Guest Challenge: Restoration


Restless Jo:

Last August I made an unplanned visit to Seaton Delaval Hall in Northumberland.  I was in the area, visiting St. Mary’s Lighthouse at Whitley Bay.  I knew of the gardens at the Hall, but nothing of the house, so when I saw on the signpost that it was barely 2 miles away, curiosity won.  The huge shell of a house that I found astounded me.

It was, by and large, shrouded in scaffolding, and entry looked improbable, if not a little uninviting.  Still, the National Trust signboard proclaimed that it was open.  Entry was via the gardens at the rear of the house and there was an hour till closing time.  Clouds were gathering overhead, so into the garden I went.

There is topiary, parterres, a rose garden, fountains, pools and statues within the 3 acres of this garden.  Anyone who loves gardens will find something here to admire, but what drew me like a magnet was the lily pond, with its gurgling frog.  It was surrounded by blue agapanthus, with a tantalising view of the house beyond.


The perfection of a water lily

A path led through the grounds and I was distracted by the sight of a substantial chapel.  A volunteer was keen to share the history and I learnt that it dated back to Norman times.  Family crests adorned the walls.  There was obviously much to learn but, mindful of time, I picked up a leaflet and headed towards the house.

The Norman chapel

The Norman chapel

Seaton Delaval Hall is Grade 1 listed and was designed in 1718 by Sir John Vanbrugh, the architect of Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard. Like many of our English homes, it has a patchy history. The Delavals were loyal supporters of William the Conqueror, and were gifted the land for their services at the Battle of Hastings. Admiral George Delaval made his fortune in the Navy, and bought the estate from his bankrupt cousin in the 1700s. When he asked Vanbrugh to help him modernise, he was advised to demolish all but the Norman chapel. The Admiral had grandiose ideas, and wanted a turret from which to view the ocean on each corner of his home.

Neither patron nor architect lived to see its completion. In 1728, two years after the death of the Admiral in a riding accident, the mansion was completed and his nephew, Francis, moved in. The ‘gay Delavals’ brought high good times, and not a little scandal, to the house, but they also exploited the estate’s natural resources. Salt, coal and glass were produced, and a dock was created for export from the local harbour.

Tragedy struck in 1822, when the Hall was gutted by fire, thought to have been caused by jackdaws nesting in the chimney. For forty years the building was without a roof, until local architect John Dobson was hired to shore it up. Internally it remained a shell, the 30 ft high great hall still showing the effects of fire, with blackened walls and muses in the lofty niches.

Further partial restorations took place down the years until finally the National Trust were approached.  After fourteen months of fundraising, they received the keys in December 2009.


Over the garden wall

I could not bring myself to take photos of the scaffolding entrapping the house. But when I stepped inside, I was staggered at the height of the Great Hall. A guide explained about the ongoing work and a little of the family history.

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There’s a ghost story, of course, and tales of military occupation and potential ruin. The house has enormous presence and I found myself willing it to be made whole again, just like the model.
In writing this piece, I returned to the Seaton Delaval website, and was delighted to see the scaffolding removed. The stucco statues are restored, high in their niches and the tiled floor immaculate once more. You can imagine, I’m keen to go back there in the Spring. The work is a long way from finished. The National Trust have ambitious plans for this property, and many others within their care.
I’m writing this post for Paula, with the theme of Restoration, for Thursday’s Special. Do you have a restored property that you would like to share, or maybe one that’s in need of love and attention? I would be delighted to see it. When I return to Seaton Delaval Hall, I shall certainly be sharing it with you. Opening times and full details of the project are within the links.

It just remains to thank Paula for letting me play hostess, or should I say ‘lady of the manor’?


