4041 The Memorial Stone of Lawrence Washington From the interior of The Washington Chest In the main passage of the private wing of Althorp stands the Washington Chest, a piece ofoak furniture which the local priest, in 1877, authenticated as having belonged to the Washingtons before emigration to America. This is the story of the history behind the chest and the Washington family. Sir Robert, the 1st Lord Spencer, Baron of Wormleighton, was said to have had more money than anyone else in the kingdom, except James 1st, his monarch. His reputation for generosity was equally impressive. But perhaps he will be longest remembered for his sponsorship of two of his kinsmen, the great- great- great- grandfather and great- great- great uncle of George Washington, the first president of the United States. Years of research and volumes of findings have traced the lineage of George Washington to his death in 1799, childless at the age of 67. Yet it wasn't until relatively recently that the Brington village con-nection came to light and then was authenticated. The patriach of the early Washingtons in Northamptonshire was Lawrence Washington, Mayor of Northampton in 1532 and 1545 and, through his mother's brother, first cousin to Katherine Kitson, wifeof Sir John Spencer. On his death in 1583, his son Robert Washington inherited Sulgrave and former church lands deeded to the family at the time of HenryVIII. We are told, cryptically and inexplicably, that he also inherited " some pecu-niary embarrassments." One source simply states:" The family was passing under something of a cloud." One notable consequence of these financial tribulations was the exodus from Sulgrave to the Bringtons of Lawrence Washington, first- born of Robert, and his next younger brother Robert. Whythe Bringtons? The answer, simply: the Spencer connection. In fact, not only were they third cousins, but the 1st Lord Spencer and brothers Lawrence & Robert were all bornwithin twoyears of each other. Sir Robert sired seven children in ten years of mar-riage; Lawrence Washington was the father of 17 children in 28 years. Thus, they were very close in age and had hosts of young children about them. Politically, the two families were staunch Royalists; commercially, their common interests were sheep raising and wool pro-duction. One source unequivocally avers:" It was almost certainly the friendship of the Spencers of Althorp… and the ready help received from them that took the Washingtons to Brington." Thus, in 1599 Robert Washington with his wife Elizabeth Chishull arrive in the Bringtons – perhaps to Great Brington, to live at least for a time in a thatched cottage, still standing today. Robert, who was provided by his cousin with 60 acres to farm and a windmill to run, headed the list of Spencer tenants on the court rolls from 1599 to 1622. By 1601 he was achurchwarden and signed the inventory of Spencer goods; in 1606 he was prominently included along with his wife and two manservants in the " new" church roll and seating plan. THE WASHINGTON CHEST Somewhat of a puzzle is Lawrence, Robert's older sibling. Perhaps seeing his brother gener-ouslylooked after bytheir kinsman, he too, decided – or was involved – to follow suit. In any event, he, his wife Margaret Butler, and his large family were provided a newly- constructed stone farmhouse in Little Brington, and he was thought to have held the position of land agent for the Spencers. The date was probably 1606, for a stone tablet was placed over the door of his house which proclaimed," The Lord Giveth, the Lord Taketh Away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord. Constructa 1606." AL64001 53 x 23 x 281/ 4in. 134 x 58 x 71 cm.
4041 Possiblythis refers to the decline of the Washington fortunes in general, but more probably to the death of Gregory, a son of Lawrence's, in that year. Yet, in1610 he and his family moved to Wicken, another more commodious Spencer manor. By 1613 it is thought that Robert Washington may have lived in" the Washington House" in Little Brington with at least one of his broth-er's daughters whom he and his wife, childless, had adopted. In 1616, perhaps on a visit to Althorp or Brington, Lawrence died and was buried under a stone slab in the chancel of Brington Church. Six years later Robert and his wife died just nine days apart on 10 and 19 March, 1622 respectively," after they lived happily together many yeares in this parish" and were buried beneath small brass plates in the chancel aisle. It was only five years later that their benefactor Sir Robert died, a widower for 30 years, and was buried in the magnificent tomb which he had built some 28 years earlier – atomb which he and his cousins would have seen each time they attended Brington Church. Separated by just an ornament spiked railing, this tomb is within feet of that of Lawrence's modest gravestone which, ironically, is clos-erto the altar. On three different surfaces in the church – a stone slab, a brass marker, and a wooden bench end – the Washington coat of arms, three stars onacrest with stripes beneath, is decisively displayed and leaves little doubt as to the derivation of the stars and stripes of the flag of the United States ofAmerica. To continue to trace the Washington line directly we must cata-logue Lawrence's fifth son, the Reverend Lawrence whose oldest son ( later) John Washington emigrated to Virginia in 1656 just three years after his father's death. Still of Royalist sympathies like his father, John left England dur-ing Cromwell's rule. Once safely in America, he fathered Captain Lawrence who in turned sired Captain Augustine. The latter was the father of George Washington. One rather more grandiose sentiment perhaps sums up this brief chapter in the story of Brington Church:" It may be that the influence of Sir Robert Spencer's character helped to form that love of rectitude which the Washingtons carried across the ocean as the greatest asset in the founda-tions of a great people." George Washington 1732- 1799