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Things to do in Washington, Tyne and Wear


The town of Washington is eight miles west of Sunderland in Tyne and Wear. Its name indicates its historic connection with the Washington family, ancestors of George Washington who became the first President of America.

Some of Washington's earliest history was when William de Hertburn built the Old Hall in 1183. He adopted the name of the area and was then known as William de Wessyngton. In 1539 the Washington family had moved south to Northamptonshire and settled in Sulgrave Manor.

The present manor replacing the Old Hall was built of sandstone in the 17th century. However the Great Hall and some foundations were part of the older mediaeval home of the Washington family.

The original village centre has retained its historic character with assorted stone houses. The village green was where Jane Atkinson, the Washington Witch, was dunked in the village pond. President Carter visited the town in 1977 and planted a tree on the green.

The Old Smithy was built in the 1500s and was where highwayman Robert Hazlitt was arrested in 1770.

In 1885 a dug-out canoe made from an oak tree was found in the River Wear near Washington. It was estimated to be 4000 years old.

Like much of this area of Tyne and Wear, Washington was involved in coal mining. It later became a base for the chemical industry with the Washington Chemical Works being a major local employer in the 19th century. The Pattinson Industrial Estate now occupies that site.


Present Day Washington

Washington has grown to over 53,000 residents who are mainly employed in the textile, electronics, chemicals and car assembly plants in the town. Nissan Automotive is a major employer.

The town has a mixture of housing, although many estates were built after 1964 when Washington was chosen for development as a New Town. New housing estates were built to house the overspill from the nearby cities of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Sunderland and Durham.

Village Lane has retained the character of the village with the whitewashed Poacher's Pocket pub standing on the roadside.

The centre of the town, known locally as Old Washington, has a Post Office, library and the Cross Keys pub. The old cemetery and the Holy Trinity Church, also known as the Church on the Hill, are both part of the older village area.

The Galleries Shopping Centre has typical high street shops, banks and supermarkets. The town also has an arts centre with a theatre, recording studio and exhibition gallery.

Musician Bryan Ferry was born and raised in Washington and went on to found the band Roxy Music. A fellow pupil at Washington Grammar School was Peter Graham who played cricket for Warwickshire CCC.


Things to Do Around Washington

Washington Old Hall celebrates American Independence Day every July 4th in remembrance of its historic connections with George Washington's family. It is an interesting old manor house to visit at any time of year.

The Washington Wetlands Centre is a pleasant place for nature spotting on the banks of the River Wear.

The Washington ‘F' Pit Mining Museum gives an in-depth look at this historic local industry. Another museum of note is the North East Aircraft Museum on the former RAF Unsworth airbase.

The Metro Centre, Europe's largest out-of-town shopping experience, is just 20 minutes away at Gateshead.

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