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Washington, County Durham (England)

Last modified: 2013-12-21 by rob raeside
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Washington Arms

The small town of Washington lies 6.5 miles (10 km) west of Sunderland, 8 miles (13 km) south of Newcastle, and 10 miles (16 km) north of Durham. It is the place where the Washington family with all its branches (including the one leading to George W.) lived for several hundred years (ca. 1180-1452). I visited the "Washington Old Hall" there which is, however, mostly originating from the 17th century. Of course there are many memorabilia of George Washington (and the USA) there:
  • In the staircase there is a 13 stars US flag of Cowpens design, a gift by an American.
  • There are of course many depictions of the Washington coat of arms (which formed the basis of the flag for the District of Columbia).
  • There is a water colour painting showing the presentation of the first "stars and stripes" (Betsy Ross design) to George Washington. The painting is signed "J.N." and has the inscription "Birth of the American Flag". The accompanying label says that is was "presented by the family of the late Mrs. Johnson". I asked for more info from the museum staff there, but they did not have any more information.
  • There is also a newspaper clipping on display, that reports on the exchange of flags between Washington, D.C. and Washington (Durham County). On 20 February 1933 children from the two Washingtons exchanged five Union Jacks for five "stars and stripes".
  • The little booklet "The Washington family in Britain" which was for sale at Washington Old Hall, correctly states: "The Washington coat of arms is often imagined to have inspired the 'stars and stripes', a description making nonsense of the correct heraldic blazon: Argent (silver) two bars and in chief three molets (spur rowels) gules (red)." A short description of the early history of US flags follows this text.

Marcus E.V. Schmöger 24 September 2001

The word molet (more usually spelled mullet) means a star, and in Britain usually a five-pointed star. (Any other number of points is specified.) A mullet with a hole in the middle (pierced) is called a spur rowel, so the explanation in brackets is incorrect, since the mullets in both the Washington family arms and the District of Columbia flag are whole, not pierced.

Mike Oettle, 13 January 2002