Chapel

Who was Godfrey Washington?

The Reverend Godfrey Washington (1670–1729) was the great-uncle of the first U.S. President, George Washington.  Godfrey Washington was appointed a Fellow of Peterhouse by the College Visitor, the Lord Bishop of Ely, on 8th April 1693, aged 22.  He had been born on 26th July 1670, a younger son of James Washington, of Adwick-le-Street, Yorkshire, England; his mother was Elizabeth, daughter of William Copley, of Sprotborough, Yorkshire.  His eldest brother, Richard, died in 1678, aged 39: another brother, Francis, became Rector of Sprotborough.

Godfrey Washington had been an undergraduate at Jesus College, Cambridge (B.A. 1689; M.A. 1693).  According to the College historian T A Walker (Biographical Register, 1615–1911) his appointment by the Visitor to a Fellowship at Peterhouse, alongside Thomas Stukes, appointed on the same date, "was the outcome of a hot domestic contest.  Meeting in 1693 to elect a successor to Dr John Pern the votes of the Society were equally divided, six Fellows voting for Dr Barrett, the Master with five Fellows supporting Dr Baker.  The decision was held to lapse to the Master and two Deans; but these failed to agree.  The Master and Woodward, the Senior Dean, nominated Dr Baker, whom the Master proceeded to admit as Probationer.  The defeated six Fellows appealed to the Visitor, and in the discussion Woodward's status was called into question, he having failed to take the Oaths required by the recent Act of William and Mary.  Finally the Visitor cancelled the election of Dr Baker as void, pronouncing Woodward's Fellowship de facto vacant; and filled up both vacancies as on lapse, Washington succeeding Pern and Stukes John Woodward".      

Washington was ordained Deacon in 1694, and became Vicar of Cherry Hinton, then and now a College Living, in 1699.  He was subsequently Vicar of St Mary the Less ('Little St Mary's'), likewise a College Living, the parish church adjacent to Peterhouse in Trumpington Street which served as the College's chapel until 1632 and of which the Master and Fellows remain Patron of the Living.  At Peterhouse, he became Bursar and was, according to Walker, "a most popular College officer".  In 1718 he was nominated as a Proctor in the University, but declined.

Washington died on 28th September 1729, aged 59, and is buried in Little St Mary's.  His memorial is to be found in Little St Mary's Church, on the north wall close to the main door.  The Washington family coat-of-arms, a black eagle atop a shield of red stars and stripes, adorns the tablet.  It is from this coat-of-arms that the 'Stars and Stripes' of the U.S. National Flag, and the U.S. black eagle emblem, are said to derive.