A Presidential Connection

George Washington - AdobeStock_695967202

Among the many distinguished residents in its history, Tring numbers ancestors of the first president of the United States.

Who would have thought that a small market town in Hertfordshire could have played such an important part in the foundation of the United States?

Yet it was, because the great great grandparents of the United States of America’s first president met here in Tring and began their family.

Pendley ManorIn 1630, Rev. Lawrence Washington paid a visit to his friend Sir Richard Anderson, the owner of Pendley Manor. There he met and fell in love with Amphyllis Twigden, who was one of five daughters of a yeoman farmer from Creaton, Northamptonshire.

Unfortunately, as a fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford, Lawrence was banned from marriage, and was not allowed to marry Amphyllis, even when their son John was born in 1631.

They did eventually receive approval to marry from the Chancellor of Oxford University, and their wedding took place in Tring in late 1632. They had six children; three boys and three girls.

Unfortunately for John, because he was illegitimate, it was his younger brother Lawrence, born in 1635, who inherited their parents’ estate, which included a house in Frogmore Street. The house was near the entrance to the current car park, and had been owned by Andrew Knowling who married Amphyllis Twigden’s mother. All the Washington children lived in this house, apart from a four-year period when they moved to Purleigh in Essex when Rev. Lawrence Washington became Rector of Purleigh Church in March 1633.

Amphyllis died in 1655 in Tring and was buried in the graveyard of the Church of St Peter & St Paul.
Eldest son John left for a trading voyage to Virginia a year later, and never returned. A year later his brother Lawrence also migrated to Virginia, remarried after his wife’s death and had two children. He died in 1677.

John managed to trade household goods for a rich cargo of tobacco in Virginia, but the ship ran aground in the Potomac River on the return voyage in February 1657. The cargo was lost and John was caught up in a legal dispute over responsibility for the shipwreck. He was offered a job on a plantation by the magistrate presiding over the case.

Mount Vernon - Matt Briney--QZEi6DDnT0-unsplashHe went on to marry the magistrate’s daughter Anne Pope in 1658, receiving a wedding gift of 700 acres of farming land near Popes Creek. They had three children, including a son called Lawrence.
John must have been a good businessman, as he managed to accrue 10,000 acres of land, half of which was at Little Hunting Creek, which later became Mount Vernon.

Lawrence married and had two sons; when his wife died, he married Mary Ball, and they went on to have five children, including future president George, who was born in Popes Creek Plantation in 1732.
George became a successful surveyor, and despite having no previous military experience, he was made a commander of the Virginia militia.

By the late 1760s, he came to believe that it was in the best interests of the colonists to declare independence from England, because of the effects of rising taxes imposed by American colonists. When the resulting American Revolution had begun in earnest, he was appointed as commander in chief of the Continental Army.

Once independence was established George returned to Mount Vernon, which he had inherited from his older half-brother Lawrence, to continue life as a gentleman farmer. However, in 1787, he was asked to lead the committee to draft the new constitution. He showed impressive leadership there, which convinced the other delegates that he should be the first president of the independent nation. The first presidential election was held on 7 January 1789, and Washington won, with John Adams becoming his Vice President.

Mount Vernon is now the most visited private home in the US.

Sulgrave Manor and the American connection

Lawrence Washington, the mayor of Northampton, was a wool merchant. He married Amy Pargitter, a rich young widow, and built Sulgrave Manor in Northamptonshire in 1538. George Washington’s great great grandfather The Rev. Lawrence Washington, was born in Sulgrave Manor in 1602. Sulgrave Manor is now the most important Washington-related site in the UK and is part owned both by the citizens of the USA and the citizens of the UK!