Washington Old Hall
The Ancestral Home of George Washington

The First President of the United States of America
By Audrey Fletcher
Copyright 1982
The Old Hall
Washington Village
Tyne-Wear, England
The Washington Family

Washington Village, Tyne-Wear, is renowned the world over as the ancestral home of George Washington, the First President of the United States of America.

His great-grandfather, Colonel John Washington, emigrated to Virginia in 1656 from
Sulgrave Manor in Northamptonshire. The Washington family relocated from Washington Manor to Sulgrave Manor via Westmoreland, Lancashire and Warwickshire, in the early to mid sixteenth century.
George Washington, the First President of the United States of America
Portrait by Gilbert Stuart
The Washington family name was acquired in 1183 when William de Hertburn, a father of four, assumed tenancy of the Washington lands from the Bishop of Durham at a cost of four pounds per year. It was to his advantage to accept Washington in exchange for his Stockton lands since he was already heir to lands at Offerton which lay just across across the River Wear from Washington.

William de Hertburn was undoubtedly a man of great importance. He was son and heir of Sir Patrick de Le Hirsell who had estates in Scotland, and his second marriage was to Countess Margaret, sister to William the Lion, King of Scotland. Interestingly this marriage took place about the same time as William's move to Washington leaving one to wonder if the two events were connected, and if so, for what purpose.

Click here to discover the royal ancestry of the heirs of William de Wessington I.

The Washington Coat of Arms

The Coat of Arms adopted by William de Wessyngton reflects his position and status of a knight. It comprises three red five-pointed stars and two red banners, in the horizontal position, on a white background. Originally however the background was silver.

The introduction of heraldry into England is credited to William I after the Norman Conquest of 1066. Originally the shields are believed to have been a single colour but as the custom grew more popular a second colour was introduced. The very early composition of the Washington Coat of Arms is reflected in its use of only two colours.
The Washington family took great pride in their heritage, such that when they emigrated to America they retained their family crest. As a result, when George Washington, who was a prominent Freemason, became the First President of the United States, it was the Washington Coat of Arms which was adopted as the basis of the American flag.

In the distant past Washington Village was an important Celtic site, a fact which is borne out by its very name "Washington". Down through the centuries there have been several versions of the name but the same ending "ton" has always been retained. For example: Wessington, Wessynton, Weshington and  Washington.

"Wessing" is an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning "soaking" or "steeping". The modern German noun equivalent is "wasser" meaning "water". The Modern English equivalent noun is "water" or "wash". A wash is a body of water, as in The Wash on the East Coast.

Clearly in ancient times Washington Village was an extremely wet area underfoot, but as it dried out over the centuries the final remnant of the "wash" was the Village Pond. Today this is filled in and referred to as the Village Green.
The final remnant of the "wash" at Washington Village is the Village Pond, which  is now filled in
"Ton" at the end of a place name does not necessarily, as many people mistakenly believe, refer to an early form of the word "town". Nor does it necessarily refer to a "homestead". Rather it is another form of the Old Anglo-Saxon word "torr" meaning "a prominent hill".
Similarly “tan” refers to “a hill where Beltane was celebrated”.

"Torr" is a version of the Hebrew "tur" meaning "round tower" in the form of a mountain. Our English word "turret" is derived from this. At the end of a place name "tor" and "ton" take on added significance: they both mean "a holy hill".

There is only one Holy Hill in Washington Village and that is the one upon which The Holy Trinity Church stands.
There is only one Holy Hill in Washington Village and that is the one upon which the Holy Trinity Church stands
This is not the end of the story however ... "ton" at the end of a place name not only denotes a "holy hill", it also denotes a holy hill which was sacred to Venus and also of special significance to the pre-Celtic Druids.
This means that Washington Village is a religious site of
extreme antiquity.

For more information about the origins of and religious practices
at Washington Village, including the Beltane Festival,
Click Here
It was no accident that Britain was so called. Not only does “breotan” mean “to break”, an apt description of our Isles, it also means “fire hills”. Tan Hill Festivals are still celebrated in Britain today.
For more information about The Holy Trinity Church Click Here
Introduction: Origins of Washington Village
In its original form:
argent, two bar and in
chief three mullets gules
In its current fform:
white, two bar and in
chief three mullets red
The Washington Coat of Arms
The flag of the United States of America was based upon the Coat of Arms of George Washington whose ancestors hailed from Washington Village, Tyne-Wear, England
Where to Build the Manor House?

