Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists continue to excavate around the 1907 Memorial Church, hoping to learn more about the three 17th-century churches that once stood on this site. The team recently completed excavations on the interior of the Memorial Church but is continuing to explore several areas outside of the brick structure. The goal of the project has been to learn more about the construction and layout of the 1617 church, the first built in this location, because it is where the first representative assembly was convened 1619. Measuring 50 feet by 20 feet according to historical documents, the timber-framed church sat on a cobblestone foundation, portions of which survive today. Secretary John Pory, who recorded the proceedings, writes, “The most convenient place we could finde to sitt in was the Quire of the Churche.”
The knight’s tomb, a broken ledger stone that was once in the floor of the 1617 church, likely marked the grave of Sir George Yeardley, the governor who presided over the first assembly. Last summer archaeologists discovered a grave in the chancel that is thought to be Yeardley’s.
The two later churches built on top of the Assembly church partially destroyed some of its structural remains, making its archaeological interpretation more complicated. The Assembly church had fallen into disrepair by the end of the 1630s and was replaced with a brick church in the 1640s. That building burned during Bacon’s Rebellion in September 1676, leading to the construction of a third church within a decade.
In the early 20th century, the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA) partially excavated this site before constructing the modern Memorial Church in 1907. The Jamestown Rediscovery team has not only able to investigate what the APVA previously recorded but also to build upon their findings by uncovering more evidence, providing significant new insights into the structure of the 1617 church.