Little Usworth Manor
Little Usworth Manor House
There appears to be a great deal of local confusion about the location of the, now demolished, Little Usworth Manor House. The Manor House is known to have been the home of the Usworth Branch of the Lawson family which can be traced back to 1500 (see the accompanying research article 'The Lawson Family'. A drawing of the building, in what is thought to be its original form, is shown above. Although there are many historical references to the Manor of Little Usworth (ie the family and lands) there are no references to the house itself. Some of the confusion about its location undoubtedly arises from the fact that on maps of New Washington and Little Usworth published in the 1800s the Manor House is shown as the “Old Hall”.
At that time there also existed Usworth Hall, about a mile to the North, but a much later building dating from the late 1700s . There was also in existence Washington Old Hall in Washington Village, about two miles to the South, and Usworth House (also referred to as Peareth Hall) in High Usworth Village. Census documents for Little Usworth for 1871,1881 and 1891 refer to the occupants of the “Old Hall”, not the Manor House, so it is easy to confuse the different buildings.
The map of 1898 above also shows that the building stood on the road on the road between New Washington centre and Usworth Colliery to the east. Again, there can be some confusion, as the Manor House (shown on the map as “Old Hall”) was the small L -shaped building and not the nearby larger groups of buildings, which were farms. Behind the Manor House was a flooded quarry which claimed many lives over the years. Little Usworth was never any more than a hamlet, with the Manor House, farms and perhaps a few houses of agricultural workers. Usworth Colliery and the buildings surrounding it did not exist before 1845.
Washington History Society has only a few photographs of the building, probably taken around 1900, shortly before its demolition. The most detailed of the photos showing the Manor House in its final configuration. It is interesting to compare the photographs with the drawing of the building in its original form. Whilst the original house had only one central chimney, the number of chimneys increased to five. Many of the windows have been bricked up, and the are several additional ground-floor external doors, probably reflecting the number of additional families occupying the building. An outhouse with four doors, which was probably a toilet block , has been added. There is also an additional external wooden staircase leading to the upstairs rooms.
The house probably originally dated from the 1100s, although there is no proof of this, but the drawing shows some similarities to the nearby Washington Old Hall, which is known to date from the 12th Century, particularly in the shape of the windows and chimney.
In the later stages of its life the building became a tenement. The 1881 Census shows that there were 7 families; a total of 36 persons, living in the building. The Heads of household were Coal Miners and Agricultural Labourers. There were also 7 families there in 1901, so it's possible that the adult females of these households are those in the photograph above.
By 1911 just the family of miner John Edward McGuire were living there. His descendant Susan McGuire tells us they had already moved out when he died of typhus in January 1912. The local authority- then Chester le Street Rural District Council- declared the building unfit for human habitation and it was demolished soon after, and so was absent from the next Ordnance Survey revision of 1914.
The Site Today
The most recent photograph of the site was taken in late 2017, from just in front of the Roseberry Court Care Home on Manor Road, Washington. The Manor House would have stood about a hundred yards away, where the plantation of trees now stands. The quarry shown on the 1898 map was eventually filled with coal shale - it would have been located in the grassed area of the photograph. The land was extensively remodelled during the building of Washington New Town in the 1960s and 1970s, and there is now no trace of the former buildings, or the road which passed by the Manor House.
Little Usworth Manor House Bibliography
Washington - A History (Notes from a course delivered by Richard Furness at Monkwearmouth College - 2007). P7
On The Doorsteps of Washington – Leo Bottoms – P83- Two photographs.
Washington – A Pictorial History – Edited by WR Arbuckle – 1969. Drawing P14.
Lost Heritage: England’s Lost Country Houses (www.lostheritage.org.uk)
Surtees : The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham