Built on the top of a hill fort, legend has it that stones removed from a roman dam at Hylton, Sunderland, we find a half size copy of the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens.
It is 100 feet (30 metres) long, 53 feet (16 metres) wide and 70 feet (20 metres) high. The columns are each 6 feet and 6 inches (2 metres) in diameter. Resting on the columns is the entablature which itself can be split into three main parts. The architrave, the main spanning beam across the tops of the pillars. Above the architrave is the frieze, the central patterned section. Then the cornice is the upper part which projects outwards. Finally, the pediments are the triangular facings at each end of the Monument.
Penshaw Monument (officially The Earl of Durham's Monument) is a folly built in 1844 on Penshaw Hill, 136 metres above sea level, in Tyne and Wear, North East England, between the areas of Washington and Houghton-le-Spring in the city of Sunderland. It is dedicated to John George Lambton, first Earl of Durham and the first Governor of the Province of Canada, who was known locally as "Radical Jack" Lambton.
It was designed by John and Benjamin Green and built by Thomas Pratt of Sunderland, based on the Doric order. The Monument is the best preserved model of a Doric Hexastyle temple in Britain. Charles Vane, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry presented Penshaw Hill as a suitable site.
The foundation stone was laid by Thomas Dundas, 2nd Earl of Zetland (the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England) on 28 August 1844.
One of the pillars contains a spiral staircase to a walkway around the top of the monument. This was closed to the public after a 15 year old boy, Temperley Arthur Scott, fell to his death on Easter Monday 1926. The boy was with three of his friends. There were about twenty other people at the top of the Monument at the time. Witnesses said that the boys went round the walkway twice and then decided to go around a third time. In order to pass from one side of the Monument to the other, they had to pass round the ends where there was no protecting wall.
It was acquired by the National Trust as a gift from the 5th Earl of Durham in 1939.
Penshaw Monument features on the club badge of Sunderland A.F.C. It is also reputed to be the home of the Lambton Worm.
The placard on the front of the monument reads:
Hill fort and other features
As a consequence of the building of the monument, as well as previous quarrying on both sides of the hill, most of the earthworks were lost, today only the side closest to the nearby road has visible remains of the hill fort, even these have been assumed to be related to the monument or the quarries and little attention has been paid to the significance of this ancient site. Even the OS map of 1864, published twenty years after the erection of the monument, notes the earthworks simply as 'old quarries'
The first evidence as to the age of the earthworks themselves comes from a local myth. Associated with the Penshaw Hill, it is the tale of the Lampton Worm, a dragon said to have been slain at the time of the crusades. Local legend has it that the dragon slept whilst coiled around the hill, which is how the hill got its rings. It's not often that legend plays a part in evidence for the existence of a hillfort but this legend, since it mentions the crusades does at least indicate both the antiquity of this feature and its appearance prior to the quarries and monument.
Photo by Kev Murley
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