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Brafferton (building)

The Brafferton, seen from Jamestown Road

The Brafferton, built in 1723, is located southeast of the Sir Christopher Wren Building, facing the President's House on the campus of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

History of the building

The Brafferton was constructed in 1723 to house the College's Indian school, which was endowed by funds from an estate purchased by the charity of Robert Boyle, the noted English scientist. Income from Brafferton Manor in Yorkshire, England, designated for charitable and pious purposes, was used to "civilize" Indian youth, prepare them for Anglican priesthood—and produce interpreters and cultural liaisons who could aid Britain's colonial expansion. The undertaking of producing Indian ministers met with little success, except among the Pamunkey. Virginia's efforts to encourage allied and neighboring tribes to send Indian youth to Williamsburg was more successful, and multiple Brafferton students were key players in the late century wars of North America. However, during the American Revolution, income from the Boyle estate was interrupted, and the teenage students mostly engaged in the conflict, the last leaving during the fall of 1778. Boyle monies were reinvested in the College following the Revolution, but discontinued after 1784, partially as a result of a lengthy court case involving the trustees of the Boyle Charity and the College of William & Mary. After the College lost the chancery case, the Indian school was abandoned, and the Boyle money was redirecting to the Caribbean, and still later, to Canada.

The house was damaged during the American Civil War and the College spent $3,000 for repairs. Throughout the years, the building served as a residence for professors, a dormitory for students, an armory for the Wise Light Infantry, and an alumni office. Additionally, it has temporarily housed other offices, fine arts classes, and even the Music Department for a short period of time. Since 1985, the Brafferton has housed the offices of the president and the provost of the College. At the request of the Governor's advisory Council on Indians, a state historic marker was erected on the Brafferton grounds in 2005.

The building was first refurbished in 1930-31 during the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg. It received additional renovation in 2010-13, a period in which the College of William & Mary established the Brafferton Legacy Group in conjunction with alumni from the school's tribal descendant communities, the Department of Anthropology, the College's American Indian Resource Center, Colonial Williamsburg's (CW) Department of Archaeology, and CW's American Indian Initiative. The College and CW hosted a ground blessing for the start of archaeological investigations at the Indian school, and several Pamunkey tribal members worked on the 2011-12 excavations. The building was rededicated in 2013 with opening remarks in the Cherokee language and honor songs, alongside greetings from the President of William & Mary and College Provost.


  • University Archives Buildings File (2007). Brafferton. Earl Gregg Swem Library, The College of William and Mary.
  • Virginia Vignettes - What Was the Brafferton School? [1]
  • The Brafferton- [2]