The little-known story of how this Doncaster church inspired the Stars and Stripes of the American flag

A little church just outside Doncaster where the Washington family grew up and were buried holds the key to the inspiration behind the famous stars and stripes flag of the United States of America.

By Lucy Ball
Wednesday, 4th March 2020, 3:30 pm
Updated Monday, 23rd March 2020, 1:44 pm

In the North Chapel of St Laurence’s Church in Adwick-le-Street is the tomb of James Washington which is decorated with his family coat of arms made up of stars and stripes.

Reverend Ann Walton from the church said: “The stars and stripes from the Washington family crest undoubtedly are the inspiration behind the American flag we all know today.”

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St Laurence's Church in Adwick-Le-Street has a tomb of James Washington in the chapel. The tomb is covered in stars and stripes and the family coat of arms is the inspiration for the USA flag. Pictured is Rev Ann Walton with the tomb.

The Washington family were also known as Lord and Lady of the Manor of Adwick during the late 16th Century and lived in Ardwick Hall which stood in the Park opposite the church and was the family home for over a century.

The grand memorial to James, who died in 1580, his wife Margaret and their 12 children, is made of incised alabaster slab and depicts a gentleman dressed in Elizabethan fashion with the arms of the Washington family inscribed upon the breast.

The figure representing his wife is outlined beside him and she displays the coat of arms of the Anlaby family. When first installed the tomb would have presented a very colourful sight with all the coats of arms brightly picked out in colour.

The stars and stripes of the Washington family coat of arms on the slab and repeated on the tomb sides were seen in St Laurence’s long before they became the familiar feature of the flag of the United States of America - George Washington became the first president in 1789.

Outside St Laurence's Church in Adwick-Le-Street which houses the tomb of James Washington in the chapel.

Rev Ann said: "The Washington line is made up of two brothers, James who lived in Adwick and John who lived elsewhere. It was the descendants of John who moved away and started a life in America. So while they share the same ancestry the Adwick Washingtons have no proven connection with the first President of the USA."

But that does not stop people coming to the church to look at the Washington Tomb.

Rev Ann said: “We love the connection with the Washingtons and we have had American visitors over the years coming to see the tomb which is nice.

“The coat of arms is the same as the Washington crest for the family line who made the journey across the ocean and when we get people from the states coming back across the ocean and visiting us they are always surprised at the amount of detail and similarities they can see but that is because it is the same family line and therefore the same coat of arms.

St Laurence's Church in Adwick-Le-Street has a tomb of James Washington in the chapel. The tomb is covered in stars and stripes and the family coat of arms is the inspiration for the USA flag.

“It is an area of high historical significance for us and something we proudly show off in all our church tours.”