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Things to see and do at Washington Old Hall

A member of staff greets a family outside a historic stone building at the entrance to Washington Old Hall's gardens.
Family visitors arrive at Washington Old Hall | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

At the heart of the village is the stone manor house and garden of Washington Old Hall. Dating back to the 13th century, it was renovated before the English Civil War and went on to become a tenement building, lived in by multiple families until the 1930s. Here’s what to look out for when you visit.

What's in the Hall?

The ground floor presents a home in the 17th century when Washington was in the hands of the James family. It was bought by Bishop William James in 1613 and lived in by his grandson William. There were extensive renovations made to the hall during this time and it was most likely at its grandest when this work was completed

In the Great Hall, kitchen and panelled room you can now see some beautiful examples of carved oak furniture and a precious collection of Delft ware spanning three centuries.

The hall is probably best known for being the ancestral home of George Washington as it was from right here that the Washington family (previously the Hertburn family) took their name at the end of the 12th century.

The first floor

On the first floor you will find the Tenement Room, a recreation of No. 5 The Old Hall, which was the home of the Bone family.

The hall was home to up to nine families from the second half of the 1800s right up until 1933. Mr Stanley Bone was born in this room and the chest of drawers is the exact one his mother used as his crib.

Look out for an audio feature of an interview with Stanley, bringing to life some of his memories and those of other residents from that time.

Visitors in the parterre garden at Washington Old Hall, Tyne & Wear. An aerial shot of visitors on a bench, looking at the garden.
Visitors in the parterre garden at Washington Old Hall, Tyne & Wear | © National Trust Images/John Millar

The garden

By the side of the hall is the mead (a medieval name for a wildflower lawn), filled with rare and native wildflowers. Washington Old Hall has connections to the USA, so you’ll find a Cherry Blossom tree, planted in memoriam to 9/11.

The top lawn of the terraced garden is abundant in fragrant, bee-attracting lavender during summer.

Drop down to the parterre, a 17th-century recreation which includes a symmetrical topiary design, espaliered fruit trees and a sensory array of herbs.

Through the gate there’s a small play area and miniature apple orchard. Planted on the site of a historical orchard, the trees here are still young and grow a variety of English heritage apples.

See nature in the nut orchard

The nuttery is a wildflower nut orchard set in an acre of land bustling with nature. It is home to hundreds of species of insects, birds, mammals and pond life living in a multitude of habitats.

Explore Washington village

Washington Old Hall sits comfortably in the quaint village of Washington; it may be small but there's more to it that meets the eye. Learn about the history here on this walk.

Leave Washington Old Hall and turn right, towards Holy Trinity Church. Here are some suggested stopping points:

Holy Trinity Church

Stands on the site of a Norman Church. Members of the Washington family are buried here.

Fred Hill’s House

Home of the local school master who helped form a preservation committee to save Washington Old Hall from demolition in the 1930s.

In front of the house is the remains of a sand pit which contributed to many of the buildings in the area.

Dame Margaret’s Hall

Built in 1854 for industrialist Sir Isaac Lothian Bell. He employed over 40,000 people in the north-east.

Amongst many guests to the Hall (then known as Washington Hall) were Charles Darwin, William Morris and Philip Webb. It was named Dame Margaret’s in honour of his wife when he bequeathed it as a home for waifs and strays.

Glebe Pit

The Washington ‘Glebe’ Colliery occupied this site from 1903-73. 27 men died working at this pit.

The single greatest loss of life occurred on 20 February 1908, when an explosion ripped through one of the seams and killed 14 men. They are commemorated on a plaque in the Holy Trinity Church.

The Miners Memorial at Our Blessed Lady Immaculate Church

Commemorates the lives of the 42 men and boys killed in an explosion at Usworth Colliery on 2 March 1885.

This is the site of the 1726 Rectory building under Rector Richard Stonewheeler. It continued to be the Rectory until 1923, when it became the Urban District Offices. It was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1949.

When Washington became part of Sunderland in 1974, it became one of their council offices and housed a small court.

The War Memorial

Stands on the site of the village pond and commemorates the lives of those who have fallen in their country’s service from the Great War to Iraq.

The two trees behind the memorial were planted by President Jimmy Carter and Prime Minister James Callaghan, on their visit to the region in 1977.

The Blacksmiths

Is of the same period as the house and the cottage on the entrance to the Hall. It functioned as a blacksmiths right up until the mid-1950s.

The Cross Keys

Said to be where seven-year-old Christopher Drummond was laid out after a tragic accident.

He got trapped whilst cleaning the chimney at Washington Hall (Dame Margaret’s Hall) and died of suffocation. Lord Shaftesbury used this case in his 1872 report for better working conditions.

The Master sweep received six months hard labour at Durham prison, as a result of his actions that day.

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