Seaton Delaval Hall in flames...

A stunning spiral staircase at Seaton Delaval Hall, Northumberland

At dusk on 3 January 1822, sailors off the Whitley Bay coast noticed that the sunset seemed unusually brilliant. Seaton Delaval Hall was on fire...

The local newspaper, 'Newcastle Chronicle', reported the disaster:

'Every endeavour to preserve the body of the building was unavailing nothing but the bare walls being left standing. The fire is generally supposed to have originated in a chimney which had been rendered foul by birds having built their nests in it, and that hence the fire was communicated to a rafter fixed to the chimney. The roof was speedily in flames and the fire burnt with such fury as to bid defiance to all human efforts. The glass in the windows, by the intense heat, was reduced to a liquid state and the lead in the roof poured down like water.'

Although Vanbrugh's central block was gutted, the local people who rushed to the scene managed to save the kitchen and stable wings, together with family portraits, furniture and archives. The centre remained a roofless ruin until about 1859-60 when the now very senior John Dobson was called upon by the 16th Lord Hastings to produce a comprehensive restoration scheme. Wall tops were rebuilt to support a new roof, and cast-iron columns were used to strengthen internal walls. But the scheme faltered, and the place was left an unheated and unfurnished shell.  

However, even as a shell, you will see the interior of the Hall retains much of Vanbrugh's original design brilliance, including striking stonework, sculpture, fireplaces and spiral staircase.