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Washington, Tyne and Wear facts for kids

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Washington from the Penshaw Monument
Washington is located in Tyne and Wear
Population 67,085 
OS grid reference NZ3157
Metropolitan borough
Metropolitan county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district NE37, NE38
Dialling code 0191
Police Northumbria
Fire Tyne and Wear
Ambulance North East
EU Parliament North East England
UK Parliament
  • Washington and Sunderland West
List of places
Tyne and Wear
54°54′N 1°31′W / 54.90°N 1.52°W / 54.90; -1.52

Washington is a large town in the City of Sunderland local government district of Tyne and Wear, England, and historically part of County Durham. Washington is equidistant from the centres of Newcastle upon Tyne, Durham and Sunderland, with close ties to all three cities. It is the ancestral settlement of the Washington family, which George Washington descended from.

It is located between Chester-le-Street, Gateshead and Sunderland. Washington was designated a new town in 1964 and became part of the Borough of Sunderland in 1974, the borough became a city in 1992. It has expanded dramatically since its designation, by new villages created and reassignment of areas from Chester-le-Street, to house overspill from surrounding cities. At the 2011 census, Washington had a population of 67,085, compared to 53,388 in 2001.


Early references appear around 1096 in Old English as Wasindone. The etymological origin is disputed and there are several proposed theories for how the name "Washington" came about. Early interpretations included Wasindone (people of the hill by the stream, 1096), or Wassyngtona (settlement of Wassa's people, 1183).

"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", the Swedish House of Vasa being a more famous cognate.

Due to the evolution of English grammar, modern English lacks the Germanic grammatical features that permeated Anglo-Saxon English. This adds an air of confusion for most in regards to the name Hwæsingatūn. It is essentially composed of three main (albeit grammatically altered) elements:

  • "Hwæsa" – most likely the name of a local Anglo-Saxon chieftain or farmer.
  • "ing" – a Germanic component that 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 (fence), Dutch tuin (garden) and Icelandic tún (paddock). 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".

Washington 1973
Washington in 1973

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"

Another of the 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 of the river Wear to the actual Anglo-Saxon hall at the time (most likely where Washington Old Hall 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 North and South Downs in southern England.

George Washington connection

John Washington plaque
Plaque in Durham Cathedral's cloisters for John Washington, who was Prior there.

William de Wessyngton was a forebear of George Washington, the first President of the United States, after whom the US capital and many other places in the United States are named. Though George Washington's great-grandfather John Washington left for Virginia from Hertfordshire, Washington Old Hall was the family home of George Washington's ancestors. The present structure incorporates small parts of the medieval home in which they lived. American Independence Day is marked each year by a ceremony at Washington Old Hall.


Old Hall

The Old Hall 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 Manor in Northamptonshire, 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.

Building the New Town

The Galleries shopping centre, Washington, Tyne and Wear
The Galleries shopping centre is the town's main commercial centre.

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 numbered districts, a fate that 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
  • Albany
  • Glebe
  • Barmston
  • Biddick
  • Washington Village (the original village and location of the Old Hall)
  • Columbia
  • Blackfell
  • Oxclose
  • Ayton
  • Lambton
  • Fatfield
  • Harraton
  • 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 Spring); however, it does hold a Washington dialling code starting 0191 415/416/417.

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 that 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 Castle.

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

On 15 November 1977, the very first SavaCentre hypermarket (a venture between Sainsbury's and British Home Stores) opened at The Gallaries. By 2005, however, it had been rebranded as a traditional Sainsbury's as the SavaCentre brand was phased out.

Visitor attractions

The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust 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 Museum occupies part of the old RAF Usworth base. The Nissan plant takes up much of the rest. The municipal airport previously run from the site was closed to make way for the Nissan plant.


Washington had a railway station serving it on the Leamside Line which connected Durham to Newcastle upon Tyne and Sunderland via the town. It closed to passengers in the 1960s due to the Beeching Cuts and to freight in 1991. The line was lifted and mothballed by Network Rail. The site of the station is now overgrown and the line in use at parts as an unmarked footpath.

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 major bus station situated at The Galleries, and another at Concord in the north of Washington. The primary provider of transport (buses) in the area is Go North East, with local services as well as connections to Newcastle upon Tyne, Sunderland, and many other towns and cities in the region.

Major roads run through Washington: the A182, the A1231 (Sunderland Highway) and the A195 all connect to the A1(M) 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 A1(M), and incorporate a Travelodge.


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

In 2005, Washington R.F.C was established. The club currently plays in Durham and Northumberland Division 3.


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

Primary schools

  • 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)

Secondary schools

  • Biddick Academy
  • Oxclose Community Academy
  • St Robert of Newminster Catholic School
  • Washington Academy


  • St Robert of Newminster Sixth Form
  • Usworth Sixth Form


The North East of England Japanese Saturday School (北東イングランド補習授業校 Hokutō Ingurando Hoshū Jugyō Kō), a Japanese weekend supplementary school, holds its classes in the Oxclose Community School in Oxclose.

Notable people

  • Gertrude Bell was born at Washington Hall.
  • The musician Bryan Ferry (of Roxy Music fame) comes from Washington and attended Washington Grammar School (now Washington Academy).
  • Heather Mills, notable for marrying Paul McCartney, attended Usworth Grange Primary School and Usworth Comprehensive School.
  • The musician Toni Halliday from the band Curve went to Washington School (Comprehensive).
  • Leeds United and England footballer Billy Furness was born in Washington and started his football career playing for Usworth Colliery
  • Sunderland, Everton and England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was born in Washington.

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See also

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