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Washington History Society

History Timeline

NOTABLE DATES IN THE HISTORY OF WASHINGTON- based on the work of the Washington Historical Group 1975



The skull of an Anthracosaurus, a 12ft. amphibian, dug out at Usworth Colliery, 1966.

9600 to 4300 B.C.                  Middle Stone Age site found at Shaddons Hill in 1925.

4300-to 2000 B.C.                  New Stone Age axe found at New Washington. Now in Sunderland Museum.

2000 to 750 B.C.                    Three burials of the Bronze Age found at Fatfield in 1907.
                                                 Two dug-out canoes found in the River Wear just downstream from Washington.


4th century                             Hoard of Roman coins found at Washington Station in 1939.


c 7th/8th century                    The name Washington derived from "home or farm of Wassa's sons or people".


1112                                        The first written record of Washington is contained in the Charter of Bishop Ranulf Flambard dated                                                       11th June. There is a unbroken list of Rectors from this date.

1154                                        Bishop of Durham permitted tenants of Washington to make use of the waste land on Birtley                                                                 Common, the western boundary of Washington Parish.

1183                                        Boldon Book compiled by Bishop Hugh du Puiset. States that William de Hertburn held Washington                                                       except for the church and also mentions Great and Little Usworth and Biddick.

1196                                       Washington church assessed at £33.

13th century                         Building of Washington Old Hall.

1249                                       William de Clifford instituted to the church of Washington on 13th May.

c1261                                     Alexander Biddyk, Sheriff of County Durham.

1264                                       Sir Walter de Washington possibly fought at the Battle of Lewes.

1273                                       Robert of Wessington fails to appear in court to hear charges of assault against him.

1276                                       Edward I ratified the grant of 10 marks out of Washington Rectory to the Nuns of Neasham.

1319                                       John of Usworth a soldier employed in guarding the March of Northumberland.

1345                                       The Manor of North Biddick held by William Hilton.

1363                                       Thomas of Penrith petitioned the Pope for the church of Wessington.

1367                                       William de Wessington died leaving the whole manor and village to his son and heir William.

1383                                       Sir William de Washington one of the host of knights of the Earl of Northumberland.

c1403                                     Sir William Tempest married Alianore, the daughter and co-heir of Sir William de Washington by which                                                  marriage he acquired the manor of Washington.

1486                                       Ralph Hamsterley was the first Rector of Washington to hold a University degree.

1545                                       Neasham Priory near the Tees is receiving £6 13s. 4d. from Washington.

 1567                                      Case against 2 men who forcibly took John Horsfall, priest, to the "oxe close of Washington" and there                                                  robbed him of his purse.

1585                                       Mention of a field called "Prestes Meeades" in Little Usworth.

1594                                       Coal produced at Harraton Colliery.

1606                                       Coal dug out from 5 sites on the Biddick estate by Mr Bowes.

1612                                       William James, a close relative of Bishop James of Durham, was Rector of Washington.

1633                                       In her will proved this year Ann Heath of Barmston leaves 10/- to the poor of Washington.

1644                                       Rector Dr. Thomas Triplett forced to flee because of Royalist sympathies.

1662                                      Edward Williamson "intruder", was ejected from the Rectory at Washington upon the restoration of                                                       Charles II.

1663                                      By this time the manor of Washington had passed through the female line from the Washington                                                           family to the Mallorys and then to William James who died in this year leaving his 4 sisters as co-                                                           heiresses.

1664                                       A survey of the Wissington Estate dates from this time.

1665                                       During August 7/- collected in Washington for the London plague victims.

1666                                       £1 15s. 2d. collected for the people affected by the Fire in London.

1669                                       Barmston township sold by the Hilton family to the Lilburn family for £2,750.

1676                                       25th August, Jane Atkinson, "witch", ducked in the village pond until dead

I7th century                          Washington Old Hall altered and improved.

                                               North Biddick Hall built, and altered over years before demolition in 1966.


1700                                       Barmston township passed from the Lilburn family to the Tempest family.

                                               Colliery at "Cox Close" (Ox Close) in the hands of Henry Liddell.

1702                                       Earliest map of Washington.

1708                                       Explosion at Fatfield Colliery - 69 lives lost.

1722                                       Thomas Robinson's legacy of £5 for charity.

1732                                       First efforts at ventilation of coal mines by means of a furnace tried originally at Fatfield.

                                                John Hopper's legacy of £5 for charity.

1 737                                      Ralph Curry given the right to quarry stone in the west of Washington parish.

1739                                       Death of the last Baron Hilton.

1743                                       Explosion at North Biddick colliery kills 17.

1744                                       John Brand, author of the History of Newcastle was born at Brand's Place (Brandy Row).

1763                                       Enclosure of Washington Common.

1764                                       Mary Bowes of Gibside (ancestor of the Queen Mother) and others leased land in Washington to build                                                  a waggonway.

