Crops, Coal and Seaton Delaval Village(s)
The Delaval family was granted land in south east Northumberland at the end of the 11th century. This was largely agricultural land but coal was mined here by 1291 up to 1960. Both industries are represented on this walk of about 6 miles (about 3 ½ hours at a moderate pace).
Seaton Delaval Hall main gates, NZ321766
Leave Seaton Delaval Hall by the main gates, turn left along the pavement and follow the estate wall round to enter the grounds of the Norman Church of Our Lady using the gap in the wall if the gates are closed. Now a parish church, it was built as the chapel for the family at Seaton Delaval Hall and the churchyard was once part of the Hall’s gardens. At the bend in the church drive notice the stone wall to your right. This is all that remains above ground of the original village of Seaton Delaval, which, in the Middle Ages, was one of the largest villages in Northumberland. People began to move away in the sixteenth century when the Delaval family preferred to run sheep on their farmland, which took fewer people to cultivate than crops, but the last nine cottages were lived in until 1959. Retrace your steps to the main road, noticing Hall Farm, which used to be called Village Farm, to the left. Walk up The Avenue towards the modern Seaton Delaval village. Find a safe spot to cross the road carefully and walk up to the road junction signed to New Hartley.
Turn right into the road to New Hartley. In the trees immediately to your right is the plinth of an obelisk raised to mark the place where Admiral George Delaval, who had commissioned Sir John Vanbrugh to design the new Seaton Delaval Hall, fell from his horse in June 1723 and died as a result. In 1932 the obelisk itself was removed as a safety precaution by Hartley Main Collieries Ltd, whose mine workings ran underneath. Follow this road. The telephone exchange on the right stands on the site of Hastings Row, a terrace of miners’ cottages. Continue on the pavement as the road bends to the left and cross the railway at the level crossing. Coal is a heavy and bulky commodity so the area became criss-crossed by wagonways from the early 17th century, then railways from the middle of the 19th century. Some were purely mineral lines moving coal and waste around the collieries, others took coal for export from Seaton Sluice and the rivers Blyth and Tyne. This is one of the few still intact.
Cross the road carefully and carry on to the Hester Pit Memorial Garden laid out round the engine house and capped shaft, site of a disaster in 1862 in which 204 men and boys died. Here the beam on the pumping-engine snapped and fell down the single shaft, blocking it and trapping everyone inside. After reading the inscriptions, cross the road and retrace your steps along the pavement and beyond the level crossing.
At the bend in the road turn left along the farm road (sign-posted ‘Public Bridleway’ and a blue arrow) to Seaton Red House Farm. At the farm, carry on between the farm buildings following the blue arrow way marker. Pass in front of a pair of semi-detached houses and, again following blue arrows, continue to Lysdon Farm. Approaching the farm, to the right of the little bridge is the ancient Lysdon Well, though it is usually well hidden by dense undergrowth.
Pass to the right-hand end of the five-arched cart shed, following the blue arrow, and arc to the left behind the barn to go through the railway arch then straight ahead.
At the next junction follow the blue arrow to the left then, after a short walk, as you approach trees, follow the blue arrow to the right.
As you head up this track, on your right you will see a pit tub placed there in 1984 to mark the site of the Gloria Colliery sunk in 1935 by Hartley Mains Colliery Ltd. At its peak 312 men worked here producing 81,000 tonnes of coal a year. Closed in 1951, the site was reclaimed and landscaped in 1970. Continue along the track until you reach a wooded area where a path crosses your way. You can shorten the walk by following the blue arrow to the left, into the trees, to walk along the bed of a dismantled railway-line taking you directly to point 10. For the complete walk, carry straight on until you reach the A192 beside the Keel Row.
Originally called the Astley Arms, it now celebrates the boats called ‘keels’, which were used in north-eastern ports to carry coal out to load ships in deep water. The keelmen had to row the keel and shovel the coal out of the small boats and throw it up into the collier ships. The ‘laddie’ in the song The Keel Row was a keelman. The road to the right runs past North Moor, Stickley and Laverock Hall farms, all developed extensively in the 18th century by the Delaval family but turn left to walk along the road into the village. Now wooded, by the middle of the 19th century this road was lined on both sides by colliery houses and was called Foreman’s Row. The houses were demolished in 1960. Off to the west (right) was Low Cramlington Colliery’s Engine Pit and to the east was Seaton Delaval colliery.
