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Washington is a town in Tyne and Wear, Englandmarker. Historically part of County Durham, it joined a new county in 1974 with the creation of Tyne and Wear. Washington is located geographically at an equal distance from the centres of Newcastle, Durham and Sunderland, hence it has close ties to all three cities.

Washington was designated a new town in 1964 and expanded dramatically by the creation of new villages and the absorption of areas of Chester-le-Streetmarker to house overspill population from surrounding cities.

At the 2001 census, the town had a population of 53,388.



There are several proposed theories for how the name "Washington" came about. The three most discussed are detailed below. The titles of the three different theories, e.g. "Gaelic origin", are not formal titles, but merely used here to distinguish between them.

"Hwæsa origin"

The origins of the name Washington are not fully known. The most supported theory (especially amongst local historians) is that Washington is derived from Anglo-Saxon Hwæsingatūn, which roughly means "estate of the descendents (family) of Hwæsa". Hwæsa (usually rendered Wassa or Wossa in modern English) is an Old English name meaning "wheat sheaf"; Swedish Vasa being a more famous cognate.

Due to evolution of English grammar, modern English lacks the Germanic grammatical features that Anglo-Saxon English was filled with. This adds an air of confusion for most in regards to the name Hwæsingatūn. It is essentially composed of three main elements (albeit grammatically altered elements):
  • "Hwæsa" - most likely the name of local Anglo-Saxon chieftain or farmer.
  • "ing" - a Germanic component which has lost its original context in English: ing means roughly "[derived] of/from". It can still be seen in its original context in the word "halfling" meaning "that [derived] from an half". In the name Hwæsingatūn, "ing" is conjugated to "inga" in accordance with the genitive plural declension of OE.
  • "tūn" - root of the modern English "town", and is a cognate of German "Zaun" and Dutch "tuin". The word means "fenced off estate" or more accurately "estate with defined boundaries".

The combined elements (with all correct conjugations in place) therefore create the name Hwæsingatūn with a full and technical meaning of "the estate of the descendants of Hwæsa".

However, there has been no evidence found of any chieftain/land owner/farmer in the area by the name of Hwæsa, although any such records from the time would likely have been long lost by now.

Although this is by no means the definite theory of origin, most scholars and historians (especially local) agree that it is the most likely.

"Washing origin"

One of the more popular origin theories is that Washington is in fact derived from the Old English verb wascan (said wosh-an) and the noun dūn meaning "hill"; thus making the name Wascandūn, meaning "washing hill". This theory likely originates from the proximity between the river Wearmarker and the actual Anglo-Saxon hall of the time (most likely where Washington Old Hallmarker stands today).

This idea is not backed by linguistic evidence. Combining the two Old English words "wascan" and "dūn" would actually have meant "washed hill" and not "washing hill". Also, the Old English "dūn" meant a range of gently rolling hills, as evidenced by the naming of the Northmarker and South Downsmarker in southern England.

Old Hall

The Old Hallmarker may have been built by William de Hertburn, who moved to the area in 1183. As was the custom he took the name of his new estates, and became William de Wessyngton. By 1539 when the family moved to Sulgrave Manormarker in Northamptonshiremarker the spelling "Washington" had been adopted.

The present Hall is an early 17th century small English manor house of sandstone. Only the foundations and the arches between the Kitchen and the Great Hall remain of the original house.

George Washington connection

William de Wessyngton was a forebear of George Washington, the first President of the United States, and thus the area has given its name to the U.S. capitalmarker and many other places in the United States. Though it was not from Washington that George Washington's great-grandfather John Washington left for Virginia, but from Essex, Washington Old Hall was the family home of George Washington's ancestors, and the present structure does incorporate small parts of the medieval home in which they lived. American Independence Day is marked each year in a ceremony at Washington Old Hall. [35371]

Building the New Town

Washington's design was developed through the New Towns concept aiming to achieve sustainable socio-economic growth. The new town is divided into small self-sufficient "villages". It was originally also divided into the 15 original numbered districts, a fate which confused many visitors to the area. These numbered districts have gradually been removed as well as increased, and now road signs indicate the villages' names instead of district number. Washington's villages are called Donwell, Usworth (originally Great Usworth), Concord, Sulgrave, Albanymarker, Glebe, Barmston, Biddick, Washington Village (the original village and location of the Old Hall), Columbia, Blackfellmarker, Oxclosemarker, Ayton, Lambtonmarker, Fatfieldmarker, Harraton and Rickleton. Mount Pleasant was also added to the list of numbered districts (14), despite being out of the Town "boundary line" of the River Wear and having a DH4 Postcode (Houghton le Springmarker) it does hold a Washington dialing code starting 0191 415, 416 and 417.

