Washington Old Hall Property and Historic Preservation
Washington Old Hall Property is a national and international treasure. The on-going restoration and historic preservation of Washington Old Hall property is in keeping with the promotion of the mission of NSDAR, and its Historic Preservation Committee.
It is important to note the historic preservation efforts of local Washington Village historian Mr. Frederick Hill, the Friends of Washington Old Hall, and Washington Old Hall Chapter. Although the property is located in England, it is a unique museum dedicated to George Washington and his English ancestors. George Washington is best known as the leader of the forces which secured the independence of the American Colonies from Britain during the American Revolution. The capital city and home of the Presidential seat in the United States was named Washington in his honour; however, as previously demonstrated, the name had its origin far across the Atlantic Ocean in what was a remote part of northeast England.
Due to the American connection, Washington Old Hall has an impressive collection of portraits of George Washington, illustrations of events connected with the struggle for American independence, memorabilia and books about him. American benefactors who were also very generous during the major restoration of the building have donated many of these items.
The landing of the house displays two spades which were used by President Carter and Prime Minister Callaghan to plant trees on the Village Green in commemoration of President Carter's visit to the Hall in 1977.
A poignant and interesting detail regarding Mr. Hill's fundraising efforts is his contact with NSDAR. In November 1933, Mr. Hill contacted DAR with a lengthy, detailed request for funds suggesting the idea of a village hospital for non-serious illnesses, maternity cases, and convalescence patients as part of the restored Old Hall. Mr. Hill suggested the facility be named the American Mothers' Hospital…a gift from the women of America to the women of Washington Village (and of England.) He requested $10,000.00 to cover all contingencies - suggesting 10,000 members subscribing $1.00 each. By contrast with his lengthy appeal, Mr. Hill succinctly noted the outcome, 'Daughters of the American Revolution very sympathetic, will certainly do something after the USA Depression is over.' Now more than seventy years later, Washington Old Hall Chapter, NSDAR, United Kingdom, is fulfilling a part of that 1933 promise.
Mr. Hill worked tirelessly to promote Washington Old Hall as a historic building with international prominence. In 1931 he started raising awareness of the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Washington, which was to be celebrated in 1932, by not only Americans but also the citizens of the world. Mr. Hill suggested an exchange of flags between Washington, DC, and Washington Village, England, to commemorate the event as well as solidify the association of Washington Village to the ancestral family of George Washington.
The American celebrations included a 'monumental' book published by the Bicentennial Commission, which included a record of the foreign participation of Bicentennial Celebrations; England was allocated a substantial section. In part it stated: 'Nowhere in the world was the Two Hundredth Anniversary of the Birth of George Washington celebrated with more enthusiasm and pride than in the little town of Washington, County Durham, England, the ancestral home of the Washington family. Long before the period of the celebration opened, word had reached the United States George Washington Bicentennial Commission that the people of the town wished to join the people of the United States in honouring the memory of George Washington.
The Old Hall was opened to the public on September 28, 1955, in spite of delays and uncertainty. Mr. Hill had accomplished his mission. Sadly, at this point in his life, he was too ill to attend the opening ceremonies. The American Ambassador, the Honourable Winthrop W. Aldridge, performed the opening ceremonies. The British and American flags were raised in unison, accompanied by their national anthems. Mr. Hill was finally publicly acknowledged for his efforts to save The Old Hall.
During days of greater health and for many years, Mr. Hill led limited tours of The Old Hall and the adjoining ancient Church of the Holy Trinity. During these tours he would point out the features of the church associated with the Washington family. These features included the Lord's Porch, demolished when the church was rebuilt in the 1830s where, 'the dust of six generation of the Washington family lies under the floor,' and the font in which many of George Washington's ancestors had been baptized. In this same corner of the church is a stained glass window donated in 1957 by Mrs. Lydia Robson Hill, widow of Frederick. The window inscription reads, 'In memory of Frederick Hill, Historian of Washington and promoter of Anglo-American friendship.' There is also an American Flag sent by the American Ambassador.
In 1956, The British National Trust formally accepted responsibility for the building. Today, Washington Old Hall remains a shining star among National Trust properties in England. The Old Hall is open to the public from April to October. Private events are held at The Old Hall year round.
In recent years The Old Hall has continued to develop and evolve. The original site has now been extended by the bequest of the Northampton House in 1974 and the purchase of Orchard House in 2002, which now serves as the Tudor Family Education Center. The land to the south of the Old Hall has been restored as a Nuttery and provides picnic and playground areas for visitors.
The Friends of Washington Old Hall is a voluntary body of nearly one hundred people. It was established nearly twenty years ago to raise funds to improve amenities for visitors to The Old Hall and its surroundings. Their contributions include property guides, tearoom volunteers, event coordinators, catering supervisors, gardeners, fundraising activities, and maintaining a souvenir desk, as well as general house and garden maintenance.
Since October 2003, Washington Old Hall Chapter has contributed a wheelchair, Tudor instructional items, natural willow playground equipment for the Nuttery Garden, funds to the general maintenance and restoration of The Old Hall, a regulation Washington State Flag, and George Washington books. Chapter members volunteer in the Tearoom as well as participate in The Old Hall's American celebrations, ceremonies, and events.
An International Event of Distinction was held at the Old Hall on June 20, 2006. A Protocol Agreement of Friendship between the cities of Washington, D.C., USA, and Washington (Sunderland) U.K., was signed by Mayors Anthony A. Williams, Washington D.C., and Thomas Foster, Washington, U.K. Chapter Regent Patricia Everts represented Washington Old Hall Chapter and the Daughters of the American Revolution. She had the privilege of raising the American Flag while Mayor Foster raised the United Kingdom Flag. The event was covered by television, radio, and print media.
The Choosing of The Chapter Name
In the many months prior to officially organizing, several discussions regarding a chapter name took place among organizing members. The objective was to seek a unique and descriptive name to reflect our American heritage while honouring our host country. Names ranged from English and Scottish locations, to local heroes, to British traditions. However, no suggestion satisfied or fulfilled our expectations.
Mrs. LaDonna Mayville, a Junior Member and Organizing Member suggested the name of a near-local historic English landmark, Washington Old Hall, as the name of the new chapter. The property located at Washington Village, Tyne & Wear, near Newcastle, Northern England, is the ancestral seat of the Washington family. Washington Old Hall precedes Sulgrave Manor in North Hamptonshire as the original ancestral home of the Washington family in England.
Washington Old Hall, the cradle of the Washington family, is a 17th century manor house which has been restored to its original medieval roots.
After careful research and meetings with representatives from The British National Trust, permission was granted for use of the name. We had a chapter name, which was enthusiastically accepted by the membership and NSDAR alike. What better way to convey the Anglo-American historical link than through George Washington and the English Washington Old Hall property!
The relationship of the Old Hall Property and the chapter has grown from strength to strength and has provided the chapter with a vital link to the history and the future of Washington Old Hall Property. We are very proud to be part of this historical property.