Visitors to Virginia’s Colonial Williamsburg Park come to see what America was in the seventeenth century when settlers from England came to create a New World. They walk on quaint streets filled with brick houses and blacksmith shops, get canned speeches from costumed characters like a historical Disneyland, and visit souvenir vendors for a piece of history to take home. Few know that they may be walking over, literally, a secret vault containing the writings of Sir Francis Bacon and others. If they did, they might have a truer picture of what Virginia was really about.
Creating settlements in America was the goal of several secret societies. In Virginia, there was no gold to be stolen from ancient cultures; that was much further south. There was no wealth to be taken from the fur trade; that was much further north. Virginia was an experiment in creating a New World where more than one religion might be tolerated. Bacon’s plan for Virginia, as well as the whole continent, was detailed in his New Atlantis, not published until after his death. It would be a place where religion would be a matter of choice, where Rule would be established by vote, where science would not be punishable by horrific torture and death. In short it would be where Liberty would be more than a word. Virginia, it was hoped, would be Bacon’s New Atlantis.
Colonies however needed to be funded by businessmen and permitted by kings and queens. Royalty might be convinced by claims to glory, or at least to getting large tracts of land with names that would immortalize them, Virginia for Elizabeth, Jamestown to King James. Investors needed more concrete goals, which tobacco, sugar, rum, and slaves would provide. The secret societies had to keep their secrets. Sir Walter Raleigh said of Bacon, “And thy great genius in being concealed, is revealed.” Such genius was threatened by both church and state and writing on many subjects was a dangerous occupation. Some believe that in addition to New Atlantis, Bacon even had sketched out what would become the American Constitution. He insisted these works be kept under wraps until his death. And what better place is there to hide such secrets than underground repositories.
Bacon’s chaplin, William Rawley, hinted that his greatness would be revealed at a later date. The chaplin also served as his secretary and most trusted friend. Some believe it was Rawley who took charge of his works. Following Bacon’s instructions, coded within his writings, Rawley would see that they were protected. In 1911, Dr. Orville Ward Owen, after deciphering Bacon’s codes, led an expedition to find a vault under the Wye River near Gloucester. They did find the vault, just where Dr. Owen said it would be. They also found markings that Bacon had employed. What they did not find was Bacon’s manuscripts. Dr. Owen believed that the same man who had created the underwater hiding place was responsible for moving the documents a second time, to the Americas. Rawley, who lived until 1660, brought the Bacon documents to America.
While Dr. Owen never did find the trove of Bacon’s writings, he did search in the Americas; and Oak Island in Nova Scotia was one place he suspected of being the repository. On the small island where the centuries-old dig continues, he asked if they had found any mercury flasks. The answer was “yes,” they had. In one of Bacon’s texts he wrote on the ability of mercury to safely preserve documents.
According to more modern researchers there are numerous vaults in America where the blueprints for Bacon’s New Atlantis are preserved.
Williamsburg’s Bruton Church may be one of these. The original Bruton Church was built to resemble another church built in Saxon times when King Arthur rose to save Briton from the invading hordes. John Dee, the Queen’s advisor on matters of practicality as well as astrology, told her Arthur had come to America and therefore established England’s claim. The English St. Mary’s Church in Bruton parish contains a picture of the Williamsburg version.
In the chancel of the English church is the burial crypt of Sir Charles Berkeley, who had come to Virginia to serve as governor in 1639, and who was responsible for the construction of the Williamsburg Church of the same name. At this time Rawley was still alive and still the guardian of Bacon’s writings.
The history of Williamsburg is not accessible on any exact level. Court records were destroyed and much of the original history has been lost. What is known is that the area called the Middle Plantation, where the Bruton Church sits, was laid out in 1633. Three original wood-built churches and parishes were merged into one and it was called the Bruton Parish. Bruton Parish would become Williamsburg in 1699.
Somewhere between 1633 and 1699, most likely in 1676, a new church was built of brick. The vault was already in place, twenty feet under the ground.
In 1938, an excavation did take place which revealed the original foundation to the Bruton Church. The Church had been moved! The extent of the tunnels remains; and although in locations the tunnel has been sealed, it reaches the College of William and Mary at the western end of the Duke of Gloucester Street. Four of the first ten presidents were associated with this school. The Sir Christopher Wren building was constructed in 1695. Under the college chapel is a crypt housing the remains of many Virginia notables.
