Thursday, February 29, 2024

Where We Live: Gloucester’s historic Little England farm

Before Karen Barrs and her husband, Steve, moved to Little England in late 2013, a sign outdoors read “LITTLE ENGLAND POSITIVELY NOT OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.”

The previous owners of the Gloucester farm, who lived full-time in Europe, hadn’t visited the property in years. Although it was well-maintained by caretakers, there was nobody to enjoy the 300-year old Georgian perched on the banks of the York River and Sarah’s Creek.

But the new owners have made it their mission to reintroduce Little England to the community.

Little England was built by Captain John Perrin in 1716, though subsequent wings were added on over the years. Its prime location prompted French soldiers to occupy the home leading up to the Battle of Yorktown in 1781. It was later used as a hospital during the War of 1812.

When Barrs first went to view Little England, the family was looking for a large property where they could farm.

“As soon as we pulled up we knew this was going to be the place,” she said. The family took some time to think things over — the house had been on the market for about nine years at that point — and eventually made it home.

Since the property was well taken care of, there wasn’t an overwhelming amount of construction to do inside. Rather, paint and general freshening up made a world of difference.

“There was shag carpet everywhere,” Barrs said. “All the windows had blinds and sheers and drapes. So just by literally removing all the fibrous material from the house it really came alive.”

Outside on the farm, the Barrs had a little more work to do.

“Our number one goal for the last two years has been to bring this place back up to farm status, as far as taking care of the trees, cultivating the land, investing in it and just making it produce again,” said Barrs.

But the farm, which produces pecans, black walnuts, chestnuts, blackberries, figs, persimmons and more, hasn’t been the Barrs’ only endeavor.

“We started a store about a month ago called Little England Mercantile,” Barrs said. “We decided that we really wanted to make a store with the Little England brand. It’s doing really well and it’s been a great adventure.”

The store sells home décor, jewelry, apparel and more, plus items from the farm. The Barrs, along with business partner Steve Spain, purchased the Tidemill Shops on Route 17, where the store is now located, as an investment in the community.

Between the new store, refurbishing the old shopping center and opening up the home for the first time in years for local events and fundraisers, Barrs says the community has really embraced their family.

“I think a lot of people recognize the significance of Little England,” Barrs said. “And therefore they like having a family here. We are out in the community and our kids are, too, so there’s always people here, especially when the boys are home from college. That gate basically always stays open now.”

To learn more about the home, click here.

Where We Live is a weekly feature looking at homes in the Historic Triangle. Do you have a home, on or off the market, that our readers may be interested in seeing? Let us know at

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