The Curtain Rises project at Seaton Delaval Hall

Project
Seaton Delaval Hall Northumberland

We’re turning Seaton Delaval Hall upside down in true Delaval spirit. 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, we’re able to conserve the hall for the future. We’re adding new visitor facilities and reintroducing some of the spectacle that the Delavals were known for.

Bringing the drama back to Seaton Delaval Hall

Commissioned by Admiral George Delaval and designed in 1718 by Sir John Vanbrugh, the architect behind Blenheim Palace, Seaton Delaval Hall was a fitting backdrop to the family’s extravagant lifestyle and extraordinary exploits. Over the years however, and following serious damage from a fire in the 19th century, parts of the Hall fell into disrepair.

The National Trust acquired Seaton Delaval Hall in 2009. Thanks to a massive fundraising effort, and with substantial support from the local community, we have been carrying out critical building repairs to ensure the survival of one of Vanbrugh’s greatest works.

Yet despite significant investment over the years, further urgent work was needed to conserve parts of the roof, basement floors and circular staircases. As well as repairs, we're installing new visitor facilities and working with artists, local communities, students and volunteers to develop ambitious new exhibits, events and experiences, to bring to life the energy and spirit of the hall and the colourful stories of its past.

Building on the showmanship of the hall, the flamboyancy and theatrics that made the ‘Gay Delavals’ the toast of Georgian society and to usher in this new chapter in the hall’s history - the project has been named the Curtain Rises.

Scaffolding on the West Wing of Seaton Delaval Hall

The West Wing

The West Wing is completely shrouded in scaffolding as we undertake the mammoth task of stabilising and re-roofing the wing. Inside, we will be carrying out masonry and joinery repairs, removing non-permeable interior paint and installing a new conservation-grade heating system to protect against damp and weathering.

The spiral staircases at Seaton Delaval Hall

Spiral staircases

The spiral staircases to the east and west of the Central Hall are one of Seaton Delaval Hall’s most iconic features. A feat of engineering for their time and bearing scars from the fire of 1822, these significant features had become worn and structurally unsound. We’re carrying out critical conservation work to ensure visitors can continue to use them to access the basement and first floor.

The basement at Seaton Delaval Hall

The basement

The basement underneath the Central Hall was designed to be as lavish as the rest of the hall, with vaulted ceilings and thick stone walls, yet years of decline have left it dark, damp and uneven. The basement will be waterproofed, including lifting and laying a damp-proof membrane underneath the steps leading up to the North and South Porticos and new flooring installed along with sympathetic new lighting which will enhance the atmosphere and architectural features of this impressive space.

East Wing Stables at Seaton Delaval Hall

The Stables

The impressive stone-stalled stables were added in 1765 by Captain Frances Blake Delaval who once famously held a banquet in there. In the stables we’ll be working to address damp issues, conserve stall dividers which are at risk of collapse, re-lay collapsed sections of the floor and add new interpretation.

The south east woodland at Seaton Delaval Hall

South East gardens

In the South East gardens we’ve undertaken woodland management works to improve the health of the landscape and restored historic views. This involved removing old and unstable trees, thinning areas of overcrowding and replanting with younger trees in line with the eighteenth century design. We’ve also reopened lost paths, and installed some new surprises along the way (open summer 2020)

Video

Here's how things have changed...

At the moment, we're focusing on adding the finishing touches to our new visitor facilities, including: The Delaval Playdium (a Baroque-theatre inspired play area), a new café in the historic Brewhouse, and new indoor toilets in the restored carriage house, which will open later this year. Into 2021 we will re-display our collections like never before. We’ll also introduce creative installations in the hall, basement west wing and south east garden, with improved access. Here's a sneak peak of how the place has changed recently.

Latest updates

09 Sep 20

Preparing the Central Hall and Basement

The Central Hall is currently closed to visitors during September and into October to allow our contractors to carry out further work in The Curtain Rises project funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund. On the ground floor of the hall the first phase of this latest work has been to fit protective coverings to the historic floor surfaces and wall features and sculptures in preparation for the installation of internal scaffold. To allow us to use the full height of the entrance hall and saloon for future displays, installations and interpretation, hanging point brackets will be fitted into some of the joist pockets, (these pockets originally held floor beams but have been exposed since the loss of the upper floors to fire in the 19th century) which have been carefully selected to avoid any spaces that our bats like to use for roosting and hibernation. In the basement, the installation of new lighting and flooring is well underway, which will transform the spaces and allow visitors to better appreciate the beautiful architecture of the lower level of the Hall. Ducts are currently being fitted to carry cabling into the rooms to provide atmospheric lighting, levels are being set, and the new stone paving has been selected to match the colours of existing masonry and will provide a much-improved floor surface.

New paving in the basement at Seaton Delaval Hall

01 Jul 20

How work continued during covid-19 lockdown

Project work continued throughout lockdown, with a much-reduced team working on site. Progress slowed as we worked through the requirements for keeping everyone safe and the team focused on outdoor areas where we could ensure that Government guidance was followed during this period. As a result, some of the outdoor areas are now unrecognisable! The South East gardens have been planted up and look colourful, lush and full of interest now. We’re just waiting on an exciting new Mirror Cube to finish off this area, so watch this space! A new welcome area and entrance has been created. The new entrance path meets the Lost Wing Path and there is a choice as to whether to continue to either the South East Gardens, the formal gardens or the new Brewhouse Café. Our new rolled gravel paths, which extend across the site, will make a huge difference to everyone getting around. In the East Wing area we completed the work in the Stables. Six of the stall dividers which were in danger of collapse were dismantled and then rebuilt. We also re-roofed the East Wing Carriage house, which will soon be home to our new visitor toilets. We have also removed the ‘temporary’ buildings which included the old toilets, don’t worry though we do have new facilities in the Brewhouse Café. The final area to receive a makeover lately is the external space around the new café. The area has been planted up, flagstones and rolled gravel have been laid and new estate railings have been installed. Indoors, finishing works to the new Brewhouse Café have been completed ready for when we are able to welcome visitors into this new space. Our contractors, Historic Property Restoration, and the essential tasks property team have worked wonders in these challenging and uncertain times.

Landscape works surrounding the new Brewhouse Cafe at Seaton Delaval Hall

17 Jan 20

Dismantling the Stable stall dividers

The East Wing Stable stall dividers are really fascinating. They're elegant structures built using large stones but with timber end posts, which have been cunningly disguised as stone. Some of them require attention as the stones are ‘threaded’ onto vertical iron stays which over time have degraded and rusted, causing expansion and contraction that then fractures the stone. Work has begun to dismantle the dividers in turn, and we will be saving the masonry we can and rebuilding the dividers, having recorded them fully.

The stables at Seaton Delaval Hall