The House from a circa 1901 postcard
Built / Designed For: Lawrence Washington
House & Family History: The original long Tudor house was built between 1540 and 1560 as the home of Lawrence Washington, who had been established since 1529 as a wool trader in Northampton. He acquired the lease of the manor through marriage and then purchased it in 1539, after the Priory of St. Andrews was dissolved, as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. It's clear from the traces of a door and a fireplace in the current exterior east wall and from the inner construction that the House extended beyond its present size. Possible foundations were found in 1927, when the gardens were established, which suggested that the house originally extended to perhaps three times its current length. Sulgrave remained in the ownership of the Washington family and their cousins, the Makepeaces, until 1659. In 1673 Sulgrave was purchased by the Hodges family, which retained ownership until 1839. It was John Hodges, who built the north wing around 1700, largely from stone from the derelict or demolished wings of the original house. The manor was sold in 1839 to Col. The Hon. Hely-Hutchinson and then passed to his son-in-law's family, the Reynell-Packs of Devon, who retained it until it was purchased by the British Peace Centenary Committee in 1914. The future of the House changed radically when it was identified as the home of George Washington's great-great-great-great-great grandfather, his son and grandson. In 1911, as the centenary of the Treaty of Ghent (1814) ending the troubles between the United States and the United Kingdom drew near, a committee to organize celebrations of the anniversary was established in the U.S. with President Theodore Roosevelt at its head. It was soon matched by a British committee, led firstly by earl Grey and then by the Marquess of Cambridge, brother of Queen Mary; others on the British committee included Lord Rothschild, Ramsey Macdonald, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Viscount Lee of Fareham. They decided to buy Sulgrave Manor as part of the celebrations and raised the money to do so by public subscription, purchasing the House for £8,400 in January of 1914. After the First World War, the refurbishment of the House was confined to stripping out those few modern conveniences that had gathered over the years. Two significant professionals were involved in the work: for the exterior, Sir Reginald Blomfield (who designed the Imperial War Museum and Menin Gate), was the consulting architect and, for the interior, Harold Clifford-Smith, keeper of woodwork at the Victoria & Albert Museum, who was also involved in a variety of roles with the Mansion House, Chequers, Buckingham Palace, and the Winston Churchill Birthday Trust. Restoration was focused on the original Tudor house, which was opened to the public while the resident curator lived in the North Wing's 18th century section. Early postcards of the house show it in its truncated shape, with only the wing to the east of the porch in place. The opening of Sulgrave Manor in 1921, presided over by the Marquess of Cambridge, was surrounded by publicity, with coverage in most of the national newspapers. Special trains ran from London, with the nearest station being signed as "Helmdon for Sulgrave Manor" through the 1940s. Interest was also sustained in the United States, especially through the work of the National Society of Colonial Dames of America, who raised the funding for the second stage of the restoration. The story of the Washington family begins with William, who settled at Washington in northeast England sometime before 1180. Like other great medieval landed proprietors, the Washingtons moved between their estates, living in different properties in turn while performing local duties and services, but known by the name of their principal residence. William, descended from the younger son of an ancient noble house, became the founder of another great line, which, after varied fortunes, produced the first president of the United States of America. It was Lawrence Washington, born circa 1500, the eldest son of John Washington of Warton, Lancashire, who first settled at Sulgrave with his second wife Amy, the third daughter of Robert Pargiter of Greatworth, near Sulgrave. His former wife, Elizabeth, died childless and Robert Washington, his eldest son, born to Amy in 1544, inherited Sulgrave Manor with about 1,250 acres. In 1568, Robert's wife Elizabeth gave birth to a son, Lawrence, who later married Margaret, daughter of William Butler, of Tyes Hall, Cuckfield, Sussex; he died December 13, 1616, during his father's lifetime. The Rev. Lawrence Washington was born in 1602, the fifth son of Lawrence and Margaret. He was educated at Brasenose College, Oxford, where he graduated with a B.A. in 1623. He became rector of Purleigh, Essex, a wealthy living, in April of 1633. That summer he married Amphyllis, daughter and co-heiress of John Twigden, of Little Creaton, Northamptonshire. Their eldest son, John, was born the following spring. In 1643 Parliament ordered the living of Purleigh to be sequestered and he was ejected. The Civil War was in progress and he was accused as a "Malignant Royalist." He became greatly impoverished and Amphyllis and their children made their home with her stepfather at Tring (her mother had re-married after her father's death). John Washington was about 19 when his father died in poverty in 1654-45. Two years later, his mother died intestate and was buried at Tring. When John came of age, soon afterward, he went to London. He married and sailed for Virginia in 1656; unfortunately, his wife died and in 1658 he married again, this time to Anne, daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Nathaniel Pope, J.P., of The Cliffs, an early settlement on the northern neck of Virginia near the Potomac. The wedding present from his father-in-law was a 700-acre estate at Mattox Creek, where their eldest son, Lawrence, was born in 1659. Lawrence Washington inherited Mattox Creek Farm from his father. In 1685 he was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses; about 1686 he married Mildred, daughter and co-heiress of Colonel Augustine Warner, of Warner Hall. Lawrence made his will on March 11, 1698 and died soon after, leaving his wife with three children: John, who was nearly seven; Augustine, aged three; and Mildred, a baby. Augustine came of age in 1715 and, with an estate of 1,700 acres, married Jane, the 16-year-old heiress of Major Caleb Butler, J.P. on April 20 of the same year. He married secondly, on March 6, 1730, Mary Ball, then an orphan aged 23. Their first born, on February 22, 1732 was George, who became the first president of the United States. (We are most grateful to the Sulgrave Manor Board for this history).
Comments: Sulgrave was called "A perfect illustration of how a house should be shown to the public" by Nigel Nicholson in "Great Houses of Britain."
Country Life: LXXI, 722, 1932.
House Listed: Grade I
Park Listed: Grade II
Past Seat / Home of: Washington family.
Current Ownership Type: Charity / Nonprofit
Primary Current Ownership Use: Visitor Attraction