The Robert Carter House, the George Wythe House, the Kings Arms Tavern and others share underground tunnels with the Wren Building and the Bruton Church. Marie Bauer Hall, the wife of Manley Palmer Hall, the late Masonic philosopher, noticed a tomb outside the entrance to the Tower in the churchyard. It is the tomb of James Nicholson. The inscription on the tomb has a handful of words that were inscribed much larger than the others. One word “READER” was a clue, according to Hall, to the location of the vault. Another tomb, the Ludwell Tomb, had similar references in code through the use of larger letters and gives the name Francis Bacon.
In her own book, Foundations Unearthed, Marie Bauer Hall refers to a book written in 1635 by a man named George Wither. In the book, published before many of the Williamsburg buildings were erected, are depictions of these future buildings. A Rockefeller restoration official pointed this out to her, although neither could provide an answer to how this came to be. More astounding is that the picture of the author, George Wither, was actually a picture of Shakespeare. A device Bacon created called the bar sinister, is next to the man, meaning it is illegitimate. To those versed in Bacon’s codes, it is a telling sign that this is not George Wither.
There is more than just a vault twenty feet under the original Bruton Church. There is also a 330-foot tunnel system that leads to a vaulted brick chamber. While tunnels are not uncommon in the colonies during the time period of hostilities with the Native Americans, few provide anything more than a means of escape. This more elaborate system of tunnels might be evidence of something of great importance to be protected.
It has been suggested that the vault was built to house the proof of Bacon’s true parentage (namely Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester), writings of Bacon and several others, 33 hermetically sealed copper cylinders, a key to the location of other vaults contained throughout America and possibly jewels, including a tiara, belonging to Elizabeth I and given to Bacon.
Besides Bacon, the other writers who may have been contributors to the literary trove are collectively regarded as the Good Pens. This group includes Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh, Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson. Some claim that the contents of the vault were contained in codes that can only be deciphered by understanding the cryptography employed in the plays credited to Shakespeare.
If such a valuable treasure exists and is relatively accessible, especially in comparison to Nova Scotia’s Oak Island vaults, then why is it still underground? The first reason is that the Rockefeller family owns Williamsburg. They are not only the inheritors of one of the world’s greatest fortunes, they are considered by some as the epicenter of the plan for one world government with leadership roles in the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilaterals. They might simply desire to avoid unnecessary disruption in their park; or, as others believe, they may wish to keep such a treasure to themselves. They certainly spared no expense in buying and tearing down seven hundred modern homes to make room for eighty-one colonial buildings. Not everyone was willing to sell, and the Bruton Parish Church was one property the Rockefellers had difficulty in attempting to purchase. It came with a cemetery sixty feet around the church that was donated by a John Page before his death in 1692. It is under this land that the vault is said to be located. Author David Allen Rivera’s book Archaeological Conspiracy at Williamsburg specifically stated his suspicion that the Rockefeller family wished to locate the contents of the vault. Fletcher Richman, a leader among proponents of conducting a serious excavation shares this opinion. He believes it would be one of America’s greatest treasures, and that the family would simply want to keep it for themselves.
It may be no coincidence that the Rockefellers played no minor role in the restoration of Stratford-on-Avon as well. While not as elaborate as Williamsburg, Stratford, complete with numerous restorations, attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.
Richman has found evidence that the vault is connected by a series of tunnels to the home of Martha Dandridge Custis Washington. Mary Bauer Hall’s book on the Bruton Vault referenced a conversation that claimed everyone knew about the tunnels “but since the Rockefellers came, it has become a big secret.” The tunnel has one opening at the home of Rockefeller’s lawyer who played a role in getting clear titles to the various deeds.
Mrs. Hall was allowed to excavate to look for the vault in 1938, and despite early versions of modern GPS she was unable to locate it. Since that time there have been several other attempts to dig for the vault, almost all unsanctioned. One that was sanctioned in 1991 found no vault or treasure. This does not satisfy the most vocal proponent of a full excavation, Mr. Richman, who believes the excavators were deliberately mislead. In 2006, just before the 400 year anniversary of Jamestown, he was back. His group, called Sir Francis Bacon’s Sages of the Seventh Seal applied again for permission but were told the chances they would be allowed are “next to zero.”