Wombwells concerned about graves

Published 12:49 pm Wednesday, July 6, 2016

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The descendants of Jordan Wombwell want the town of Smithfield to protect a small gravesite located on the property of the future Joseph W. Luter Jr. sports complex.

Family spokesman George Wombwell said Jordan’s will states he is buried behind the house with his “little ones,” two or three children who died in early childhood.

The town of Smithfield is considering offering the circa 1842 Tidewater cottage for $1 to anyone willing to move the house to another location.  

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Local historians want to preserve the house, and Wombwell said he spoke with Isle of Wight Historical Society Vice President Bill Somerset about possible options for the house, but declined to comment further.  {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Efforts to reach Somerset by press time were unsuccessful.

Some residents are concerned the house will be torn down if no one steps forward to move it.

The town’s draft request for proposals calls for applicants to provide a description and timeline for the building’s removal, as well as the intended use.

A non-mandatory walk-through is scheduled for July 15, 10 a.m. Responses to the RFP must be submitted by noon on Aug. 5.

Somerset plans to attend the walk-through provided by the town. He and his wife Dot may be interested in moving the house to one of two lots they own on Drummonds Lane in downtown Smithfield. 

Smithfield Mayor Carter Williams said the town is unsure of what it will do if no one steps forward to save the house.

“We haven’t gotten that far. We hope someone will come along and take it. We don’t know what plan B is,” he said.

Wombwell said Thomas Wombwell arrived in Isle of Wight County in 1643 and obtained 650 acres along Mill Swamp Road.

The plantation remained in the family for about five generations, and was eventually divided due to numerous heirs, said Wombwell.

Wombwell believes the house and former plantation are historically significant as Thomas was one of the county’s early clerks and Jordan, a doctor, was the last Wombwell to live in Isle of Wight after six generations.

Thomas Wombwell was the clerk of court from 1645 – 1662, according to “Historical Notes on Isle of Wight County, Virginia,” by historian Helen Haverty King.

Wombwell said the gravesite is about 40 square feet and contains the remains of one adult and two to three children. There are no tombstones as the area was simply bricked over, Wombwell said.

Wombwell, now 85 and living in Louisville, Kentucky, would like the area set apart, protected and honored with a stone commemorating the family and its history in Isle of Wight.

Town officials have said they have no interest in restoring the house using taxpayer money, but have said the gravesite will be preserved.

King listed the Wombwell house in her book, “Historic Isle of Wight.”

Originally published in 1983, the book was updated and reprinted in color in 2007 by the Isle of Wight County Historical Society. The house is officially called the Dr. Jordan Wombwell house.

While not located in the town’s historic district, the book said the Tidewater-style cottage was common in the Mid-Atlantic region and Isle of Wight County. The house is also thought to be haunted.

The town of Smithfield purchased the 110-acre property earlier this year with plans to build a multi-sport complex.

The sports complex, estimated at about $4 million, will include baseball, softball, soccer and football fields, as well as an indoor turf field. The funding is provided by Smithfield Foods, former Smithfield Foods President and CEO Joseph Luter III, proceeds from the Smithfield Recreation Association, the town of Smithfield and Isle of Wight County.  {/mprestriction}