Built on industry, Washington contains several industrial estates, named after famous local engineers, such as Parsons, Armstrong, Stephenson, Crowther, Pattinson, Swan and Emerson.

A lot of the land which makes up the town was purchased from the Lambton family, Earls of Durham who own the estate of the same name, which includes their ancestral home, Lambton Castlemarker.

In 1970, Washington hosted the English Schools Athletic Association (ESAA) annual National Championships, attended by the then Lord Lieutenant of County Durham.


Historically, Washington was heavily involved in the coal industry with a number of pits. One of these in the Albany district of Washington is preserved as the 'F' Pit Museum (pits in Washington were named alphabetically e.g. the 'F' Pit). A number of the old communities of Washington grew up around the pits (e.g. the modern area of Usworth partly grew up around the Usworth mine and the area was known as Usworth Colliery (and still is to some of the older generation). In support of the mines there was a series of wagonways and later railway lines to transport the coal. The wagonways took coal to staithes on the River Wear where it could be loaded onto barges to be taken to the ocean going vessels at Sunderland.

Washington was also involved in the chemical industry and the Washington Chemical Works was a major employer in the 19th century. This later became the Cape/Newalls Works producing insulation. The Pattinson Town area of Washington grew up around the chemical works. This area is now Pattinson industrial estate and Teal Farm housing estate.

Currently, Washington's main industries include textiles, electronics, car assembly, chemicals and electrical goods. The Nissan automotive plantmarker is a major employer. Nissan is the largest private-sector employer in the City of Sunderland.

Visitor attractions

The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trustmarker nature reserve and the Washington 'F' Pit mining museum are within the town.

The Washington Arts Centre is a converted farm building. The Centre includes an exhibition gallery, community theatre, artist studios and a recording studio.

The North East Aircraft Museummarker occupies part of the old RAF Usworthmarker base. The Nissan plantmarker takes up much of the rest. The municipal airport previously run from the site was closed to make way for the Nissan plant.


There are several primary, secondary schools and colleges in the villages of Washington.

  • Primary schools (alphabetical order)
    • Albany Village Primary
    • Barmston Village Primary
    • Biddick Primary School
    • Fatfield Primary School
    • George Washington School (formerly High Usworth)
    • Holley Park Primary School
    • John F. Kennedy Primary School
    • Lambton Primary School
    • Oxclose Primary
    • Rickleton Primary School
    • St. Bedes Primary School
    • St John Boste RC Primary School
    • St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Primary School
    • Usworth Colliery
    • Usworth Grange
    • Wessington Primary - (formerly Glebe Primary)


Washington F.C. is a club based in the Northern League Division Two which is the tenth level of the English game.

In 1991, a survey by the local newspaper, The Washington Star, found that loyalties were closely divided within Washington between Newcastle United and Sunderland AFC. However, the Tyneside club was most popular, by a small majority.


Washington is located on the mothballed Leamside Line and, until the mid-1960s, had regular passenger services to Sunderlandmarker, Teessidemarker and Newcastle upon Tynemarker, via Pelawmarker Junction. The presence of the railway was a major factor in selecting the Washington site, but the passenger service was a victim of the Beeching Axe less than two years later. Freight services continued until 1991 and the line is currently out of use, with all major infrastructure extant. Washington is therefore one of the largest towns in Britain without an operational railway station (see Dudleymarker, Newcastle under Lymemarker and Gosportmarker).

In June 2009, the Association of Train Operating Companies called for funding for the reopening of this station as part of a £500m scheme to open 33 stations on 14 lines closed in the Beeching Axe, including seven new parkway stations.

There is a bus station next to The Galleries. The major provider of transport (buses) in the area is Go North East, with local services as well as connections to Newcastle upon Tynemarker, Sunderlandmarker, and many other towns and cities in the region.

Major roads run through Washington: the A182, the A1231marker and the A195 all connect to the A1marker motorway (which acts as the western boundary of Washington proper) or its feeder, the A194. Washington Services is situated between Junctions 64 and 65 of the A1marker, and incorporate a Travelodge.

Notable people


External links

to see old photos of Washington go to

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