At the end of the brilliant performance of Jack & the Beanstalk the cast announced that 2017’s Custom’s House production would be the Lambton Worm. We were intrigued and loved the idea of the Customs House re-telling a local legend in their own unique way. I’ll admit my knowledge of this legend goes as far as the the chorus to the local folk song and some vague reference to Penshaw Monument. What is the Lambton Worm? I think this calls on a bit of Hooper research….
What is the legend of the Lambton Worm?
Whisht! Lads, haad yor gobs,
An Aa’ll tell ye’s aall an aaful story
Whisht! Lads, haad yor gobs,
An’ Aa’ll tell ye ‘boot the worm.
The legend of the Lambton Worm is believed to date from the 14th century, and the earliest published version of the legend was by Robert Surtees, the well-known Durham historian
The legend tells of young John Lambton, son of a noble family in County Durham, who was fishing in the River Wear. When he was unable to catch a fish, he cursed the river, and immediately hooked an ugly little black worm which he later disposed of, in disgust, in the local well. This worm was to grow into a great serpent-like monster which blighted Lambton village and wreaked havoc in the area whilst John was away fighting in the Crusades for seven years.
When he returned home, now Sir John, he learned about the terrible creature that he had inflicted upon his village, and in remorse, set out to combat this monster. With the advice of a wise woman, he devised a suit of armour strong enough to withstand the power of the serpent and covered with spikes to penetrate its scales. Sir John successfully killed the worm, but in so doing inadvertently inflicted a curse upon his own family which was to last for nine generations. Eeek!
The Lambton Worm Snowdog
By total coincidence, we stumbled upon a Snowdog or snowpup that was painted with the story of the Lambton Worm. It was parked up at the Washington Art Centre in the foyer where we saw Steffen Peddie. What a small world!
I think this Snow pup was originally on display in the Sunderland Bridges shopping centre. It tells the tale in several numbered segments. The illustrations are brilliant.
You can see the Worm being dropped down the well on it’s hind leg.
Apparently “The beast was large enough to wrap itself seven times around Penshaw Hill”!
Lord Lambton went out to slay the beast.
The Lambton Worm Walk
Spring was certainly in the air today as we chucked the hiking boots on and headed to Washington to follow the National Trusts’ Penshaw Monument Easy Walk. Meeting our friends and their gorgeous small people (boy 4 and boy / girl twins 2) at the base of the Monument we started the walk. According to the website the walk was due to last 1.5 hours but we know that with small children and distractions the walk would probably take us longer.
Heading up the well laid out path we climbed to the Monument and we awarded with some awesome views. Abigail spied the Asda warehouse (she knows her brands) but by looking north you could see South Shields, Cleadon Tower and make out a DFDS cruise ship in dock.
The description of the walk tells us that if we look through the trees we could see Lambton Castle. This is where one Sunday John Lambton missed church to go fishing on the Wear. Too busy corralling small children up the hill we missed this!
The Monument is pretty darn cool, with loads of graffiti carved in it, and the children had great fun running around on it. The monument was built in 1844 in memory of John George Lambton, the first Earl of Durham. National Trust now own the property and open up the stairs in one of the turrets between Easter and September. We will need to come back, and probably take an oxygen tank, for an even better view.
Heading down from the Monument we followed a very muddy track down to the picturesque riverside. At one point one of the twins left his shoe in the mud as he picked his feet up. Perils of walking in the winter! The riverside of Cox Green was bustling with walkers, cyclist and people enjoy a drink in the pub. It was here we came across the well, where legend has it John chucked the ugly worm he had fished out of the River Wear.
At this point we were on the hunt for somewhere to eat our picnic. We pressed on past the riding stables and onto the riverside path. Some overturned logs in a clearing made a perfect picnic bench. Legend has it that the worm began to eat calves and lambs in the area as it grew and grew. Funny we couldn’t see any animals?
Back to Penshaw Monument
As we headed up through the woods we passed the riding stables and the kids enjoyed seeing the horses. At one point we got a bit confused as the track stopped and led into the riding school. After asking a lady in the stables she confirmed the footpath led through the stables.
The end of the walk was all uphill was a bit of a killer. By now the kids were slightly tired out. However, we were awarded another great side view of Penshaw Monument on the way back up.
Another chance to take in the views before we headed back.
The walk was a perfect length for kids. It was interesting and helped us to the explore the legend that is the Lambton Worm. We cannot wait to go to the Customs house to see it at Christmas!