Berry Hill Plantation and [Diamond Hill] Slave Cemetery

Historical Significance

The Berry Hill Estate was originally part of a 105,000-acre tract granted by the English Crown in 1728 to William Byrd II and was one of Virginia's largest and most prosperous plantations. Enslaved African Americans worked the land as early as 1803 when the property was owned by Isaac Coles. In 1814, Coles gave the Berry Hill property, then referred to as the Dan River plantation, to his nephew Edward C. Carrington. In 1841, the land was purchased by James Coles Bruce. Bruce had additional buildings erected on the land including stone slave quarters, some of which are still standing today. Bruce hired free black craftsman Thomas Day to construct a grand floating staircase inspired by the Second Bank of the United States in Philadelphia. The staircase remains intact.

The Berry Hill slave cemetery, referred to as the Diamond Hill Slave Cemetery, is one of the largest recorded in Virginia. The cemetery contains over two hundred graves, each with an uninscribed headstone and/or footstone carved from locally available fieldstones.

Physical Description

Berry Hill is a Greek Revival mansion completed in 1842 for entrepreneur James Coles Bruce. In 1997 a corporation bought the property and, with help from the Department of Historic Resources, restored the mansion, a temple-like house surrounded by outbuildings, slave quarters, and fields.

Geographical and Contact Information

3105 River Road
South Boston, Virginia


Berry Hill

Berry Hill

Source: Courtesy Virginia Dept. Historic Resources View File Details Page

Horseshoe Staircase

Horseshoe Staircase

Source: Courtesy Kathryn Taylor View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, “Berry Hill Plantation and [Diamond Hill] Slave Cemetery,” African American Historic Sites Database, accessed December 16, 2018,

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