How Washington got its name
"Where George Washington's family were born"
Did you know that US President George Washington was descended from a family who took their name from a small village in England? Read on....
In 1183, almost 800 years ago in the village of Wessyngton, England, the Washington family took its name. In 1789, General George Washington, a descendant of that family and leader of the Revolution, became the first President of a new nation - the United States of America.
The capital of the new nation was named Washington in his honour. Wessyngton, which had various spellings until it evolved into Washington, comes from the Anglo Saxon - 'Hwaes' a Saxon Chief, 'Inga' meaning family of, and 'Tun' an estate - the estate of Hwae's (Wassa's) family.
The first ancestor of George Washington to live at Washington was William de Hertburn, who moved to the village in 1183. Before surnames were in general use, nobles and landowners assumed the name of the property they owned. William de Hertburn therefore became William de Wessyngton. Had he not moved in 1183, America's first President and its capital might have been named Hertburn! (pronounced heartburn in England).
It's not known whether William de Hertburn built the original Washington Old Hall or whether it already existed. The present Hall is a typical example of a small English manor house of the early seventeenth century. Built of local sandstone, it stands on the old twelfth century foundations. The arches between the Kitchen and the Great Hall are from the original house.
Five generations of George Washington's direct ancestors lived in the hall before the family moved south and then emigrated in 1657 to Northern Neck in the New colony of Virginia.
The hall is now a tourist attraction and popular venue for weddings and civil ceremonies. It's a very pretty building with small but picturesque gardens - visitors from the USA will get a real feeling of history when they can see exactly where their first president's family came from.
Washington is situated in the north east of England, about 300 miles north of London. Close to all main rail and road links, with Newcastle and Durham Tees Valley airports only half an hour's drive away, it's a great place to visit if you want to add a 'touch of home' to the great historical places you can see all over the UK.