June 8 Centenary and Bicentenary Celebrations at Sulgrave Manor
In the week when we remembered that 70 years ago both British and American Forces were jointly invading Normandy to achieve the end of the Second World War, Sulgrave Manor, the Northamptonshire home of George Washington’s ancestors, experienced a friendly and welcome invasion by some 200 members of the National Society of Colonial Dames of America and their guests.
The dames have actively supported the manor since its purchase and normally have a formal visit every two years, but this Sunday, 8 June, was special. It was to celebrate the centenary of the purchase of the manor and the bicentenary of the Treaty of Ghent in 1814, which brought peace between America and Britain.
It was to celebrate the centenary of that peace that money was raised on both sides of the Atlantic to buy Sulgrave Manor, subsequently dedicated as a place from which “sentiments of goodwill and friendship shall forever radiate.”
What a weekend of celebration it was. The manor’s costumed educational team demonstrated how their successful programmes bring fun and learning experiences to over 10,000 primary school children each year. A local theatre company provided a show with songs and anecdotes from the life of Noel Coward, one of the first English entertainers to headline in Las Vegas.
A large flower-decorated marquee overlooking the manor was the scene of the formal proceedings. Guests were welcomed by Sulgrave’s Acting Chairman, Norman Hudson. Subsequently they were addressed by His Excellency Matthew Barzun, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.K, who amusingly compared the friendship between our two nations to a maturing whisky. Next to speak was Earl Spencer, whose great-grandfather was on the committee that decided to buy the manor, and whose grandfather was Vice-Chairman of Trustees for many years. He explained the seventeenth-century links between his own family and that of the Washingtons.
Then came a wonderful surprise. Marcy Moody, President of the National Society of Colonial Dames of America and Bess Fuchs, the Senior Representative of the Society on the Sulgrave Board of Trustees, made a presentation of $100,000 to the Sulgrave Manor Trust. This was a great boost, not only financially, but in morale.
The day ended with a ceremonial lowering of the flags of both countries, which are always flown at the manor. This ceremony was expertly and beautifully carried out by the airmen of the United States Air Force from the 501 Combat Support Wing who are stationed at nearby RAF Croughton.