The connection between the original Washington in Tyne and Wear and the USA
Millions of Americans will be celebrating Independence Day, on July 4, an annual holiday which has been marked since 1776.
And among the founding fathers of America was George Washington who is connected in more than just name to our Wearside town.
Washington, Tyne and Wear is where first United States president George Washington’s forebears lived and the family’s connection is still marked at Washington Old Hall.
The founding father’s great grandfather, John Washington, emigrated from the UK to the then colony in 1656. The Washington family can trace its roots back in our area as far as the 1180s when William of Wessington – one of more than 20 varied spellings of Washington – moved north from Stockton.
It is thought that the home remained in the Washington family until the 1800s, when it was remodelled to become Tenements flats for multiple families.
The large property fell into disrepair in the early 20th century, but when it came time to carry out repairs, the American connection paid off.
Much of the restoration was funded by American benefactors who also donated furniture and a number of portraits of George Washington and illustrations relating to the American Independence era.
The main restoration of the Old Hall started in 1951 and in 1955 the building was re-opened by the American Ambassador, before it was donated to the National Trust in 1956.
Ged Parker, chairman of Washington History Society, said there is evidence of the trans-Atlantic traditional ally throughout Washington.
He said: “We have also borrowed names from them when we built our new town such as Concord, which is in Massachusetts, and then there’s Albany and Columbia.
“You also have the John F Kennedy Primary School and the John F Kennedy housing estate.
“It goes beyond just names though and we have used the links to attract investment from factories such as the Timex watch makers.”
Such are the links between our Washington and America that President Jimmy Carter even visited the town in 1977.
More than 40 years later, the history society still gives talks to bus loads of American tourists who usually visit the Old Hall.
Mr Parker jokes: “I always tell them that there are no known links between Washington and their current president.”
Was the American flag inspired by Washington?
Founding American father George Washington’s ancestral links to the North-East town are not in doubt.
And the family crest, which can be spotted in stone at nearby Hylton Castle, also consists of stars and stripes – albeit of a red rather than a red and blue variety.
A similar crest can also be seen on road signs welcoming people to ‘the original Washington’.
While a 19th century patriotic drama made the connection, Ged Parker, chairman of Washington History Society, said: “The Washington family crest is similar although there is no documentary proof that they have borrowed it from us.”