Download GPX file for this article
54.9111-1.5086Full screen dynamic map

From Wikivoyage
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Washington is a town in Tyne and Wear in the northeast of England. It was a small mining village but from 1964 became the core of a planned New Town, with a population of 67,085 in 2011. Historically it was part of County Durham, until 1974 when the metropolis of Tyne and Wear was created.

The ancestral home of US President George Washington's family was Washington Old Hall, which you can visit.

Understand[edit]

Nissan Motor Works, flanked by A19 and A1231

Washington was just one of a series of small mining villages hereabouts: the coal lay deep but had profitable seams and associated industry up to the mid 20th century. Then these declined, but in 1964 Washington was designated as a "New Town". It was laid out in some 15 tracts, some around existing villages and others greenfield, and the grand concept was that each would have its own employment and amenities. The reality is that this created a sprawl of samey burbs with no real centre to the place except Galleries Shopping Centre.

It could have dwindled into a dormitory town for Newcastle, but was boosted with the arrival of Nissan in 1984. British car manufacture suffered from strikes, uncompetitive pricing and unreliability, and the Japanese brand Datsun seized the budget and midprice UK market. It rebranded as Nissan and set up locally, reducing transport times and giving access to the European Economic Area or EU. The plant was built on the former site of RAF Usworth / Sunderland Airport, and management insisted that only a single union would be recognised. The site nowadays employs some 7000 - it made the Bluebird, Primera, Ameira and Micra, nowadays makes the Qashqai, Juke and Leaf (even exporting them to Japan, which drives on the left like Britain) and is beginning to make electric versions of these. Its output is about 500,000 cars per year.

Get in[edit]

Map of Washington (England)

Newcastle International Airport is 14 miles northwest of Washington: take the Metro into Newcastle or Gateshead and change for the bus, see below. A taxi from the airport to Washington might be £22.

Washington was planned as a shiny modern town so the first thing they did was close the railway. Railways were dirty, obsolete, taxpayer-subsidised and (worst of all) heavily unionised. In the future, men would drive to work in British-built cars; the women would take the bus to go shopping, with head scarves drawn over their 1960s beehive hairdos.

Newcastle Central is the most convenient railway station, with frequent trains from London and the Midlands towards Edinburgh. Sunderland station is about the same distance but has fewer trains.

By bus: Long distance coaches flash past on the motorway and don't stop here, change at Newcastle.

Local buses are mostly run by Go North East:

  • X1 runs every 30 min from Newcastle upon Tyne Eldon Square to Gateshead, Washington (35 min) and Houghton-le-Spring, with alternate buses continuing to Peterlee.
  • Bus 2 runs every 30 min from Silksworth and Sunderland Interchange to High Barnes and Washington.
  • Bus 8 runs hourly from Sunderland to Washington, Chester-le-Street, Beamish Museum and Stanley.
  • Bus 50 runs hourly from South Shields (for Tyne ferry) to Boldon, Nissan factory, Washington, Chester-le-Street and Durham.

1 Washington Galleries is the bus station, on Galleries Retail Park.

By road follow A1(M) to Junction 64.

Get around[edit]

It's a sprawling district and you need your own wheels, which fortunately they manufacture at the northeast edge of town.

See[edit]

  • 1 Washington Old Hall, The Avenue, Washington Village NE38 7LE, +44 191 416 6879, . Apr-Oct F-Su 10:00-16:00. His teeth were famously rotten, and quinsy eventually did for him, but "heartburn" was the original family name of George Washington (1732-1799), first President of the United States. In the late 12th century William Bayard of Hartburn in County Durham took tenancy of the bishop's lands here, so he ditched his "de Hertburne" moniker for "de Wessyngton" - Hwæsa or Wassa may have been its original Saxon owner. The family held it until 1613 then sold it back to the bishopric and moved to the Midlands. John Washington (1633-1677) of Hertfordshire was a descendant who traded in tobacco: he was setting out on a return voyage from Virginia when his laden ship ran aground in the Potomac. It was repaired and sailed on, but John took the hint and stayed. He married and his first child Lawrence was the paternal grandfather of the future President. The Old Hall remained a residence until the 19th century then fell derelict. It was about to be demolished in 1936 but a campaign saved it, and in 1957 the National Trust took it on. So what you see now is a mostly 17th century mansion. Adult £6.10, child £2.75, NT free. Washington Old Hall (Q1672051) on Wikidata Washington Old Hall on Wikipedia
Washington F Pit Museum
  • 2 Washington "F" Pit Museum, Albany Way NE37 1BJ, +44 191 553 2323. Closed ufn. Early coal mines were simple "bell pits", but they could only work shallow seams. The Durham seams lay deeper and from the 18th century shafts were sunk to reach them, driving technical innovation to keep them drained and ventilated. William Russell sank a series of shafts A-I: Pit F was sunk in 1777 and productive until 1796, when an explosion caused it to flood. However it reopened in 1820 and was later sunk deeper to reach the Hutton Seam at 660 feet then in 1954 the Busty Seam at 927 feet. The simplex steam winding engine was built in 1888, serving another pit then relocating here in 1903. The pit closed in 1968 and re-opened as a museum in 1976, but its hours have always been erratic. Free.
  • 3 WWT Washington is a wetland along the banks of the River Wear. It's open daily 10:00-16:30, adult £11.15, conc £9.50, child £6.40.
  • 4 Lambton Castle in 2021 is closed for refurbishment as a wedding venue. You can admire the exterior from the footpath along the Wear north riverbank.
  • 5 Penshaw Monument Penshaw Monument on Wikipedia: see Sunderland for this pseudo-Grecian monument to the first Earl of Durham, and for Herrington Country Park just south.
  • 6 North East Land Sea and Air Museums North East Land, Sea and Air Museums on Wikipedia: see Sunderland for this collection of military vehicles, and for nearby Hylton Castle.
  • 7 Angel of the North Angel of the North on Wikipedia is the 1998 sculpture by Antony Gormley that you'll likely see on the road in, at the south edge of Gateshead.