The ideal location for William de Wessyngton to build his Manor House was on the lower southern side of the hill upon which the Anglo-Saxon Village Church stood. This position, which was outside the Church boundary, afforded him protection both from the elements and from the fear of flooding. In fact, should flooding arise the waters would create a moat of sorts. I would suspect however that the plot of land was already cut and filled, and had been previously occupied, probably over a period of hundreds of years.
Expressed in everyday language the red banners on the white background were retained, but the red stars on a white background were replaced with white stars on a blue background.
The stars and stripes of Washington Village became the “Stars and Stripes” of the leading world power!
Washington Village 1857 showing the position of Washington Old Hall in relation to the Church on the Hill. Most of the buildings shown on this map are still standing today.
Not surprisingly, the stone manor house was built in the Norman architectural style as evidenced by the original stone archways between the current kitchen and the Great hall.
The 12th Century Manor House

In the 12th Century many of the Feudal Manor Houses were built of timber and infilled with wattle and daub. However evidence shows that the Manor House built by William de Wessyngton for his royal Scottish bride was of stone, reflecting his wealth and prestige.

The original Manor House was built in the distinctive shape of the letter "H". This is confirmed by the original foundations which are preserved in the current 17th Century Old Hall. The letter "H" is symbolic of the Double Tau.

The main entrance was centrally positioned on the northern side of the Great Hall which itself was flanked by butteries, pantries, and great kitchen on one side and possibly sleeping quarters on the other. This same main entrance was retained in the later 17th Century building.

The Old Hall 1613. The main entrance was centrally located on the northern side of the Great Hall. Notice how the distnctive "H" shape was retained from the original 12th Century Manor House.
Sketch by J. Alder
Within the precincts of the Feudal Manor of William de Wessyngton there would have been stables, a barn, a mill, the village, a pond, marshland, woodland, strip fields for planting at various times of the year and the common pasture.

Outside the precincts of the Feudal Manor there would have been the Church on the Hill, the Glebe Lands of the Church, the clergyman's house and his fields known as "God's Acre".
For more information about the symbolism of the letter "H"
Click Here   and Click Here
The stone archways between the Great Hall and the current kitchen are remnants of the original Norman architecture
As well as the stone arches some of the stone walls are also part of the original 12th century building.
The Last of the Direct Washington Line
at The Old Hall

The Norman manor house built by William de Wessington was both inherited and inhabited by his direct male descendents and their families until the death of his great-great-great-great grandson, Sir William de Wessington V in 1399. Unfortunately he did not have a male heir.

The property passed into the hands of the
Tempest family when Sir William's daughter Eleanor married Sir William Tempest, a relative from Yorkshire. However, Sir William Tempest also died without leaving a male heir and so the manor then passed into the hands of the Mallory family through the female line.

The Washington Line Continues

George Washington is descended from the original William de Wessington.

William de Wessington's grandson was William de Wessington III. A younger son of William de Wessington III, Robert de Wessington, married Joan de Strickland in 1292. She was heiress to Carnforth, in Warton, Lancashire. It is from this union that George Washington, the First President of the United States of America, was descended.

George Washington, the First President of the United States of America
Washington Manor House becomes Derelict
Today there are many Washingtons throughout England and the world who are descended from the original William de Wessyngton.

