Sunday, April 17, 2005

Purleigh, Essex, England

Purleigh is a small hamlet in the heart of Essex, located between the rivers Crouch and Blackwater. Purleigh has strong ties to the United States. The Reverend Lawrence Washington, who was forced to resign as rector of the church here because of his royalist sympathies, is the great, great grandfather of the first U.S. President, George Washington. The exquisite little parish church where Lawrence Washington served sits quietly at the top of a hill to this day.

Purleigh is a sleepy village clustered around All Saints’ church that dates from the 13th century. Lawrence Washington, was the minister of this small church from 1633 until 1643. The Parliamentarians, who wanted to oust him from his parish, knew him as the “malignant royalist.” By all accounts, Washington was a good minister, but he was also known to enjoy a drink or two at the local inn. His daily “tippling” was noticed by the Parliamentarians who accused him of “… encouraging others in the same beastly vice.” The Parliamentarians succeeded in removing Washington from his beloved church, never to return. He died penniless in a neighboring village. Soon after his death, two of his sons John and Lawrence Washington left England to seek a fresh start in the New World.