Carry on past the Seaton Valley sign and turn left onto a footpath into the trees, marked by a ‘footpath’ finger-post. Just past the trees keep to the left of the fence (as indicated by a yellow arrow) and walk ahead along the field margins towards more trees. This path is marked on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map and would have taken the men from Foreman’s Row to their work at the pit. In the trees follow the tarmac footpath as it turns to the right.
This woodland was planted as part of the reclamation of the site of Seaton Delaval Colliery. It was sunk in 1838 and at its peak produced 207,000 tonnes of coal each year. In 1902, 3091 men worked here but the colliery closed in 1960. Near the end of the path, on your left, is a pit-tub placed here in 1985 to mark the reclamation of the site. Carry on, past the tub, to reach the road. The colliery buildings and railways extended to the other side of this road.
Cross the road with care and turn right. Look across the road at the handsome building used as the Delcor showroom. Grade 2 listed, it was built in the 1830s as the home of the owner of Seaton Delaval Colliery. It later became the pay office for the National Coal Board. This road is called Double Row and was the nucleus around which the fresh settlement of Seaton Delaval grew after the sinking of the new colliery here. ‘Row’ refers to a terrace of miners’ cottages and others in the village included Brick Row, Wheatridge Row (beside the farm of that name), and South Row.
Walk up this pavement to a bus stop opposite the Old School House (the school was just beyond, where five newly-built detached houses now stand). Turn left immediately after the bus shelter into a footpath with a small park to the right. The park was laid out in 1920 as a site for a memorial to the fallen of the Great War. The land was presented by Col. Pollard of the Seaton Delaval Coal Co., a decorated veteran who lived for several years in the west wing of Seaton Delaval Hall. At the top of the steps, turn left and walk along this pavement. This road is part of the North Shields to Morpeth Castle turnpike road. Parts of the road had been in existence for many years but maintenance was poor and the road difficult to travel. So, a turnpike trust was set up by Act of Parliament in 1814 and, as landowners, Edward Delaval and Sir Jacob Astley were among the trustees. Tolls were collected at points along the road to pay for upkeep and the provision of mile posts. On your way, notice the Hastings Arms. The Astley family owned Seaton Delaval Hall and its large estate from 1814 when Sir Jacob Astley inherited them from his uncle, Edward Delaval. Sir Jacob’s son became the 16th Baron Hastings, hence the pub names.
Carry on along the road until you reach the Avenue Head roundabout with an ornate clock at its centre, the modern hub of the village. The Avenue Head farmhouse is just beyond the roundabout.
At the roundabout turn left to return to Seaton Delaval Hall. The walls on either side of the road mark the start of The Avenue. Until the 1930s there were enormous gate piers, which once had gates guarding the top of this private approach to the home of the Delavals. They were removed in the 1930s. The carriageway was laid out in 1719 with four lines of lime trees - two on each side of the road - with thorn hedges protecting the trees from the beasts grazing in the fields to either side. The road is dead straight but undulates: photographs from the 1940s show that it used to be much more level but mine subsidence has created several dips. As you approach the turn to New Hartley on the left, notice a bridleway off to the right. This uses the track of the Avenue Branch of the Blyth and Tyne Railway and there was a level crossing here well into the 1960s, with a signal box on the left. When it is safe to, cross the road. There is another bridleway off to the right. This goes past a row of nine cottages built in 1879-80 to re-house the favoured tenants from half the houses in the old village. The terrace was named after Elizabeth Evelyn Harbord, the wife of the 20th Lord Hastings. The first cottage was a smithy. On the left of The Avenue notice North Avenue Farm. In the 18th century the avenue you are on was referred to as the West Avenue. There was a South Avenue leading the eye to the obelisk south of the Hall and there was also a North Avenue, hence the name of the farm. Make your way round to the front of Seaton Delaval Hall and the end of your walk.
Seaton Delaval Hall main gates, NZ321766
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