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Lambton Castle in the late 19th century.
Lambton Castle shown within County Durham
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Largely constructed in its present form in the early 19th century by John Lambton, first Earl of Durham and one-time Governor General of Canada, it was built around the existing Harraton Hall, a 17th-century mansion. The castle was designed by architects Joseph Bonomi the Elder and his son Ignatius and built in the style of a Norman castle, as was the fashion of the time. The building overlooks the wooded Wear Valley and it was paid for with coal mining wealth accumulated from the mines which ran below the castle and others right across County Durham, exploited through Lambton Collieries.
Later additions to the house built in 1862–65, including the great hall, were largely demolished in 1932. Also at this time, the contents were auctioned off to pay death duties and the family moved to the smaller Biddick Hall on the estate.
The park that surrounds the castle is bordered by a high wall and is still used for an annual pheasant shoot. For a time in the 1970s, the castle's grounds were also home to Lambton Lion Park, opened in 1972 and closed in 1980.
Penshaw Monument, an Ancient Greek-style memorial to the first Earl, is located on nearby Penshaw Hill, which was formerly part of the Lambton Estate. This is also commonly mistaken to be the resting place of the mythical Lambton Worm, as depicted in the famous North East folk song, but locally the credit goes to the nearby Worm Hill, in Fatfield.
Since the 1960s, the Lambton family have continued to sell off parts of the estate to developers, most notably the land that was used to develop Washington New Town, which was the subject of a compulsory purchase order. A more recent transaction was the sale of the Biddick Woods Estate, which now includes the link road from the A182 to the A690 in Houghton le Spring and new business units.
As of 2011, the recently refurbished castle is available for weddings, conferences, banquets, and as a location for filming.
- "Lambton Castle". britishlistedbuildings.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-03-08.
- King, Hannah (25 September 2012). "The Paradise: Bringing the set to life". tv blog. bbc.co.uk.