History of Ravenscroft

Joseph Royle

Joseph Royle appears to have lived on the Ravenscroft property, first as a boarder or co-tenant with William Hunter, Sr. After Hunters death, Royle continued to rent or lease the property. At some point Royle purchased the two lots, for he left them to his son, William, at the time of his own death in 1766.

Royle was born in England in 1732. He was about 26 years old when he became William Hunters foreman in the printing office around 1758. His connection with his employer seems unusually close, as indicated both by his residency in the Hunter household, and his later marriage to Hunters sister, Roseanna Hunter. In the five years between that marriage and Royles death in 1766, Joseph and Roseanna had two sons whose names, William Royle and Hunter Royle, reflect the multiple family connections between the Hunter and Royle families.

Like William Hunter, Sr., Joseph Royle was publisher of the newspaper, the Virginia Gazette, and served as public printer for the government. As publisher of the newspaper, Royle could pick and choose the materials printed in his newspaper. By the mid-1760s, some readers thought Royles Gazette too biased toward the views of the established government and the royal governor in particular. Around the time of the Stamp Act Crisis in 1765, these grumblings intensified. In 1766 Governor Fauquier noted that several hot burgeses had prevailed upon William Rind, printer of the Annapolis-based Maryland Gazette, to move to Williamsburg for the purpose of publish a competing newspaper, also called the Virginia Gazette. Royle died on January 26, 1766, before Rind arrived, but his successor Alexander Purdie continued Royles editorial policies.

Nearly a year after Joseph Royles death, Roseanna Hunter Royle married John Dixon, the postmaster, and a partner (with Alexander Purdie) in printing the Virginia Gazette that succeeded Joseph Royles paper. Following her second marriage, Roseanna likely moved to her husbands house on Duke of Gloucester Street. The Ravenscroft lots, part of Royles estate, were held in trust for William Royle, who was only two years old at the time of his fathers death. William Royle would not officially inherit the property until late 1784 or 1785. In April 1785 he offered the property for sale, describing a dwelling very pleasantly situated, and very convenient for the reception of a family, [with] four lots adjoining, and every convenient out-house (Virginia Gazette and Independent Chronicle, Dixon and Holt, eds., Richmond, April 9, 1785).

Joseph Royles Household

The Royle household consisted of Joseph and Roseanna Hunter Royle, their sons, William and Hunter, and possibly William Hunter, Jr, son of previous tenant William Hunter. Additionally Joseph Royles inventory lists two Negro Men named Matt and Aberdeen, both of whom appear to have worked in the Printing Office, one Negro woman and two Negro Girls. Jenny, whose name appears in the Virginia Gazette as a runaway, is likely one of the two Negro Girls mentioned. The Bruton Parish register of births provides names of these, and possibly some additional enslaved members of the household: Lewis Palace, son of Lydia (both enslaved to Royle), baptized September 22, 1762; William Paliars (sp?), son of Lydia (both enslaved to Royle), baptized June 3, 1764; and Joseph, son of Lucy (both enslaved to Royles unsettled estate), baptized April 12, 1766.

Probate Inventory

An inventory of Joseph Royle’s estate was recorded in the York County Court on June 16, 1766.

View Probate Inventory