Penshaw Monument set to open secret stairway

HUNDREDS of people left disappointed after being turned away from an iconic North East landmark will still get a second chance to climb the famous monument.

HUNDREDS of people left disappointed after being turned away from an iconic North East landmark will still get a second chance to climb the famous monument.

Penshaw Monument is set to open its secret stairway again this weekend to allow people to climb to the top and gaze out across Tyneside and Durham.

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The inside and top of the landmark was officially opened up to the public for the first time since 1926 by the National Trust two weeks ago and now plans have been unveiled to allow regular visits next year.

Hundreds of people who had planned on spending their Bank Holiday Monday climbing the sandstone spiral staircase inside one of the columns were turned away when organisers said they could only accommodate 90 people during the whole day. Those people who had been left disappointed were invited to leave contact details for future events, the first of which will take place this Saturday.

National Trust spokeswoman Kate Horne said: “When we opened up Penshaw Monument we were taken aback with the response from people who wanted to climb to the top. We decided on the day that anyone who wouldn’t get the chance to climb to the top would be given an opportunity to come back and the first of those events will be this weekend.

“We have a number of opportunities throughout September and October to go to the top and those people who expressed an interest on Bank Holiday Monday have been contacted.”

People from as far a field as Devon and Glasgow were left disappointed after travelling to the landmark between Washington and Sunderland.

The monument was built as a memorial to the Earl of Durham, John George Lambton, who died in 1840. The structure, which is based on the Temple of Theseus in Athens, is 100ft long, 53ft wide and 70ft high with 18 columns.

The door to the spiral staircase was closed in 1926 after 15-year-old boy, Temperley Arthur Scott, fell to his death from the top. Vandals picked the lock in the mid 1960s allowing unrestricted access for a couple of days before National Trust bosses discovered the breach of security.

National Trust bosses have been so impressed with the interest from people wanting to climb to the top that open days will become a regular event in 2012.

Kate added: “We will be producing our events list sometime in October and we expect to be in a position where we can name more dates for 2012 when people who are not all ready on our list will get a chance to climb to the top.

“We have also had a number of calls from National Trust members who have requested that opportunities be made available to them so we will have some special session for members only.”

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