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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 from 310 million years ago, 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 Hwassa's sons or people".



1112 The first written record of Washington is contained in the Charter of Bishop Ranulf Flambard dated 11th June.

C1140 Robert de Bydik recorded as holding the Manor of Bydik.

1149 William de Clifford appointed Rector of Holy Trinity Church. There is an unbroken list of his successors 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 of Durham. It stated that William de Hertburn (ancestor of George Washington) had held Washington since 1180, except for the church, and also listed Great and Little Usworth and Biddick.

1196 Washington church assessed at £33.

13th century Building of Washington Old Hall.

c1261 Alexander Biddyk, Sheriff of County Durham.
His sons were referred to as ‘sons of Alexander’ and descendants thereafter as Sanderson and Saunderson.

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

1273 Robert of Wessington failed 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.

1304 Edward I visited on his journey back from Scotland.

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

1345 The Manor of North Biddick was 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, last direct ancestor of George Washington to reside in Washington.

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.

1416 to 1446 John de Washington was Prior of Durham.

1486 Ralph Hamsterley; 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 two men who forcibly took John Horsfall, priest, to the "oxe close of Washington" and there robbed him of his purse.

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, becomes Rector of Washington, and purchases Old Hall for occupation by his son James.

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 shillings 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, demolitioned in 1966.


18th and 19th CENTURIES

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 surviving map of Washington.

1708 Explosion at Fatfield Colliery killed 69.

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

1732 First efforts at ventilation of coal mines by means of a furnace tried 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 killed 17.

1743- 1774 Methodist founder, John Wesley, made annual visits to preach at S.outh Biddick and North Biddick

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 higher wages.

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.
24 lives lost at Chartershaugh Colliery

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. His grandson's claim to the house of Lords for the earldom failed in the 1830s.

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

1786 New parish stocks made for 12 shillings.

1791 Coal hewer paid 1 /4d per day.

1793 First Wesleyan Chapel in the area built at Chatershaugh.

1794 Formation of the Usworth Volunteer Cavalry.

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

1796 Nine 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.

1817 Explosion at Harraton Pit killed 38 men and boys, followed by a further 8 in the connected Nova Scotia Pit.

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 became the Rector of Holy Trinity Washington, the son of Spencer Perceval, the only Prime Minister to be assassinated in 1812.

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

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 and Usworth Stations opened

1840s Opening of Cooks Ironworks, closed in the 1960s.

1842 Hugh Lee Pattinson founded the Washington Chemical Company on the River Wear.

1844 Meeting of 20,000 miners on Shaddon's Hill addressed by miner's leader, Thomas Hepburn.

1845 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. It later became a Banardo's Orphans' Home and a coal board training centre.

1859 Isaac Lowthian Bell opens the world's first aluminium production line in Washington.

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.

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 Hall, cited by Lord Shaftsbury when tabling his bill abolishing child chimney sweeps.

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

1879 St Georges Church (CofE), Harraton opened.

1885 Explosion at Usworth Pit killed 42 men and boys

1887 Rope works in Washington opened.


20th and 21st CENTURIES

1905 Glebe Colliery first drew coals.

1908 14 killed in Glebe Colliery explosion.

1911 Birth of comedian Bobby Thompson in Penshaw, raised in Washington and Fatfield, and initially worked at North Biddick Pit. Died in North Shields in 1988.

1916 Usworth Airfield, one of the earliest Royal Flying Corp aerodromes, started operations.

1920 5th June, unveiling of Washington and Barmston War Memorial, listing 179 casualties.

1921 The population of Washington reached 20,800.

1922 24th February, Usworth War Memorial, listing 121 casualties, unveiled in Holy Trinity Church, Usworth.
24th July, Harraton War Memorial unveiled on Worm Hill, listing 102 causalities. It was restored and relocated below Worm Hill in 2012.

1932 Formation of The Old Hall Preservation Society by local headteacher and historian Fred Hill.

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

1955 28th September- Washington Old Hall opened as a museum by the American Ambassador, Mr. Winthrop Aldrich. Fred Hill died in November.

1956 9th November Old Hall taken over by the National Trust.

1958 RAF Station at Usworth closed, purchased by Sunderland Council and re- opened as Sunderland Airport 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 on 2,145 hectares (expanded to 2,700 in 1972). Eventually 19 residential villages, 11 employment areas and a retail centre would be constructed. Modern place names were allocated in 1967.

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

1965 St Bede’s Roman Catholic church opened.

1968 Washington F pit colliery closed and reopened in 1976 as the F Pit Museum, one of the first industrial museum in the North East

1969 First digital telephone exchange in the North east opened in Hertburn.

1971 Post House hotel (now Holiday Inn) opened on the Emerson estate.
Washington/ Birtley Motorway Services opened.

1974 Washington became part of the Borough of Sunderland (designated the City of Sunderland in 1992) with its boundary extended to include Sunderland Airport.
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.

1976 The Queen Mother opened the Bowes Railway Museum.

1977 Visits of USA President Carter, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip and Muhammed Ali.
Biddick (now Washington) Arts Centre opened in the remodelled North Biddick Farm.
Durham House opened at The Town Centre, a national computing centre for the then Department of Health and Social Security.
Strang Riding Centre for the Disabled opened by Princess Anne.

1979 Washington Golf Course and Squash Centre opened.

1984 Relocation of North Air Museum (now The North East Land Sea and Air Museum) just north of Sunderland Airport.

1986 Nissan Motor Manufacturing started production on the site of the 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.

2018 Start of the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP) on 150 hectares north of Nissan.