Interview with Berkeley Castle’s Charles Berkeley

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Two men with deep connections to Berkeley Plantation – L-R Charles Berkeley (descendant of Richard Berkeley) and Graham Woodlief (descendant of Captain John Woodlief)

I used to tell my students that history is a giant web. Cause effects change, and that  change, sometimes unseen, is felt for generations.

Gloucestershire’s Berkeley Castle is a location at the heart of change. Even though the manorial seat has been in the same family for 27 generations, many of the people directly associated with the Castle moved to Virginia bringing profound influence with them to the New World.

The name Berkeley stands tall in 17th Century Virginia’s annals. The 1619 landing at what would become known as Berkeley Hundred put the Castle’s name on Virginia’s map forever. Decades later a Berkeley relative became Virginia’s most influential 17th Century colonial governor. But it wasn’t just Berkeley’s that came to Virginia from Gloucestershire. Skilled tradesmen, indentured servants, and merchants also moved from the old world, hoping to better there lives.

Berkeley Hundred soon suffered a horrific blow in 1622, but survivors endured and built a thriving colony. That colony became an early American leader, producing countless statesmen, scientific pioneers, westward explorers, military heroes, and seven United States Presidents. Two of those Presidents, William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison have immediate connections to Berkeley Plantation, and they were preceded by Benjamin Harrison V,  a Declaration of Independence signer.

The various causes spurring Berkeley Hundred’s first settlers to leave Gloucestershire undoubtedly left a lasting impact upon Virginia’s and the United State’s history. For that we should be thankful, just as those first settlers were, for new opportunities. Today we can build upon those opportunities, while we trace our history back to places like Berkeley Castle and beyond.

Charles Berkeley, 27th Generation owner of Berkeley Castle, visited Berkeley Plantation in order to share in highlighting Berkeley Castle’s profound influence upon Virginia. His kind generosity made this interview possible, for which I’m thankful beyond measure.

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All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The featured image is of Berkeley Castle accessed from Wikipedia.

Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on iTunes, and English Folk Song Suite I. March ( Seventeen Come Sunday). Allegro by Ralph Vaughan Williams, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Adrian Boult, also available on iTunes.