1767                                       Explosion at Fatfield Colliery - 39 lives lost.

1768                                       Pitmen on strike in Washington for more money.

1771                                       Great flood inundates collieries at Biddick, Chartershaugh and Low Lambton, and supposedly washes                                                  away the family papers of the Earl of Perth at Biddick.

1773                                       19 lives lost in explosion at North Biddick Colliery.

1775                                       Washington Colliery leased to William Russell.

1778                                       The New Washington Colliery began production.

1782                                       Death of James Drummond, claiming to be the Earl of Perth. A fugitive from the Battle of Culloden, he                                                  sought refuge at Biddick and is buried at Penshaw. Claims for the earldom failed in the 1830s.

1785                                       Waggonway lease from Washington to the Tyne granted to the owners of Washington Colliery.

1786                                       New parish stocks made for 12 shillings.

1791                                      Coal hewer paid 1 /4d per day.

1794                                       Formation of the Usworth Volunteer Cavalry.

1795                                       Rental of the township of Washington came to £3,324.

1796                                       9 lives lost at Washington Colliery.

1798                                       William Peareth of Great Usworth in charge of amalgamated Washington charities.

1799                                       James Hann the celebrated mathematician born in Washington.

1805                                       Explosion at Oxclose Colliery - 38 lives lost.

1810                                       Washington Colliery employed 390 men, Oxclose 140 and Fatfield 300.

1825                                       Over 800 tons of stone from "Pensher" quarry sent by keel to Sunderland then by ship to London, for                                                  the building of London Bridge.

1826                                       Robert Stephenson and Co. delivered 2 locomotives to Springwell Colliery.

1828                                       14 killed in explosion at Washington ‘I’ Pit.

1830s                                     Opening of Cooks ironworks, closed in 1960s

1832                                       Washington old parish church demolished.

1833                                       47 lives lost at Springwell Colliery in a gas explosion.

                                                During May the rebuilt parish church opened in Washington and a new one- also called Holy Trinity-                                                      opened at High Usworth.

1837                                        William Tate owned a shipyard on the Wear at Washington.

1838                                       The Victoria Railway Viaduct over the river Wear opened on Queen Victoria’s coronation day. It was                                                        modelled on the Alcantrta Roman Viaduct, Spain and closed on 1993.

                                                Washington Station opened.

1844                                       Meeting of 20,000 miners on Shaddons Hill addressed by Thomas Hepburn.

1845                                       Hugh Lee Pattinson founded the Washington Chemical Company.

                                                Opening of the Earl of Durham Monument (Penshaw Monument) in memory of the 1st Earl, George                                                      John Lambton.

                                                First coals drawn from Usworth Colliery.

1851                                       Robert Stirling Newall made and laid the first successful cable between Dover and Calais.

                                                August 18th ,an explosion at Washington Colliery killed 34 men and boys, and injured many more.

1854                                       Washington Hall later known as Dame Margaret's Hall built by Ironmaster and North Durham MP                                                          Isaac Lowthian Bell.

c1860                                     Stocks removed from near the North West corner of the old churchyard to White House Farm.

1861                                       The population of the parishes of Washington doubled in 60 years to reach 8,400.

1863                                       Washington the first place in the country where aluminum was produced.

1868                                       14th July, Gertrude Bell, granddaughter of Isaac, born at Washington Hall. She became a famous                                                             Middle East scholar and diplomat. She died in 1926 and was buried in Baghdad.

1878                                       Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception R.C Church in Washington Village opened.

1879                                       St Georges Church, Harraton opened.

1887                                       Rope works in Washington opened.

1905                                       Glebe Colliery first drew coals.

1908                                       14 killed in Gelebe Colliery explosion.

1921                                       The population of Washington reached 20,800.

1917                                       Usworth Airfield, one of the earliest RAF airfields, starts operating.

1932                                       Formation of The Old Hall Preservation Society.

1946                                       Rev. Canon Cyril Lomax retired after 47 years as rector and 2 years as curate of Washington Holy                                                          Trinity. He died the following year.

1955                                       Washington Old Hall opened as a museum by the U.S.A. Ambassador, Mr. Winthrop Aldrich.

1956                                       Old Hall taken over by the National Trust.

1958                                       RAF Station at Usworth closed, purchased by Sunderland Council and re-opened in 1962.

1964                                       Designation of Washington as a New Town.

1965                                       St Bede’s RC church opens.

1974                                       The Galleries Shopping Centre and Princess Anne Park opened.

1975                                       Washington Wildfowl Park (now the Wetlands Centre) opened.

1977                                       Visits of USA President Carter, the Queen and Muhammed Ali.

                                                Biddick (now Washington) Arts Centre opened in remodelled North Biddick Farm.

                                                Durham House opened at The Town Centre, a national computing centre for the then Department of                                                  Health and Social Security.

1979                                       Washington Golf Course opened.

1986                                       Nissan Motor Manufacturing started production on site of ex-Sunderland Airport.

1988                                       Closure of Washington Development Corporation.

1995                                       Peel Retail Park opened.

2000                                       Town Centre Retail Park opened.

2011                                       The population of Washington reached 67,000.