244 years since Norfolk burned in the Revolutionary War — a church survived the blaze

Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY)- As many look forward to the New Year, 10 On Your Side is looking back in history on the significance of the first day of the year.

This year marks 244 years since the City of Norfolk was burned down during the Revolutionary War.

A piece of that history remains here.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Downtown Norfolk was built in 1739, according to Bill Miner, a member of the church’s heritage committee.

Miner says its the only pre-Revolutionary War building that remains in downtown — and a cannonball is lodged in an outside wall.

“The story of the cannball really goes back to December of 1775, the Battle of Great Bridge when Dunmore retreated to the harbor,” he said.

Lord Dunmore was the last royal governor of Virginia and stayed aboard ships in the harbor along with colonists who were loyal to Britain, according to Miner.

“On Jan. 1, the remaining colonists in Norfolk refused to provide provisions and that lead to the bombardment of Norfolk,” he said.

Miner says they believe the Liverpool was the ship that fired the cannonball.

The Norfolk militia returned fire.

Much of Norfolk was destroyed during that time, but colonists burned the rest in later weeks so the British could not set up a base, according to Miner, who says the port city was largely used during the time.

While many visitors go to the church to see the cannonball, he says that only scratches the surface of the church’s full story.

“We were occupied by Union forces during the Civil War from 1863 to [18]65. We had General Douglas McArthur’s funeral here,” he said, listing some pivotal events.

Miner believes the long list of contributions shows how important St. Paul’s is to Norfolk.

“The church has been a big part of the community all through the years,” he said.

While the church is still learning more about its past, Miner hopes others will take a similar interest in history to learn how it plays a part in the future.

“History is part of what we are and its worth it,” he said.

The churchyard is open to the public during the day. Self-guided tours are available as well as guided tours. Click here to learn more.

The church is also the starting point for the Cannonball Trail. To learn more, click here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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