Sunday, 16 November 2014

Washington Old Hall

A portrait of George Washington

Washington Old Hall is a manor house situated in the town of Washington in Tyne and Wear. The manor was the ancestral home of George Washington, the first president of the United States of America. It is from here that the family took the surname 'Washington', although it hasn't been owned by the family since the early 17th century when they sold it to the Bishop of Durham. The building was turned into tenement flats in the 19th century and then gradually fell into decline until it was declared unfit for human habitation in 1936 and threatened with demolition. It was rescued by a local teacher by the name of Fred Hill, who started 'Friends of the Hall', a group committed to rescuing the building. Restoration work was completed in 1955 and the building was taken over by the National Trust in 1957.

For a relatively small property, there is an awful lot of history crammed between its stone walls and it was an absolutely fascinating place to visit. The volunteer in charge on the day we went was a very interesting and friendly man who obviously knew a lot about the place and was a veritable fount of information. The children's trail for Washington Old Hall was the most in depth we have come across in the National Trust and we all learnt a lot from helping the Podlings with it. They certainly earned their certificate on that one!

I particularly enjoyed the room that was set out as it would have been in the building's tenement days. Many of those who lived in the flats as children have been able to help out with information as to how life was at the time and how the flats were laid out. One of the old residents who was born in the flats in the 1920s apparently still occasionally drops into the hall for a cup of tea and a chat. I would have loved to have met him!

The day we visited it was absolutely pouring with rain, so I didn't hang around to take a photo of the exterior and most of my interior shots are out of focus, but we absolutely loved our visit to Washington Old Hall. It is definitely worth your time if you are in the area.

These 17th century painted wooden figures were apparently used to fool passersby into thinking the property was occupied, thus deterring thieves!

Emma with Martha Washington's fan

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