Manor Houses of Great Britain Volume 1 [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Linda Lee
eBook Category: History/Reference
eBook Description: Little evidence of everyday life in Britain during the Middle Ages has survived, with the exception of the manor house. Today there are perhaps some 300 examples of this type of late medieval country house throughout the country, many of which have evolved from the ancient "aisled hall." The selection of 30 properties contained in this volume have been well preserved, and many will be familiar even if not previously considered a "manor house" in the strictest sense. Each article comprises a colour photograph, an historical overview, and an information panel containing opening times, grid reference, address, telephone number, and web site details (where applicable).
eBook Publisher: Heritage Trail Publications Ltd
Fictionwise Release Date: March 2004
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For the purpose of this excerpt the photograph and information table have been removed
Washington Old Hall
Maybe not readily recalled as one of the ?great little houses? of Britain, this charming old manor house conceals a fascinating history. It appears to be an extremely popular venue with American visitors, and a big clue as to the reason for this lies in the property's name. Washington Old Hall was formerly owned by the Bishop of Durham, but the estate was exchanged by him during the twelfth century and came into the possession of the first ?William of Washington?. As a knight of some means, he had married the King of Scotland's sister in 1182 and they came to live in a fortified house on this site. Initially, this was probably no more than a pele tower with outbuildings, but a hall was added about 100 years later. Some parts of this are still visible in the existing great hall of the present house.
By 1400 the main members of the Washington family had spread further afield, and Washington manor had been left in the hands of a femal heir, Eleanor. Eventually, Washington Old Hall was sold and, quite bizarrely, the ownership of the estate had come full circle by 1613, when it was once more in the hands of the Bishop of Durham. Subsequently, the rebuilding of Washington Old Hall took place, transforming the property into a comfortable, fivebedroomed gentry house that was enjoyed by the Bishop's grandson, William James. Over the next two centuries, the house was let to a succession of tenants and the status of the property declined. During the nineteenth century it became a working class tenement block, at one time providing shelter for up to 35 people who lived there in appalling conditions. Having deteriorated into an unsightly health hazard by 1936, Washington Old Hall was on the point of being demolished for redevelopment when a preservation committee of local people stepped in to save the derelict building.
Meanwhile, descendants of William Washington's great, great grandson, who had settled in Lancashire for eight generations, moved to Northamptonshire in the mid 1500s. It was here that Lawrence Washington became a wealthy wool merchant, building a huge, new family home in the manor of Sulgrave. In 1656 his grandson emigrated to Virginia to seek his fortune among the tobacco plantations, and three generations later George Washington was born there. From his humble upbringing as the son of a Virginian tobacco planter, George Washington became the first President of the United States in 1789, with the city being named in his honour, and his family coat of arms becoming the forerunner to the ?stars and stripes? of America.
It was subsequently decided to restore the dilapidated old property to its original Jacobean condition, retaining parts of the medieval house once inhabited by the Washington family. As his roots were so firmly established in England, and his ancestral history began at Washington Old Hall, it was considered more than appropriate that the property should stand as a shrine to George Washington. The project received many generous donations from America, who were proud to be connected with 800 years of history, and in 1955 the American Ambassador opened the house to the public for the first time. President Carter visited the old hall in 1977, and a strong bond remains between the village of Washington near Sunderland, and the presidential capital city of Washington in the USA, despite being separated by a vast expanse of ocean.