There can be few Wearsiders who haven’t made the trek up to the top of Penshaw Hill.
They do it to see the monument close at hand and admire the views. But how many people are aware of why it was built and who it commemorates?
Philip Curtis, of the Sunderland Antiquarian Society, explains more.
The monument was actually erected in 1844 in memory of John George Lambton, the 1st Earl of Durham, who was better known as ‘Radical Jack’.
It was his father who built Lambton Castle, and John, who was born in April 1792, acceded to it at the age of 21. With it came a large estate and extensive coal mines.
John was elected MP for the County of Durham, and quickly made his mark on the political scene.
The monument was actually erected in 1844 in memory of John George Lambton, the 1 st Earl of Durham. who was better known as ‘Radical Jack’.Philip Curtis, Sunderland Antiquarian Society
He eventually became one of the principle movers of the 1832 Reform Act, which gave Sunderland two MPs for the first time.
In 1828, John was made Baron Durham, and, five years later, became Earl of Durham.
But it was his efforts to extend voting franchise that resulted in him becoming known nationally as ‘Radical Jack’.
His first marriage was on New Year’s Day 1812 at Gretna Green, when he was 19.
His wife was Henrietta Cholmondeley, but tragedy struck the marriage. Henrietta died from consumption in May 1815 and their three daughters were all dead by 1835.
John married Lady Louisa Elizabeth Grey in December 1816 and had two sons and another three daughters. His elder son, Charles William Lambton, was born on January 16, 1818, but again tragedy struck.
Charles died in 1831 from tuberculosis and was buried in the family vault in St Mary and St Cuthbert Church in Chester-le-Street.
When he was nine, Charles had his portrait painted by Thomas Lawrence, and the image is certainly one which many Wearsiders will be familiar with.
It is known as The Red Boy and, during the 20th century, was featured on tins of toffee and shortbread.
In 1967, the image was also featured on the British 4d postage stamp. The Earl had close links with Queen Victoria.
He was a trusted advisor to her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and influential in helping to determine the young Queen’s outlook on public life.
One week after coming to the throne in 1837, Victoria received him in a private audience at Kensington Palace.
A year later, he was appointed Governor of Canada and took a leading role in remodelling the constitution of the country.
In June 1840, the Earl’s health was poor and he went to Europe for recuperation.
But he took ill on his yacht and had to be re-routed to Cowes in the Isle of Wight where, on July 28, he died.
His body was brought back to Lambton Castle and laid in state for four days for his tenants and workers to pay their final respects.
He was buried on August 10 in the family vault in Chester-le-Street, and around 50,000 people lined the route.
The Earl was well-loved by his workers. He established the Lambton Colliery Association to help pitmen in old age, sickness and infirmity.
He was generous and a champion of their grievances. His monument was erected four years later in 1844.
The cost of construction was £3,000, and this was raised by public subscription. The Earl of Zetland laid the foundation stone that year in front of 30,000 people.
It was designed by Newcastle architects John and Benjamin Green and built by Thomas Pratt of Sunderland.
The design is of a Greek temple in Doric architecture and reputed to be a copy of Thesion, the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens.
The Penshaw version differs in a number of respects, the main one being it has only 18 columns compared to the 34 of the original.
In 1939 Penshaw Monument was given to the National Trust by the 5th Earl of Durham, and of course today is depicted on the club badge of Sunderland AFC.