A step in the right direction

Seaton Delaval Hall’s cantilever stairs are arguably its most well known feature and anyone visiting in recent years will have seen them propped by temporary supports due to concerns over their stability. Over the last two years they have undergone extensive conservation work as part of the National Lottery Heritage Fund-supported Curtain Rises project and you can now visit the hall to see the results.

After 300 years of wear, fire and exposure to the elements, the stairs were in critical need of extensive conservation work due to their structural instability. There were multiple issues requiring attention including cracking, shaling, masonry failure, rust expansion causing loss of step ends and balustrade instability. 

A large amount of design and planning went into identifying the works to the staircases. The National Trust curators, archaeologists, conservators and risk advisors collaborated with a host of internal and external specialists including conservation architects, conservation structural engineers, cantilever staircase advisors and masonry and metal specialists plus conservation officers and planners.

After much discussion the approach to the repairs was based on minimal intervention and the retention of has much historic fabric as possible.

A stunning spiral staircase at Seaton Delaval Hall, Northumberland

Each stair had its own conservation management plan

For the East stair this included: • 14 step end indents (glued and pinned) • 2 x landing end indents (glued and pinned) • 1x full landing replacement (sits into the wall socket as the original) • 5 x full step replacements (sit into the original sockets) Work to the West stair included: • 10 step end indents (glued and pinned) • 12 tread indents (glued) • 1 landing end indent (glued and pinned) • 1 full landing replacement (sits into the original socket) • 5 x full step replacement (sits into the original socket).

Now the urgent conservation work to the stairs has completed the conservation team can continue its ongoing cycle of surveying work using full scanning technology that allows them to measure the level of wear on each stair to the millimetre on an annual basis. This will help them inform ongoing conservation management, maintenance and learning around the stairs.

In addition, work will continue in the Central Hall to fit rigging at high level to enable future creative installations and interpretation. The hall will remain open while this works takes place. We will keep you informed on social media of the ongoing developments. Please note that there is no access to the first floor of the Central Hall while work continues.

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