoods that wrap around the front of the house.
Beyond, a stroll along the driveway, across the fields and through the woods of Wilton’s 25 acres makes a nearly one-mile loop.
Need just a little more solitude? A 19th century log cabin -- heated but not plumbed -- sits 100 feet to the west of the house; its one room with fireplace and sleeping loft above provides a place apart.
And last but not least is another special feature of Wilton plantation. One hundred and fifty feet to the east of the main house is a circa 1840 dependency. This 16’ x 32’ cabin is a duplex structure, divided down the middle into two rooms, each with its own outside entrance and fireplace. This outbuilding was most likely used as a slave dwelling as well as a kitchen and perhaps a laundry. The chimneys have been rebuilt, and failing plaster has been replaced and re-worked, but the structure, like the main house, has lost none of its authenticity. Guests are invited to use the cabin, and their imaginations, to ponder what it must have been like to live and work in this space nearly 200 years ago.
Your host during your stay at Wilton will be Judith Dickinson. Judith was born in the south west of England and has spent her professional life in the hotel industry and private estates. She uses these skills running her bed and breakfast, Atherston Hall, in nearby Urbanna. Her attention to detail ensures Wilton is always beautifully prepared for arriving guests . She will be also be happy to make special arrangements for your visit, including catered meals, provisioning, housekeeping, laundry service, and event planning.
Wilton and its 250-year history beckon. We await your inquiries -- and your arrival.