Forgotten Places: Newcastletown of Hanover County, Virginia
Updated: Jan 6, 2020
Since the founding of Jamestown, the Virginia Colony largely depended on the trade of tobacco. The cash crop of the colony, tobacco had an essential role. Besides functioning as a form of currency, it fueled every aspect of the economy and society. Used by the British government and the Established Church of England, it made progress possible. For this to happen; however, centers of trade had to be established. One of these settlements, Newcastletown, in Hanover County, Virginia, played an important role.
Built around 1738, Newcastletown was one “of the most famous towns and trading centers of the colony.”1 Under the direction of Col. William Meriwether, John Henry surveyed the town, including the lots owned by its occupants. Recording well-known settlers such as “Col. Jno. Cheswell [Col. John Chiswell]”2, “Jno. Piondexter, “3 and “Richd. Littlepage,”4, they all participated in the trade of tobacco.
One of these pioneers, William Meriwether, played a historically crucial role. As one of the main “merchants of the county,”5 he received tobacco at his six warehouses from merchants as far away as Great Britain. This system of trade provided a steady income for Hanover County with Newcastletown as the focal point. Over the years, it would become known for other historic associations as well. Visited by Patrick Henry on May 2, 1755, and later by Baron von Closen,6 it was “situated rather pleasantly on the banks of the Pamunkey [Pamunkey River].”7
Unfortunately, the town has disappeared, but for Hanover County, it proved to be a necessary settlement. Acting as a center for local merchants, it also served the community politically. Supporting the church-state government of Virginia, the funds earned from the trade of tobacco boosted the wealth of the Anglican parishes. A symbol of prosperity, it even influenced other parts of the colony. Today its history reminds us of a way of life now considered obsolete, but, nevertheless, it is still historically important.
1. Eugenia G. Glazebrook, Preston G. Glazebrook, Virginia Migrations Hanover County (Baltimore; Maryland : Clearfield, 2002), iii
2. Eugenia G. Glazebrook, Preston G. Glazebrook, Virginia Migrations Hanover County (Baltimore; Maryland : Clearfield, 2002), 55-56.
3. Glazebrook, Glazebrook, Virginia Migrations Hanover County, 55-56.
4. Glazebrook, Glazebrook, Virginia Migrations Hanover County, 55-56
5. Glazebrook, Glazebrook, Virginia Migrations Hanover County, iii
6. Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Virginia Department of Historic Resources (https://www.dhr.virginia.gov/historic-registers/042-0101/ : accessed 20 April 2019), “042-0101 Newcastle Town Archaeological Site.”