Next stop during our week of field trips was out about 45 minutes to the north and east along the coastline- Seaton Delaval Hall. We were supposed to spend a week working here, however as I mentioned in an earlier post, the schedules just simply didn’t match. Instead we were able to visit on a day the hall is closed to the public. We were given full run of the property. We were also able to take photos in the no photo areas, though I can’t share those images here in this public forum.
Built between 1719-1730 for Admiral Delaval, the house is an excellent example of the English Baroque style. The estate features the central hall, stables, servants quarters, gardens, and a Norman Chapel (from the Norman settlement on the property in the 900s). The hall has a remarkable history. In 1822 the central hall suffered a great fire gutting the interior down to a shell and obliterating the roof. The marble floor did survive, though it deeply charred the 6 female statues in the entrance hall. Due to the fire, the family moved into what was previously the servants quarters. After being left open to the elements, the central hall received a new roof in 1862, though the interior hall remained charred and drafty. Due the hall being intermittently lived in, the hall was home to squatters from the late 1860s until the 1940s. During World War II, the hall and stables were conscripted into use by English army as a prison for German soldiers. German graffiti and a notice on how to appropriate roll up their bedding is still visible in the upper portions of the stable. Empty wine bottles remain in the cellar below the central house. After the war, the house was abandoned again until the 1980s when the Baron of Hastings moved into the servants quarters. Due to the disrepair of the buildings and a large inheritance tax, the hall was sold to the National Trust in 2009.
Beginning in 2010, the hall was reopened to the public despite needing major work. During 2013 the servants quarters were completely rewired, brought up to fire code, added a security system, and it was re-roofed to tackle dampness and mold issues. The National Trust (similar to our National Park Service) has been utilizing the property as an opportunity to discuss the need for and sizeable costs of conservation for a property of this type. Conservation work at the property is part of their exhibition schedule and presents a compelling message to visitors. The National Trust and the Hall were recently awarded a £500,000 (approx. $820,000) grant to x-ray and triage conserve the statues in the central hall, clean and reset the black and white marble floors, refit all the central hall windows and doors, as well as to consolidate the external stonework/masonry and the roof. On the day we visited the hall featured a 100% relative humidity and a temperature of 0º C (32º F) indoors! Brr!!! All of this work will help to stabilize the hall, prevent it from raining inside the hall due to humidity, make visitors more comfortable, and most importantly, prevent the building from being condemned. The building will never been returned to its former glory as it would be exorbitantly expensive, as well as decrease the teaching value of the property on the ravages of fire. Plus it would displace the family of bats living in the eaves of the central hall!
Our tour was led by the site manager and a National Trust conservator. Both were frank with us on the many issues and limitations of the property, while also sharing the joys and surprises of working there. The house is VERY responsive to changes in weather- one day the upper colonnade windows may have condensation and mildew, while the downstairs floor is ‘sweating’ salts, only to return the next day and the property is stable with no issues. We were able to tour all parts of the property including the upper level of the stables. This area is not currently open to the public due to safety issues of steep stairs, mold, and grime. It is in the upper level of the stables the soldier graffiti and signs are present. Very cool!
Next stop, the Bowes Museum in Newgate, Durham, England!