Sulgrave Manor – Raising the American flag in Northamptonshire
Once described as a ‘Malignant Royalist’ and ‘oft drunk’, John Washington didn’t have much of a future in Britain after the Parliamentarians were victorious in the English Civil War.
Deep in debt after the failure of an export venture, his prospects weren’t much brighter when he arrived in Virginia, America.
But he somehow managed to persuade wealthy landowner, Nathaniel Pope, to not only pay off his debts, but to allow him to marry his daughter and grant them 700 acres of land.
By the time he died in 1677, John Washington had 8,500 acres and just 55 years later his great grandson was born.
That man’s name was George Washington, the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and that country’s first President.
Remarkably, the ancestry of both George and John Washington can be traced back to a Tudor and Georgian manor house in rural Northamptonshire: Sulgrave Manor.
George Washington’s great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Lawrence, obtained the house in 1539.
A successful wool merchant he took advantage of the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, to buy Sulgrave Manor.
These days it is George and not Lawrence who dominates the house. The stars and stripes flutter outside it, while a lock of George’s hair, along with his saddlebags and wax seal, can be found inside.
Interestingly, the Washington coat-of-arms, which can be seen throughout the manor, includes stars and stripes of its own; perhaps as much an ancestor of the American flag as George was of Lawrence.
Sulgrave Manor certainly makes the most of the name of its famous son, but there is plenty to see away from the American connection.
Regular tours take place, with our guide showing an expertise on everything from the virtues of rich widows to tea bricks.
Great hall, parlour and bedroom all contain a myriad of historic treasures, while those who prefer the outside world can enjoy beautifully maintained Tudor, Herb and, of course, American Gardens.