Entries to this challenge are:

61 Comments on “Guest Challenge: Restoration

  1. Pingback: Thursday’s Special: Restoration (Response to Guest Challenge) | Lost in Translation

      • Truth be told, my tiny self did nothing, Jo prepared everything including sending screen shots of how she wants everything to look. She has been the most involved guest blogger so far 😀 Thank you Zee for your visit. It is a privilege to have you here.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes she did, and you too, Jo. You both did a great job on this one, congratulations! I put this one on my list, for the next time we go North. Wishing you a wonderful time with your dad in Windsor. Many Happy Returns!
        Klem to you Paula, wishing you a lovely day. ❤


  2. Pingback: Thursday’s Special: Restoration | Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist)

  3. Glad to hear that restoration is complete after the fire. It looks like a lovely building and the grounds superb. National Trust does such a good job. We have them in Australia also but we don’t have as many old buildings as you do.


    • I’m glad you liked it. Your description of me wasn’t as scary as I might have feared 🙂 Many thanks for the company, Paula, walking or otherwise.
      Yours truly
      Lady of the Manor 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m going back soon, Sue. It reopens at Easter and I’m looking forward to seeing the progress. I was quite overwhelmed with the inside of the building but the statues in the niches hadn’t been restored then. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a fascinating post, Jo. The house looks extraordinary, and will be well worth another visit. I especially like that tantalizing glimpse of it over the garden wall.


  5. Pingback: DES RES ~ Nouveau Roman Anyone? | Tish Farrell

  6. Pingback: From Hotel Fieubet to Ecole Massillon | Travel with Intent

    • I can’t wait to come and see, Ese. Your posts are always inspiring (and I love those peep-toe sandals on your new Gravatar 🙂 ) Thanks for the kind words,


  7. Hi Vivi! I’m a little late because I’ve been out with the Nordics. Hope you’re fit again? I’ll drop by for a hug later. And, thank you! 🙂


    • I was really surprised by the place on my visit last year, LolaWi. As you can tell, it left a lasting impression, and I’ll be back 🙂


  8. What a wonderful guest post for your challenge, Paula. Jo never ceases to amaze me with her seemingly never-ending vigour and enthusiasm for discovering and sharing new places. The water lilies are gorgeous and always remind me so much of dear Christine. I’m so glad that this once magnificent Seaton Delaval Hall is going to be restored to its former glory. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ad! Lovely to see you over here and thank you for the kind words. Funny you should mention Christine. I did my ‘walk for her’ (don’t know if you remember it) from Hart Village back into the town after t’ai chi yesterday- the first time I’ve felt inclined to do so this year, but it was a lovely Spring day and I felt the urge. Thought of her and Stuart. I meant to send him an email with a few photos from yesterday’s walk but haven’t done it yet. Hugs to you for remembering. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks, Lynne! He’ll be happily tucked up in a bar by now (another of those tendencies I’ve inherited from him! 🙂 ). He’s got good company for a few days and he loves that.
    Glad you liked the post. Gives everyone a breather from Portugal 🙂


  10. Pingback: Thursday’s Special: Restoration (Guest Challenge by Restless Jo) | Ese' s Voice

  11. The delightful lady of the manor has outdone herself, hasn’t she Paula? 🙂 Fabulous post and photos that foreshadow a grand restoration Jo. Can’t wait for the ‘after’ shots.


  12. What a fabulous collaboration! Gorgeous colors on a chilly day here to warm me up. Jo your energy and ability to find new places to explore astounds me.


    • I’m slumped in the chair, watching my husband decorate right now, Sue! Talk about ‘let the side down’. It hasn’t been done for 4 gazillion years (just a small exaggeration) and I’m worn out with the waiting. 🙂 But it’s a lovely Spring day here and I’m off to t’ai chi, now I’ve fed him. Got a restoration to share, Sue? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  13. An amazing place, that glimpse of over the garden wall is spectacular. Will look forward to seeing it in all its glory after the restoration is finished. So much amazing history in England, I miss those old heritage buildings so I love seeing them in your posts Jo. Australia is such a young country in it’s pioneer history


    • Thanks, Pauline 🙂 Yes, wherever you drive in this country, you can’t help but see grand gates and I’m always wanting to go and have a look around. This one is well worth saving..

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: Jo’s Monday walk : Seaton Sluice | restlessjo

  15. Pingback: Seaton Delaval Hall gardens | restlessjo

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