Advantages See the work of the NT in action
Disadvantages Shocking what damage was done inside
|Is it worth visiting?|
Seaton Delaval Hall near Newcastle
When we were planning our little sojourn to Northumberland and were deciding what to do a visit to Newcastle on the way up was a must and then I said I would like to call in to see Seaton Delaval Hall as it played an important role in a TV series we used to watch with the children at school. The series was an English programme that told a story but also did a bit of grammar reinforcement in the middle of the programme. The story I remember watching at least four times was called ‘Geordie Racer’ and it starred a small boy who was a pigeon fancier and with the help of a friend an attempt to rob Seaton Delaval Hall was foiled.
The Hall is between the villages of Seaton Delaval and Seaton Sluice near Whitley Bay. The postcode for sat navs is NE26 4P. As you approach the Hall you actually enter the property through the main front gates and drive up with a great view of the hall in front of you. You do then turn off to the left to the car park which is a short walk away along a gravelled road. We parked the car then went into the little shop and payment pace to show our NT cards and get the required tickets.It is unusual to start with the gift shop but I will as that is what we started with. This is a small shop with pot cards and books as well as novelty item with the usual NT prices. Outside however there were several trays of plants ready to plant which included herbaceous and herbs as well as others. Presumably these are brought on from cuttings or seedlings from the garden belonging to the hall.
This property is a recent acquisition for the NT and as such it is a work in progress. Sadly although the outside of the building looks pretty good the inside has suffered badly from a major fire and a lot of neglect and this shows. I have to admit having watched my TV series I had no idea what a poor state of repair the place was in. They must have used the outside of the hall for shots and the inside shots must have been taken elsewhere.Unusually for a property of this size and stature the area in front of the house is just grassed and so from the hall looking across to the gates and beyond you can see right the way to the sea over rolling fields so maybe they just wanted to enjoy the view.
As you enter the immediate courtyard area all that is there is a rather unpleasant classical statue of a naked man killing another man with a knife or dagger; could be Romulus and Remus but there is no mention anywhere who they were.You then walk up the stairs to the main hall entrance which is very impressive until you get inside and see that the statues of the muses on the walls are in a very poor state of repair, probably more from weather as they were exposed for many years after a massive fire destroyed the hall and roof in 1822.
Fortunately the loyal servants were able to rescue a lot of the valuable possessions and papers. Many of Sir John Delaval’s paper’s were stored and then forgotten in Hartley colliery. They were found some seventy years later by a John Robinson who luckily realised their historical significance and these papers now form the major part of the Delaval archives kept within the Northumberland archives at Woodburn.In this main hall the NT have put up a display showing large life size pictures to represent the various people who might have lived and worked in the hall back in the days gone by. They range from a little slave boy through to gardeners, kitchen staff and then the Delavals themselves. On the reverse side of the pictures is information about their place in the grand scheme of things. For example on the reverse of the little slave boy’s picture it explained about how wealthy people in England might have had a slave and about the family’s connection with sugar plantations in Florida and when slavery became abolished.
As we entered the hall one of the volunteers came and chatted to us explaining about the fire and all the damage done so it wasn’t until I returned to the hall on the way put that I noticed that information was written on the reverse.We walked on through to the next room which had more displays and information about how the Delavals had made their fortune. The land in Northumberland was a gift for services rendered to William the conqueror way back in 1066 so it is around 900 years old. It was designed by the architect Sir John Van Brugh and is supposedly one of his finest creations.
Following generations of the family made money through the export of coal and one of the family is credited with building a fine harbour opened in 1764 from which to export coal and no doubt other goods as well. This was of course the time when the Industrial revolution was making many people very wealthy in the north of England.This huge room is full of displays of the changes taking place in the eighteenth century. Some are more light hearted such as “Pastimes in the 1760s included cards, chess, dominoes, cricket, tennis and the theatre( as well as bloodsports and public executions.)”
Another display tells us “Make-up in the 1760s included poisonous powders and pastes. Patches of material were stuck over pock marks” and another informs us that ‘Pirates of Caribbean’ and Dangerous Liaisons’ were both set in this period of time.I found these little snippets of knowledge interesting and easy to take in. This was not too much detail and enough to spark a bit of interest as well as given you some images to imagine set within the hall in its glory days.
Out through the back entrance is another wonderful countryside view of fields with horses grazing and looking further you can see an obelisk. Not much information is given about this so I assume it was just built for something to admire.We then turned right towards the gardens but I spotted some wonderful frolicking cherubs on the roof of the west Wing which was closed when we visited because of some restoration work. Central to the main lawn was a weeping ash tree which is said to be over 270 years old. It had several props supporting its hanging branches and a notice requested parents to stop their children from swinging on its branches.
Moving around the right again we passed a secluded garden with a pond, a small garden summer house and a few deck chairs. There was no-one there and were not sure whether they were for visitors or not.Moving to the right again you come to a formal garden which has a lawn and a fountain in the centre while around the sides are beautifully trimmed mini hedges around flower beds. Some of these had tulips in them but strangely only one bed had them in full flower, other beds had only small buds and it would be at least another week before these were in full bloom and they were next to each other. The ones in bloom were a stunning firey orange colour, it would have been a splendid sight had they all been in bloom together.
We returned to the hall and made our way down to the cellars which were vast and quite dirty underfoot so they asked that you wear shoe covers over your footwear while down there and take them off before coming back into the hall.
We then went upstairs and looked into a small nook where a notice informed us that bats were sleeping but Ii didn’t see any. A room off this corridor was full of the rescued documents pertaining to the Delaval family that had been salvaged and the NT were in the process of putting on display properly. The room next door known as the tapestry room had paintings of the family and other art works on loan so we were asked not to take photos in there.
The NT advertise this property as seeing their work in progress. You can visit from Friday to Monday year round but they suggest you check the website as times vary. Admission for non NT members is £5 for adults and £2.50 for children, a family entrance fee is £12.50, NT members are of course free to enter.Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same username.
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Paperback, The History Press
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