In 1613, during the reign of James I, the original 12th Century Washington Manor House was pulled down. A larger, new one was built in its place on the old foundations, by William James the Bishop of Durham. The tradition adopted during the reign of the previous monarch, Elizabeth I, of building in the form of an "E" in her honour, was incorporated into the new manor house.
The 17th Century Manor House
The manor house of 1613 was built in the form of the letter "E", a practice carried over from the reign of Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth I. (Photo1987)
In adding a new wing was the owner, the Bishop of Durham, perhaps making a political statement? Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII, was Protestant while her nephew James I (James VI of Scotland) was Catholic.
As the years slipped by the needs and circumstances of the owners changed, and the manor house was let out to tenants in the 1700s. Gradually the building deteriorated with the result that by 1894 it was described as an " ... interesting old building, now fast falling into decay, and at present divided into tenements of the poorest description."
(Whellan's Directory of County Durham)
By 1894 the Washington Old Hall had fast fallen into decay. It was divided into tenements of the poorest description.
The final blow came in 1936 when the building was condemned as unfit and unsafe for human habitation.It was to be demolished. Little Usworth Hall, about a mile up the road, had met a similar fate around twenty five years earlier.
Washington Manor, the Old Hall,
is saved from Demolition
Little Usworth Hall
Little Usworth Hall was demolished in the early 1900s.
Sketch by Audrey Fletcher
Looking at the roof-line, Little Usworth Hall appears to have been built in three different stages, the earliest being the section containing the door and the chimney. Along with Wessyngton, Little Usworth was mentioned in The Boldon Book of 1183.

The preservation of old buildings of historic interest is a fairly recent phenomenon. Unfortunately much of Washington's history has been lost by building demolition in the 20th Century. The construction of the New Town also destroyed many of the old landmarks in the area.
Local school teacher and historian, Fred Hill, was instrumental in saving the Old Hall from demolition. He was a leading figure in "The Old Hall Preservation Committee" which bought the building and the surrounding land.

"It is our hope that the old place will be completely restored and utilized as the Village Community Centre, with provisions for a guest chamber for American tourists!"
Fred Hill 1946

In post-war Washington however, the restoration could not begin immediately, there were other priorities.

"... when the housing scarcity is overcome then the work will be commenced."
Fred Hill 1946

For the funding of the project, the Preservation Society looked to the people of the USA for help.

"During the war years between 400-500 Americans visited the Manor and the suggestion that Americans should supply the funds always met with approval."

" ... we would much rather that the Americans as a people decide to defray the cost, and not an individual."

"We want the old building to be a tangible link between the People of America, and the People of Britain!"

Fred Hill 1946

(The Fred Hill extracts, 1946, are recorded in: "From Washington to White House" by The Vagabond)

Fred Hill's dream was realized on 28th September 1955, when the fully restored Old Hall was opened to the public by the American Ambassador. Two years later it was handed over the The National Trust, who also aquired the Lower Garden as a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Mothersole.
Local school teacher and historian,
Fred Hill, was instrumental in saving the
Old Hall from demolition
A Photographic Tour of the Old Hall
The Entrance: Old hall on the left,
and Cottages on the right
The Cottages: believed to have been converted from the original stables
The lower garden which was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Mothersole,
has been appropriately landscaped in the Jacobean Style
Side views of the Old Hall
My Mam sitting in the Kitchen of the Old Hall
Bedroom with beamed ceiling
Parlour with wood panelling, carved sideboard and spinning wheel
American Independence Day, July 4th 1987
The Jacobean Old Hall in the winter sunshine
Members of the US Forces preparing to raise the "Stars and Stripes"
The raising of the American Flag
The Washington Presidents were a sensation
The activities concluded on an English note with the Morris Dancers
Link to the Washington Family Genealogy from 439AD

Link to Mallory Family Genealogy

Link to 4th July 2002 Celebrations at the Washington Old Hall  

Link to A Sunday Morning Walk around Washington Village

Link to The Washington Holy Trinity Church

Link to Washington, Tyne Wear, England

Link to Biddick / Sanderson Genealogy
Email Me
Copyright Audrey Fletcher 1982
All rights reserved

Updated 2012

The Ghost of the Lady in Grey
The story goes that when the Old Hall was divided up into tenements
the ghost of the Grey Lady was often seen by the children living there.
Usually she was crying. Unfortunately I don't have a photograph of
the ghost of the Lady in Grey.

However I do have a photograph of a Scottish ghostie, which I took up in the Highlands in August 1999. I have included her here because she reminds me of a gentlewoman from around 1613 when the Washington Manor was pulled down and a new one built in its place on the old foundations.

A Scottish Ghostie. Perhaps this gentlewoman and her child are buried beneath the big stones, centre.

July 4th Celebrations

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