George Washington and Cheshire

There are several references to George Washington, the first President of America, having links with Cheshire, and the following article is reproduced from the Cheshire Sheaf, now sadly defunct but once a mime of information, snippets and articles about the county’s history:

An association worth remembering is the link George Washington had with Wirral, or Burton in Wirral to be exact. How substantial, or how tenuous, these connections were, we do not know, but that they did exist is confirmed by a bequest included in the will of George Washington, and which was dated July 1799.

In this last testament Washington bequeathed to the Rev. Bryan Fairfax, Lord Fairfax, 'the volumes presented to me by the Right Reverend Bishop Wilson of Sodor and Man'.

Bishop Wilson, who lived from 1663 to 1755, was born in Burton, and throughout his long life he kept in constant touch with the place. His cottage is still a feature of the village today. The books presented to George Washington in 1752 comprised his edition of the Bible, together with Notes and Commentaries, a very substantial work in three great volumes.

These two famous men were certainly not contemporaries, and, indeed, Washington would only have been around 20 years of age when the gift was made: Bishop Wilson would have been 89. How then did Bishop Wilson of Burton and George Washington become acquainted?

The answer to this most fascinating query might lie in the fact that about the time the books were presented Burton had a Washington for a curate - Robert Washington, who officiated here from 1750 until his tragic death in a bathing accident at Parkgate, in 1757.

Previously Washington had served for two years as a curate at Bidston, during which time he would no doubt have taken services at the Priory Chapter House at Birkenhead, which served as the only worshipping place until the Parish Church of St. Mary was built in 1819.

Although George Washington's family were linked with Northamptonshire, and the name was not at all uncommon, it has been established that Robert Washington was a very distant kinsman of' his namesake George. Could it be, then, that the two were known to each other, and corresponded?

And, in turn, the letters from America were shown to Bishop Wilson, who was so impressed with the writings of the young man destined to be the first President of the new country, that he decided to make a present of his books?