Washington, DC Fulbright Scholars Connect with Ancestral Home of President George Washington

>As our time in the UK continued, Fellow Fulbright Scholar Tim Tate and I were invited to speak with students from St. Anthony’s – a technical specialist college in Sunderland.


Tim Tate & Michael Janis talk about the future of the arts to students at St Anthony’s in Sunderland, England.

After meeting with the students, Sunderland City Council’s Catherine Auld then took the DC crew on a quick jaunt to a couple of scenic spots that are around the city of Sunderland. First stop, the Town Hall and Indoor Market of Durham.

Tim Tate and Kay Janis at the Durham Town Hall.

Durham Town Hall and Market place were on the site since the Middle Ages. The current building dates from 1800′s.


Kay Janis seeks out notions from the indoor markets.

Nearby is the famed Durham Cathedral. The magnificent Romanesque structure dates from the 10th century, and boasts fine stained glass panels.


Durham Cathedral (and denim jeans artwork installation).

Catherine Auld, Kay Janis and Tim Tate at the Cathedral’s famed “Sanctuary Knocker”.

“Daily Bread” stained glass in Durham Cathedral by Mark Angus, 1984.

More importantly, the Cathedral, cloisters and grounds were used as some of the sets in the Harry Potter movie series.




Professor Tate as Harry Potter and the Fulbright Scholar, 2012

Afterwards, Catherine took Kay, Tim and I to see the ancestral home of George Washington in the county now known as Tyne and Wear. Although the hall was closed, Catherine worked her magic and arranged for a private tour of the building.


Washington Old Hall

George Washington’s ancestors were natives of this area as far back as the 12th century, and members of his family continued to live there for almost five hundred years.

The Saxon Origin of the Washington Family Name: This was, in fact, where the purely Saxon name of Washington derived. Among the first to bear it were the descendants of William de Hartburn near Stockton [-on-Tees], who came to live in the manor now known as Washington Old Hall as long before as 1183.

At that time, people in England and elsewhere had no surnames as we know them today, and were most often identified by the locations in which they lived. “Washington” was one of them. The name originally meant “the estate of the Hwaes family.’ “Hwaes” in its turn was the name of a Saxon chief, while “ynga” meant “family” and “ton” – a typically Saxon suffix – stood for “estate.” These three terms were linked and given a tinge of French since, like many prominent families in England, the new Washingtons sought to identify themselves with the French Plantagenet kings who succeeded the Normans and ruled England after 1154. The result was the original form of Washington – “de Wessyngton”.

Washington, DC Fulbright Scholars Tim Tate and Michael Janis pay homage to the Washington Old Hall in Durham County, UK.

Washington Old Hall was pulled down and rebuilt by the Bishop of Durham, who purchased the property from William de Wessyngton in 1613.Sadly, though, some three centuries later, it had become very dilapidated. The Hall was condemned as unfit for human habitation, and destined for demolition. It was fortunately saved from demolition by a committee specially formed to preserve it, and after thoroughgoing restoration work, the Hall was officially opened in 1955 by the then American ambassador, Winthrop W. Aldrich. Two years later, the Hall was taken over by the National Trust, an organization dedicated to preserving places of historical interest or natural beauty.


Garth Clark lecture on Ai Weiwei ceramics

The next morning, Garth Clark, noted art historian and critic – who the Washington Glass School has posted about his thoughts on the Death of Craft previously – gave a fascinating and provocative lecture about the work of Chinese bad-boy ceramic artist Ai Weiwei.

Coming Next: Workshops at University of Sunderland.

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