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Penshaw Monument

CLASS: Structure (Memorial)
PERIOD: 19th Century (1844)
LOCATION: Penshaw Hill, Tyne & Wear (NZ 333543) OS Explorer 308
ACCESS: National Trust
Penshaw (‘pen-sher’) Monument is officially known as The Earl of Durham's Monument and was built to commemorate the life of 'Radical Jack' Lambton (1792-1840) – 1st Earl of Durham, who passed away on July 28th 1840. It is FREE to visit all year round. The National Trust permits access to the viewing gallery between Good Friday and the end of September (FREE to members; £5 to non-members). Booking is advised via the website. Become a National Trust member

His monument was designed by architects John and Benjamin Green (who also designed Grey's Monument and the Theatre Royal in Newcastle) and is a half-size replica of the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens. It cost £6000 to build with £3000 coming from public subscription and was built by Sunderland stonemason Thomas Pratt.

Constructed from locally quarried gritstone, it is 66-feet high with its base measuring 100 ft x 53 ft. Its uncovered roof is held up on eighteen two-metre thick Doric columns, one of which contains the 76 steps that lead up to a viewing gallery. Its towering profile, visible from all over the county and beyond, is one of the iconic symbols of Wearside to such an extent that it appears on the badge of Sunderland Football Club.

Thousands of people attended the laying of the foundation stone in 1844 and the monument was evidently a very popular attraction. However, on Easter Monday 1926, tragedy struck when a sixteen-year-old boy, Temperley Arthur Scott, fell to his death from the top of the monument. Thereafter public access was prohibited until 2011 when it was restored thanks to an initiative by the National Trust (who have owned and managed the site since 1939).

Penshaw Hill – on which the monument stands – has often been mistakenly associated with the old Durham legend of the Lambton Worm – a grandiose and malevolent serpent that was said to have been slain by an ancestor of Lambton’s. The honour for the location of the fight however goes to the much more appropriately named ‘Worm Hill’ in Fatfield approximately 2 kilometres due west.