Do[edit]

Penshaw Monument
  • The Leisure Centre[dead link] south side of Galleries Retail Park has a gym, fitness classes, 25 m swimming pool, sports hall and squash courts. It's open daily 07:00-21:00.
  • Hollywood Bowl, Galleries Retail Park NE38 7RZ, +44 844 826 3035. Sa-Th 09:00-23:00, Sa 09:00-01:00. This has 20 bowling lanes, arcade games and US-style fast food and a bar.
  • 1 Arts Centre Washington, Biddick Lane NE38 8AB. It's more like a pub / cafe with community arts events, including theatre, music, crafts, and that chilling word "wellness".
  • Golf: nearby courses are George Washington GC (at Mercure Hotel, see Sleep), Ravensworth GC, Birtley GC, Wearside GC and Chester-le-Street GC.
  • Cricket: 2 Riverside Ground in Chester-le-Street is home to Durham County Cricket Club, one of the 18 "First Class Counties", England's top tier. County matches normally last 3-4 days. The stadium also hosts international or "Test Matches", lasting up to five days. The stadium is east side of town.

Buy[edit]

  • The Galleries is the large shopping centre at the centre of Washington, by the bus station. It has over 200 shops and lots of free parking.
  • Newcastle, Gateshead and Sunderland have edge-of-town retail parks that might be handy for motorists. Best known is Metro Centre, on A1(M) west of Gateshead, but you'd only go that far for big-ticket items.

Eat[edit]

Panelled room in Washington Old Hall
  • Lebanos in Galleries Shopping Centre is Lebanese, open daily 09:00-20:00.
  • Tim Horton's in the Galleries will revive homesick Canadians, daily 06:00-00:00.
  • Vinyl is an LP-record themed Italian at 13 Spout Lane by the Old Hall. It's open Th-Sa 09:00-23:00, Su 10:00-15:00.
  • The Forge next to Old Hall serves trad fare F Sa 12:00-15:30, 17:00-20:30, Su 12:00-18:00.
  • 1 The Sir William de Wessyngton, 2 Victoria Rd, Concord NE37 2SY, +44 191 418 0100. Su-Th 08:00-00:00, F Sa 08:00-01:00. This JD Wetherspoons is normally a safe bet for food and drink in Concord, but disappointed some in 2021.
  • 2 Fiume, 16 Bonemill Lane, Fatfield NE38 8AJ, +44 191 415 0007. Daily 12:00-23:00. Friendly Italian on the riverside.
  • 3 Casa San Lorenzo, 55 New Rd, Fatfield NE38 8AT (off Bonemill Rd), +44 191 419 5161. M-Sa 12:00-22:00, Su 12:00-19:00. Cosy relaxing Italian.

Drink[edit]

Lambton Castle painted in the 1880s
Many folk head into Newcastle for a drink, but Washington is cheaper.
  • The Oasis is in Galleries shopping centre, open M-Th 09:00-20:00, F Sa 09:00-21:00, Su 10:00-19:00.
  • Black Bush half a mile west of Old Hall is open daily 11:00-23:00. Cross Keys and Washington Arms are by the Hall.
  • Concord the village a mile north of the Galleries has Sir William de Wessyngton (see Eat), The New Tavern, The Middle Inn and The Speculation.
  • Champs Sports Bar is next to Premier Inn by Junction 64.
  • Fatfield on the riverbank has Biddick Inn, River Bar and The Havelock.
  • Crossroads Brewery near Concord produces mead. It's not to everyone's taste.

Sleep[edit]

The A1(M) runs west of town and the main cluster of accommodation is around Junction 64, the slip road for Washington.
Riverside cricket ground, Chester-le-Street
  • Travelodge, Moto Services, Chester-le-Street DH3 2SJ (on A1(M)), +44 871 984 6271. Two hotels within the motorway service areas, both fairly basic and worn, traffic noise, but fair value for what you're paying. The areas are just north of Junction 64, so from the northbound hotel you have to drive several miles to get off and turn in to town. From the southbound you're straight onto Western Highway the turn-off for Washington, but getting here from town involves a detour. B&B double £55.
  • There's another Travelodge north at Heworth, junction of A194 and A184.
  • 2 Bowes Incline, Northside, Birtley, Chester-le-Street DH3 1RF (off A1(M)), +44 191 410 2233. Small independent hotel near Angel of the North. It's by Junction 65 but from the south use Jcn 64 then Portobello Rd to Foxpond Roundabout. From north on A1 exit at Jcn 65, from A194 exit at jcn 1. B&B double £90.
  • In town Victoria Inn didn't open in 2021.
  • 3 Mercure (George Washington Country Club), Stone Cellar Rd, High Usworth NE37 1PH, +44 191 402 9988. Mostly good reviews for comfort, food and service. It's right by the golf course. B&B double £90.

Connect[edit]

As of July 2021, the town has 5G from EE and Three, and 4G from O2 and Vodafone.

Go next[edit]

Routes through Washington
Newcastle upon Tyne ← merges with A1 / A194 (M)  N UK-Motorway-A1 (M).svg S  → Chester-le-Street → Leeds



This city travel guide to Washington is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.