The History of Wessex Hundred

Our 320 acre farm, known as Wessex Hundred, is home  to The Williamsburg Winery. The use of Hundred to name property dates to the Colonial era and describes parcels of land sufficient to support a hundred families regardless of actual acreage.


In 1606, the newly-formed Virginia Company sent three ships westward to the New World to settle a permanent English colony. Led by Bartholomew Gosnold, with Gabriel Archer second in command, the expedition sailed up the James River and came upon a point of land on a protected tributary. The ground was high, easily defended, and the soil was excellent- which foretold of the land's later usage. Archer insisted that the expedition look no further, but was outvoted despite his considerable experience in such matters. The expediton continued west on the James River, and moved on to a less hospitable spot the following day, May 13, 1607. The place was Jamestown and became the first permanent English settlement in the New World.


Our farm, by then known as Archer's Hope, was subject to the Twelfth Acte of 1619, prescribing that each settler must plant at least 10 vines for the purpose of making wine on his property. Records show that the earliest settler was John Johnson who farmed 85 acres at this location, and his leasehold was the 19th land transaction of record in British America. Johnson farmed 85 acres of the property, and would have been the first person to plant grapevines, in keeping with the Twelfth Acte. Johnson passed away in 1636, and the destruction of records during the Civil War created a 100 year void in the ownership of the land.


By the time of the American Revolution, the land was owned by Reverend William Bland, a graduate of the College of William and Mary (the second oldest university in the country behind Harvard University), and rector of Bruton Parish Church. Bland was an active member of the community and a frequent patron of Raleigh Tavern. The Tavern was  meeting spot for proponents of independance and a hotbed for fierce debate.


The land played a further role in history when, in September 1781, the main body of the combined American and French armies, after sailing south from Annapolis, disembarked at the mouth of Archer's Hope Creek. The armies marched across the property on their way to Williamsburg, where they were to rendezvous with the main supply train and the southern colonial army commanded by Marquis de Lafayette. From Williamsburg, they advanced to Yorktown, the site of the final major military confrontation of the American Revolution.


It is said that when you visit the property today, you can feel the drumbeat of history as it unfolded on these grounds. The events and the people who played pivotal roles in the rich history of Williamsburg live-on through the products we create today. 



For the next two centuries, the land was farmed by a variety of owners and tenants. Cattle, grain, and beans were raised here, and the farm assumed a more quiet role in the Tidewater Virginia community. In 1983, Patrick and Peggy Duffeler, after an exhausting search covering 52 farms and plantations, came upon the land that would become home to The Williamsburg Winery. Planting of the vineyards began in 1985 and the first crush was in 1987. The release of our iconic Governor's White in 1988 was met with a Gold Medal awarded within two weeks of its release. Today, Governor's White is the largest selling Virginia wine in the state.


From humble beginnings, The Williamsburg Winery has experienced continuous growth through an expanding portfolio of wines.  The introduction of our 2007 Adagio is, for the moment, the culmination of a single-minded goal to produce the highest quality wines in the world. Noted wine educator Kevin Zraly has opined that The Williamsburg Winery makes "some of the best wines in the world'. 


 Looking southeast, the Winery and The Gabriel Archer Tavern to the left, Wedmore Place to the right, and the James River in the furthest reach of the property


The Winery in preparation for its annual Ferraris on the Vine event held during the 1st weekend in May. The tent sits atop the raised lawn behind Wessex Hall. Also in view is the Gabriel Archer Tavern to the lower right.