Amateur William de Hertburne,
Amateur an ancestor of George Washington
assumed tenancy of the
Wessyngtonlands from the Bishop
of Durham for an annual fee of £4. Soon after,
he changed his name to William
de Wessyngton (later Washington).
Although he used the Norman French spelling
(based on a Middle English
rendition of the original),
the estate is of Anglo-saxon
(specifically Anglic) origin,
originally being “Hwæssingatūn”,
meaning “estates of the descendants of Hwæssa”
(Hwæssa being rendered Wassa in Modern English)
In 1613 the Washington family moved s
outh to Sulgrave Manor in Northamptonshire
and the manor was sold to the Bishop of Durham.
The Hall continued to be used as a residence
until the 19th century,
when it became tenement
flats and gradually fell into disrepair.
In 1936 the building was declared
unfit for human habitation, the last Wessyngton heir at the Hall.
Dionysia was daughter of Sir William Tempest and his cousin
, Eleanor Wessyngton. In 1613, Sir John Mallory
(a descendant of Sir William Mallory and Dionysia Tempest)
and Anna Eure, shareholders in the Virginia Company
, sold the manor to the Bishop of Durham.,
and was rescued from demolition
by Fred Hill, a local teacher, who created
what is now the “Friends of the Old Hall”
to press for restoration of the building.
Restoration began in 1937. Preservation
work stopped during World War Ii, but was completed in 1955.
The building was opened by the American
Ambassador. In 1957 the National
Trust assumed responsibility for the building.
 Old Hall interior.
As a result of these historic ties, Washington, D.c.,
and City of Sunderland
have announced a “friendship agreement,”
hoping to create cultural and economi1c
ties with one another
(see sister cities or town twinning).