Penshaw Monument

Penshaw Monument ( /ˈpɛnʃə/; officially The Earl of Durham's Monument) is a folly built in 1844 on Penshaw Hill between the districts of Washington and Houghton-le-Spring, within the City of Sunderland, North East England. It is dedicated to John George Lambton, first Earl of Durham and the first Governor of the Province of Canada.


The 136-metre (446 ft) hill on which the monument stands was presented by Charles Vane, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry. The monument dominates the local landscape as a half-sized replica of the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens.


Although often called "Penshaw Monument", the correct title of the structure is The Earl of Durham's Monument.

The monument stands on Penshaw Hill, which is something of a toponymic peculiarity. Essentially the name is derived from a mixture of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon (or Old English) words. Pen is a Brythonic or Cumbric word for hill, as in the name Penrith; shaw is derived from sceaga meaning "wooded area"; and finally the Old/Middle/Modern English word "hill". Thus when fully translated, the name means "wooded-hill hill".


The Doric tetrastyle monument is 30 metres (98 ft) long, 16 metres (52 ft) wide and 20 metres (66 ft) high. The columns are each 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) in diameter. It was designed by John and Benjamin Green and built by Thomas Pratt of Sunderland, based on the Doric order.

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. One of the pillars contains a spiral staircase to a walkway around the top of the monument.

The Monument is made of gritstone that came from the Marquess of Londonderry's quarries on the east coast. Steel pins and brackets were used to hold the stone blocks in place.


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. This was four years after the death of John George Lambton.

On Easter Monday, 1926 a 15-year-old boy, Temperley Arthur Scott, fell to his death from the top of Penshaw Monument. The boy was with three friends and 20 other people when the accident happened. They had got to the roof through the spiral staircase hidden in one of the pillars. Witnesses said that the boys went round the roof walkway twice before deciding to make a third circuit. However, Scott fell trying to avoid the other visitors by passing around an open end where there was no protecting wall. Afterwards the spiral staircase to the roof was closed and has never been reopened.

In September 1939, John Lambton, 5th Earl of Durham presented Penshaw Monument to the National Trust as a gift.

Owing to settlement as a result of mining beneath the hill, Penshaw Monument was underpinned in 1978. The next year the entire western end was dismantled block by block in order that damaged lintels could be replaced by new reinforced concrete ones.

Penshaw Monument features on the club badge of Sunderland A.F.C.


It was acquired by the National Trust as a gift from the 5th Earl of Durham in 1939. A placard was placed on the front of the monument to recognise this.

The placard reads: