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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

1376                    The Washington crest of two mullets and three stars shown on the seal and deed on conveyance transferring the manor to the Blaykstons family

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.

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.

1737                   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                    The 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 strike in Washington for more money.

1771                   Great flood inundated collieries at Biddick, Chartershaugh and Low Lambton, and supposedly washed 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 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.

1814                  Susan Peareth founded school for the poor at Great Usworth

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. Henry Perceval becomes the rector of Holy Trinity Washington, the son of Spencer Perceval, the only Prime Minister to be assasinated

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 in 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 world 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.

1872                 Death of 7 year old Christopher Drummond when sweeping chimney at Washington. 

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

1879                St Georges Church, Harraton opened

1885                Explosion at Usworth Pit killed 42 men and boys

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 Village 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.

                       Opening of Cox Green footbridge across the Wear after the closure of the Barmston ferry two years earlier.

1964               Designation of Washington as a New Town.

1966               Demolition of North Biddick Hall, sometimes known as Cook's Hall

1965               St Bede’s RC church opened.

1974              The Galleries Shopping Centre and Princess Anne Park opened. The last pit in Washington, Usworth, closed.

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.