John and I chose to go to Washington Old Hall, a property owned by the National Trust since 1957, because of its links with George Washington, the first president of the United States Of America. I had done A/Level American History and was fascinated to know about the links this house had with America. It was the ancestral home of George Washington. There was a 12th Century building on this site but the current building was finished in 17th Century. You would have thought that this building would have been somewhat grander or more carefully looked after. In fact, it was lived in until the 19th Century when it was converted into tenement flats and gradually fell into disrepair. In 1936, it was declared ‘unfit for human habitation’. However, Fred Hill, a local teacher, and historian, saw what a travesty it would have been to knock down a building with such historical links and set up an Old Hall Preservation Committee which rescued the building from demolition by buying the building and surrounding lands. The preservation work was delayed by the fact that the end of the Second World War presented challenges to the social fabric of the area. In 1946, Fred Hill said “It is our hope that the old place will be completely restored and utilised as the Village Community Centre with provisions for a guest chamber for American tourists”. The Preservation Committee, or Friends of the Old Hall, raised the money for the preservation work, with considerable help from Americans, which was eventually completed in 1955 and opened by the American Ambassador; the Old Hall was then in a state to be handed to the National Trust in 1957 because the donors felt that this was an historical building and should be more than a community centre.
Washington Old Hall was a delightful property to visit but perhaps I liked best the story of Fred Hill and his committment to preserving what he thought was important. The other thing that I liked was the fact that there was a tea towel; I might have expected that this property wasn’t big enough for its own tea towel but more importantly it is a ‘Pat Albreck Tea Towel’; Pat Albreck being one of my most favourite tea towel designers so I am proud to own it, admire it and remember the lovely day out and the story of Fred Hill. I like the fact that the American flag is on the tea towel in front of the Old Hall.
Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum