Growing up in Newcastle we often drove past Seaton Delaval Hall on the way to the beach at Seaton Sluice. The stately "pile" just set back from the road... we wondered who lived there but thought nothing much of it as the seaside was only one minute away!
Seaton Delaval Hall was privately owned until just 12 years ago. so you won't ever have been there on a school trip or on a day out in your youth. Thankfully that has now changed and the whole estate is open to the public! In 2009, after a major fundraising campaign, the National Trust welcomed Seaton Delaval Hall into its' wonderful collection of North East properties which include the well known Gibside, Wallington and Cragside estates, as well as Souter Lighthouse, Washington Old Hall and Cherryburn.
From the outset, there was much to do. Seaton Delaval Hall had suffered greatly over the years but the NT were keen to allow visitors in from the start. I remember taking the kids about 10 years ago and enjoying the gardens. Meanwhile, a grand plan was in its infancy...fast forward only a few short years (plus a pandemic!) and the visitor experience has been transformed into a fabulous venue for all to enjoy, over and over again.
Commissioned by Admiral George Delaval and designed in 1718 by Sir John Vanbrugh, the architect behind Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard, Seaton Delaval Hall was the backdrop to the extravagant lifestyle and extraordinary exploits of the Delaval family. Over the years however, and following serious damage from a fire in the 19th century, parts of the Hall fell into disrepair.
As one of the National Trust’s most significant projects in the North of England, The Curtain Rises restoration project was enabled thanks to an award of £3.7 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, a further £3 million from the National Trust, and almost £750,000 in donations and fundraising. Conservation specialists, architects, surveyors, engineers, staff and volunteers have continued to work throughout the challenges of the pandemic to ensure the survival of one of Vanbrugh’s greatest works.
The house has a fascinating history and its a great place to explore. As it was gutted by fire, what's left is actually really interesting as you can see through all the levels from floor to roof (about 5 stories!). The rooms were beautifully designed and unlike some stately homes there are very few roped off areas and no breakable antiques to beware of, resulting in a relaxed atmosphere for families. There are lots of gorgeous features to the house, inlcuding the amazing canterleaver staircase and the most luxurious horse stables you will ever see.
Where children are concerned, its the vast gardens which provide most of the entertainment. There are lots of play areas and dozens of picnic tables or just lawned areas where you can spread out. From wildflower trails and mirrored art installations, to wonderfully designed play equipment in the Delaval Playdium, there's something for everyone to enjoy. On the expansive south lawn, outdoor games are provided and in the outbuildings the Make and Do craft activities take place. There's a lovely enclosed garden where toddlers are safe to play and another secret garden with a summer house selling ice cream! From each part of the garden are different views back to the house or down to the sea or across seemingly open countryside. The house is surrounded by a 1.6km long ha-ha which is a hidden wall, providing uninterruped views over the fields while preventing livestock from entering the gardens.
For longer legs, you may wish to explore beyond the ha-ha and discover the fabulous walks from the estate through land used for agriculture and mining, taking in lots of local interest including Holywell Dene, Hester Pit, Seaton Sluice, Blyth Battery and the Wagonways. There are 8 different routes of between 4 and 6.5 miles.
Part of the multi million pound restoration has been the Brewhouse, which has been transformed into a stunning cafe with lots of indoor seating and also a beautiful garden. Very importantly there are plenty of loos and baby changing facilities too!
Most of the estate is easily accessible for pushchairs and wheelchairs with wide gravel paths and plenty of space.
There are plans for events to take place throughout the year so keep an eye on the website or social media pages. Indoors and outdoors there are lots of opportunities to keep the spirit of the Delaval family alive as party hosts extraordinaire!
There is so much to see and do you could easily come here every week just to enjoy the surroundings and treat it like your own back garden. After all, its was a much loved family home. It's so close to the conurbation of Tyneside that you an easily pop in after school to enjoy the play areas or have a picnic on the lawns or in the arboretum. It's very worthwhile getting an annual pass as you'll never want for anything to do in the holidays or at the weekends.
The X7 bus leaves from the Haymarket, Newcastle every 30 minutes and stops right outside. Plans are that the rail link from Seaton Delaval to Northumberland Park Metro Station will be up and running in the next couple of years, making it even easier.
Full details of Seaton Delaval Hall including opening times and prices can be found at their website
Anna Skelton, editor. July 2021.
Photographs: Anna Skelton