Piercefield History

The Piercefield Walks viewpoints were laid out in the 1750s by Valentine Morris, who also landscaped the parkland surrounding Piercefield House, which his father had bought in 1740 with wealth from his sugar plantations in Antigua.  The winding walks along the edge of the Wye Valley opened at a series of viewpoints onto magnificent vistas of the meandering river below.  Their fame attracted many tourists, artists and writers.  Morris entertained visitors with legendary extravagance.   In 1772 debts drove him back to his estates in the West Indies.  Appointed governor of the island of St. Vincent he helped finance its attempted defence against the French.  Returning to London he was confined to the debtors’ prison and his wife to a madhouse and eventually had to sell Piercefield.  He died in 1789 his many great achievements marred by his financial ruin.
Subsequent owners straightened out stretches of the walks, allowing some of the viewpoints to decline and limited visitors to a few days a week.  Still the walks remained an important attraction until the 1850s.


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