Regency, art on display at Bacon’s Castle

Published 5:45 pm Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Jamie Kanell, a native of England who now lives in Norfolk, describes her involvement with the Regency Society of Virginia as “a little piece of home.”

Named for the time in British history spanning 1811-1820 when King George III was declared unfit to rule and his son, the Prince of Wales, was appointed regent, the society describes itself online as wanting to recapture “the spirit of that elegant age.”

For many, Kanell included, that means wearing clothing of the era when the society gets invited to events like the one on April 17 at Bacon’s Castle in Surry County.

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Preservation Virginia, the privately-funded statewide organization that now owns Bacon’s Castle, hosts the Regency Society annually as its kickoff to the state’s Historic Garden Week, which spans April 17-24 this year. The circa-1665 homestead boasts the oldest formal English garden in North America and the oldest brick dwelling on the continent.

Heather Kenney, a fellow society member and Jane Austen novel enthusiast, traveled all the way from Winchester in the northwestern part of the state to attend. She’s a second-generation Regency member who’s been dressing in bonnets and lace gowns since age 3.

Along the way, she met up with William Buser of Fredericksburg, who’s been a member since 2000.

“I just love history,” Buser said.

Kenney’s costume came from Colonial Williamsburg, while Buser had his custom-made by a seamstress from Ohio.

Preservation Virginia also invites a group of artists to paint the scene every year. As of last year, they’re officially known as the Newport News Urban Sketchers, a local chapter of an international organization of “plein air” artists, the term referring to the act of drawing or painting outdoors.

Mandy Lewis-Houston, the local chapter’s organizer, said the idea is to paint where you live, and capture “what’s really going on,” including the mundane aspects of everyday life, like fire hydrants, cars and people walking by.

Chris Hakanson, who teaches art and animation at Phoebus High School in Hampton, is another of the chapter’s members. He started drawing with colored pencils in 2007 and later graduated to working with acrylic paints.

The event also featured an archery demonstration and some local vendors, including Jennifer Helton of the Claremont Candle Company and Brian and Kristin Curry of Vintner’s Catalyst in Carrollton.