Thursday, September 12, 2013

Origins of a Name: Gunston Hall

By Jackie LaRaia
House Guide 
After years of answering the question, “Where does the name Gunston come from?”, I finally visited the original  namesake in late June 2010. 

The inspiration for our own Gunston Hall is located in Codsall, Staffordshire, England.  As you can see from the picture, our Gunston Hall hardly resembles the original.  That building dates back to the 15th century and the smaller portion of the house, shown here, is what survives.
The original spelling of the home’s name adds an ‘e’ to the end, becoming “Gunstone, ” and it’s presently a livery. In all, it’s a beautiful place that has been owned by the Fish family for the last 30 years.

Samantha Fish graciously welcomed me and was quite happy to show me around. She and her husband, Bill, live in the original part of the building, while her mother-in-law lives in the newer part. Of course the word newer is relative here to centuries ago. What is most fascinating about Gunstone Hall is the original fireplace that was discovered behind a plaster wall in the kitchen. As well, visitors walk on the same flooring laid when the Hall was built. 

The original Gunston Hall was initially owned by the Fowke family, cousins of the Masons.  Gerard Fowke, brother of the owner, and George Mason I came to Virginia following the defeat of Charles II in the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Many of Charles allies, including the Fowkes and Masons, sought refuge in the New World. Subsequently, three Gunston Halls were built, one in Maryland and two in Virginia. 

It was thrilling for me to see Gunstone Hall.  Though most of the original is long gone, the beautiful surroundings make it easy to image the Fowke and Mason families going about their daily lives, oh so many years ago.

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