A plantation that has the same family line living in the "big house" now on its 11th generation.
The lands of the Shirley Plantation were settled originally by Sir Thomas West, who was the 3rd Baron De la Warr in 1613. His wife was Lady Cecily Shirley. The land was cultivated for growing tobacco to be shipped around the colonies and to England. Lady Cecily Shirley never came here but stayed with all the comforts of England at that time. In 1638, 450 acres of the land was granted to Edward Hill. More acreage was added by marriage and purchased over time. The plantation was passed to Edward Hill the 2nd, and then Edward Hill the 3rd. Edward Hill the 4th died at the age of 16 from tuberculosis, so the plantation was passed to his sister, Elizabeth Hill. Elizabeth married John Carter, so after 3 generations of Hills, the family line of Carter began and is now in the 8th generation. Charles and Lauren Carter are living on the 2nd and 3rd floors, as well as the basement of the house. The first floor is the house museum portion of the tour.
There are 8 outbuildings on the property of 700 acres today, with 300 acres of farmland, 200 acres of marsh and wetland, and 200 acres of open land. It is still a working farm with Charles's operation of pecan trees, shrimp, and wheat farming. Tourism began in the late 1950s and developed naturally because people always stopped by to see the house. The house tour is guided and shows the first floor with some of Elizabeth Hill Carter's furniture and her portrait along with many oil paintings of the entire family. There are beautiful and original silver pieces from before the Civil War and they survived because they were stored in the well throughout the war and recovered afterward by the family. The outbuildings include the original kitchen with signage explaining how food was prepared. There is an ice pit dome, a smokehouse, the stables, and a dovecote where doves were raised for eggs and food. Shirley is the oldest plantation in Virginia. They have tours every day from 10 am to 4 pm, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is beautiful and timeless. On the property is a 350-year-old willow oak tree with signage that says, "This oak symbolizes the strength and longevity traits possessed by the 11 generations of the Hill Carter family residing at Shirley."