Washington was originally the name of a manor and village in the county of Northumberland in the north of England and is first mentioned in a charter dated to 973 CE. In the twelfth century William de Hartburn (from Hartburn near Stockton on Tees), bought the manor of Washington from the Bishop of Durham and built the house now known as Washington Old Hall now a National Trust property. William changed his name to William de Washington and therefore founded the Washington family. One of his descendants later emigrated to the American Colonies and was the ancestor of George Washington, the first president of the United States of America.

In 1964 the area was designated as a site for a new town, divided into sixteen districts, eight of which were built on the sites of existing villages including the former village of Washington after which the town was named. The new town of Washington is found five miles to the southeast of Newcastle upon Tyne, on the river Wear and has a population of around 56,000.