Plans have been revealed to build a monument in Tring celebrating the town’s link to US president George Washington.
The family of the very first president of America can be traced back to the town during the 17th century.
John Washington, the great grandfather of George, is said to have been born in 1631 at a farmhouse in Frogmore End, the oldest of six children by the Rev Lawrence Washington and Amphyllis Twigden.
John set sail for Virginia shortly after settling affairs in Tring after his mother’s death, but shipwreck prevented his return to England.
He settled in the area, where in 1732 his great grandson was born on the plantation where he had met his wife Anne Pope.
The Tring & District Local History & Museum Society is now planning to commemorate the president’s links to Tring by erecting a memorial in honour of John Washington, in a flower bed next to the Frogmore Street car park believed to be the closest site to the old farmhouse where he was said to have been born.
Tim Amsden, the chairman of the society, said: “The exact location is not known but we would like to mark the story with a stone obelisk and memorial tablet.
“The site belongs to Dacorum Borough Council, so we are now in negotiation with their estates department to obtain their consent to erect it there.”
The society has now submitted a planning application for the memorial and has instructed local architect Graham Hoad to draw up the proposals.
Local author Murray Neil has written a book on the connection called ‘The Washingtons of Tring’.
He admitted that there was some controversy as to whether John Washington was born in the town, or in Essex, as well as his birth date.
He believes that it was in Tring, and is keen to see it recognised as such.
He said: “We have the baptism records of three of Lawrence Washington and Amphyllis Twigden’s children being born in Tring, but despite extensive research we do not have a record of John Washington’s birth.
“However in 1676 John Washington declared in a legal document that he was 45 years old “or thereabouts” at that time which would put his date of birth as 1631, and therefore he would have been born in Tring.”
There are no direct descendants of the Washingtons left in Tring. Three of the children migrated to Virginia, two moved to London and one daughter married and moved to Hitchin.
The society is planning to invest some Heritage Lottery Funds it has into the project, but will also be fundraising to complete it if planning approval is granted.
You can donate while visiting the museum in Brook Street, where the plans for the monument are on display.
What's the link? Local author Murray Neil explains:
John Washington was born in 1631 in Tring, the son of Rev Lawrence Washington and Amphyllis Twigden. He was the oldest of six children. His father was born in Sulgrave Manor, Northamptonshire in 1602 and his mother in Creaton, Northamptonshire.
Amphyllis, born in 1602,was one of five daughters of a yeoman farmer, John Twigden and his wife Anne Dickons.
After John Twigden died in 1611, Anne and the girls moved to Tring. Anne married Andrew Knowling in Tring and the family lived in Andrew' s house in Frogmore street, Tring.
When she was older Amphyllis became a domestic servant at Pendley Manor in Tring and it was there that she met her future husband, Lawrence Washington. Their son John was born in 1631. The manor is now a hotel.
In 1655 Amphyllis died. John was away on a trading voyage at that time. When he returned to Tring in 1656 he settled his mother's affairs and then travelled to London to sail to Virginia on the "Sea Horse of London" as second in command.
In early 1657 the ship set sail for London with a rich cargo of tobacco but it was wrecked on a sandbank on the Potomac River in Virginia.
The ship and crew were saved but the cargo was destroyed. There was now a legal dispute between John and the captain of the ship regarding the responsibility for the loss of the cargo.
In the subsequent court case the dispute was resolved in John's favour by the local magistrate, Nathaniel Pope. Nathaniel hired John to work on his plantation at Popes Creek.
It was there that he met and married Nathaniel's only daughter, Anne, and they began a family which resulted in the life of their great grandson, George Washington, first President of the United States of America. George Washington was born in Popes Creek Plantation.
You can read about the story in full in Murray's book 'The Washingtons of Tring'. Copies can usually be found for purchase for £5.95 at the town's museum.