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Portfolio > City Of Sunderland > Penshaw Monument 5                                                            Click on an image below to reveal enlarged version

Penshaw Monument, Sunderland, England, UK


Penshaw Monument is a memorial in the style of an ancient Greek temple on Penshaw Hill in the City of SunderlandNorth East England. It is near the village of Penshaw, between the towns of Washington and Houghton-le-Spring in the historic County Durham. The monument was built between 1844 and 1845 to commemorate John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham (1792–1840), Governor-General of British North America and author of the Durham Report on the future governance of the American territories. Owned by the National Trust since 1939, it is a Grade I listed building under the name of the Earl of Durham's Monument.


The monument was designed by John and Benjamin Green and built by Thomas Pratt of Bishopwearmouth using local gritstone at a cost of around £6000; the money was raised by subscription. On 28 August 1844, while it was partially complete, its foundation stone was laid by Thomas Dundas, 2nd Earl of Zetland in a Masonic ceremony which drew tens of thousands of spectators. Based on the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens, it is a tetrastyle temple of the Doric order, with eighteen columns, seven along its longer sides and four along its shorter ones and no roof or cella (inner chamber).One column contains a spiral staircase leading to a parapeted walkway along the entablature. This staircase was closed to the public in 1926 after a 15-year-old boy fell to his death from the top of the monument. The structure fell into disrepair in the 1930s and was fenced off, then repaired in 1939. It has since undergone further restoration, including extensive work in 1979 during which its western side was dismantled. Floodlit at night since 1988, it is often illuminated in different colours to mark special occasions. The National Trust began to offer supervised tours of the walkway in 2011. Penshaw Monument is a local landmark, which is visible from up to 80 kilometres (50 miles) away. It appears on the crest of Sunderland A.F.C. and is viewed nationally as a symbol of the North East. It has been praised for the grandeur, simplicity and symbolic significance of its design, especially when seen from a distance. However, critics have said it is poorly constructed and lacks purpose; nineteenth-century architectural journals condemned its lack of a roof and the hollowness of its columns and walls. It features no depiction of the man it honours, and has been widely described as a folly. Bede, sometimes called the father of English history, began his monastic career at Monkwearmouth monastery in Sunderland, before moving to the newly founded Jarrow monastery in 685 (these monasteries together formed the dual Monkwearmouth-Jarrow Abbey). It therefore seems likely that he was born in or near Sunderland. Indeed, Bede later wrote that he was "ácenned on sundorlande þæs ylcan mynstres" (born in a separate land of this same monastery); here, "sundorlande" translates literally as "separate land" but could refer to the village of Sunderland. Alternatively, it is possible that Sunderland was later named in honour of Bede's connections to the area, by people familiar with this statement of his.


A person from Sunderland is sometimes known as a Mackem. However, as this term originated as recently as the early 1980s, its use and acceptance by Sunderland residents, particularly among the older generations, is not universal. At one time, Sunderland-built ships were called "Jamies", in contrast with those from Tyneside, which were known as "Geordies", although in the case of "Jamie" it is not known whether this was ever extended to people.


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