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Merchant's Hope Episcopal Church

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c. 1725. VA 641, .5 mile south of VA 10
  • Merchant's Hope Episcopal Church (HABS/HAER)

The date of Merchant's Hope Church, named for a seventeenth-century ship and nearby plantation, is in dispute. The traditional date has been given as 1657, which is too early. In plan and appearance this brick church is very similar to other Anglican parish churches built at the beginning of the second quarter of the eighteenth century. The pattern of the Flemish bond brick with its glazed headers, the roundarched windows, raised-panel doors, two east windows, and window architraves resemble those of nearby Westover, Blandford, and Fork churches, all of which were built in the 1730s. The original king-post roof truss is also a form that did not appear in Virginia before the first quarter of the century.

Growing out of an older English tradition and nourished by nearly a century of local building practices, the plan of Merchant's Hope Church is an elongated rectangle, measuring more than twice as long as it is wide (29 by 64 feet). Most Anglican churches in the neighboring colonies, such as Maryland and South Carolina, had configurations which were squarer, following the shape of the auditory preaching boxes recommended by Christopher Wren. By contrast colonial Virginia churches retained their link to an earlier tradition of elongated proportions, a characteristic also of the eighteenth-century Anglican churches of Bermuda. The principal entrance into Merchant's Hope Church was through a pair of raised-panel doors in the west end. Just inside the doorway a staircase rose to a west gallery, a place often reserved for less important members of the church (though rarely given over solely to slaves). A center aisle, laid with limestone pavers imported from England, was flanked in the colonial period by tall box pews. These have long since been swept away in one of the periods when the church fell on hard times. The pulpit was probably located on the north wall near the east end of the building (or possibly against the south wall near the chancel door). As with Newport Parish Church (St. Luke's), a south chancel door near the altarpiece provided a secondary entrance. This door was given up in the design of later colonial churches in favor of a centrally located doorway placed in the middle of the south wall.

Writing Credits

Richard Guy Wilson et al.


What's Nearby


Richard Guy Wilson et al., "Merchant's Hope Episcopal Church", [Hopewell, Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Virginia: Tidewater and Piedmont, Richard Guy Wilson and contributors. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, 478-478.

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