Walk 3 – Holywell Dene and Old Hartley
A 5-mile (8km) self-guided walk taking in the points of interest around Holywell Dene and Old Hartley, including the history of the local area, the Delaval family, and Seaton Delaval Hall.
Seaton Delaval Hall main gates, grid ref: NZ321766
Leave Seaton Delaval Hall by the main gates, turn left on the footpath and follow the estate wall around the bend as far as the gates to the grounds of the Church of Our Lady and its secluded graveyard. Retrace your steps back to the main road and turn left to walk up the Avenue towards Seaton Delaval.
Church of Our Lady
The Church of Our Lady was built by the Normans, and is more than 1,000 years old.
Turn left at the first junction (signposted 'Public Bridleway' 'Holywell Dene') into Harbord Terrace. Go to the lane end, round the metal gate, and straight ahead between fields then through a kissing gate and onwards. To the left you can see the obelisk which is a landscape feature of the hall's pleasure grounds and would be a focal point for the Delavals and their guests to walk to when the weather was fine (today it's on private farmland and is not accessible). The fields are called after the Dairy House Farm and Pit, which were in the hummocky area with several gorse bushes just before the next metal gate with a wooden bypass. Carry straight on along the bridleway (signpost on right) to reach the wooded Holywell Dene.
Harbord Terrace, named after Elizabeth Evelyn Harbord the wife of the 20th Lord Hastings, was built in the late 19th century for estate workers; the first cottage was a smithy.
Go through the gate and turn left on to the bridleway. After a short distance on the opposite side of the dene was the site of the Hartley Engine House, birthplace in 1756 of Willie Carr, the 'Hartley Samson'. Walk past Hartley West Farm on your left. Stay on the main path. In the vegetation to the left is a fragment of wall, part of Hartley Mill. When you reach the lower path bear left and ignore the first path to the right. At the fork in the path, either go left then through the gate and turn right down the farm road, or go right down the steps, through the squeeze style to walk beside the burn and across a grassy area to the stile on the same farm road. Cross the stone bridge and follow the tarmac road to reach Hartley Lane. Turn left and follow the road passing, on your right, the remains of the bridge abutments of the 1914 railway line (never used) from Monkseaton to Seaton Sluice, to reach the roundabout on the main road.
Willie Carr was reputed to be the strongest man in England. He followed in his father’s footsteps and became a blacksmith. At the age of 17, Willie stood 6 foot 4 inches tall [193 cm] and weighted 18 stone [114kg]. By the age of 30 he was 24 stone [152 kg] and could lift weights of seven or eight hundredweights. Willie was very popular with gentry and nobility and was a regular visitor to Seaton Delaval Hall, where he entertained Lord Delaval and guests with feats of strength. On one occasion, Big Ben, a famous bare-fisted fighter, was a visitor to the hall and Lord Delaval arranged for Ben and Willie to fight. When the pair shook hands, Willie squeezed so hard that blood oozed from Ben’s finger tips. Ben then refused to go ahead with the fight, saying he would rather be kicked by a horse than take a blow from such a hand.
Carefully go straight across the main road to reach the mid 18th-century Delaval Arms. Keeping the Delaval Arms on your left, proceed straight ahead. As you continue you pass what was Old Hartley's village green. Go down the road to the car park on the cliff edge.
The Delaval Arms, an old coaching inn, was originally situated in the centre of Old Hartley, a thriving community of fishermen and miners, 200 years ago. Outside the pub stands the remnant of the Blue Stone, a historic boundary marker which Willie Carr - the “Hartley Samson” - is reputed to have lifted.
Turn left along the cliff-top footpath with the sea to your right. Just past the caravan site notice Fort House. Walk around Crag Point and arc right on to the cliff top path. In the bay is a sandstone pinnacle known as Charlie's Garden. It is named after the man who cultivated the top before the sea eroded the rocks joining it to the land. It is not a sea stack but the result of 19th-century quarrying. Turn right along Collywell Bay Road and when the road curves left go straight on along West Terrace with the First World War Memorial Garden on your left; in there are a war memorial and toilets. At the end of West Terrace is the 18th-century Kings Arms pub. Opposite it find the iron pivot of an earlier swivelling footbridge which spanned The Cut; the pivot is set onto the base of the Harbour Master’s shelter.
Fort House and The Cut at Seaton Sluice harbour
Fort House was a former officer's quarters and range-finding post of WWI Roberts Battery, one of two 'Tyne Turrets' protecting the river Tyne approaches. Each turret was equipped with a twin 12 inch (304mm) turret from the battleship HMS Illustrious. The Cut was made by John and Thomas Delaval between 1761- 1764 and gave improved access for ships to the old harbour and also created the New Harbour, a wet/ dry dock, to allow the loading of cargo at all states of the tide and weather. This also created Rocky Island. The isolated sandstone pinnacle is known as Charlie’s Garden, named after the person who cultivated the top of it before the sea finally eroded the rocks between it and the mainland. It is not a sea stack but the result of 19th-century quarrying.
Cross the footbridge if you'd like to explore Rocky Island. Retrace your steps to the old bridge pivot. Ahead of you across the Memorial Garden is the Waterford Arms. Turn right down stairs to the harbour, signposted Holywell Dene. Over the harbour is Sandy Island, created by dumping ballast from ships.
Rocky Island, Waterford Arms and Sandy Island
This area was once known as 'The Pans' due to salt-making carried out there from at least 1236. Hartley Pans was an early name for Seaton Sluice, the port being a natural inlet until 1660 when Sir Ralph Delaval built a stone pier and added a battery of three cannons to protect the entrance. Now Rocky Island is uninhabited except for two former coastguard cottages and the 1880 Volunteer Life-Saving Watch House, now a museum. The Waterford Arms is named after Susan, granddaughter of Lord Delaval and wife of the Marquis of Waterford. Next door is the Octagon built in 18th century as His Majesty’s Revenue Office; it was later the Copperas House, a Public Reading Room and a house. Sandy Island is a huge hill formed from the ballast unloaded from the ships over the centuries. During the Napoleonic Wars a blockhouse was built to protect the harbour mouth. It is difficult to imagine that in the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries Seaton Sluice was a major exporter of coal, salt and glass bottles. In 1777, the following were exported: 80,000 tons of coal, 300 tons of salt and 1.75 million glass bottles.
Walk along the side of the harbour, turn to cross the small metal bridge. Then turn left and down a short flight of steps to pass under the road bridge and continue half right to reach the bungalows on Seaburn Grove. Bear right in front of the bungalows.
At the roundabout turn left and stay on the footpath all the way back to Seaton Delaval Hall. As you climb, notice the old wall on your left topped by slag, which is a waste product of glass making. Beyond the wall lay Lord Delaval's deer park, and above that his hare park. On your right, notice Lookout Farmhouse built in 1721 and used as a lookout post in time of war. Opposite it you may be able to glimpse the Mausoleum. Further on you may also see, over the wall, the Orangery and the houses previously used by the garden employees. You will then reach your original starting point at the main gates of the Hall.
The Mausoleum was built in 1776 by Sir John Hussey Delaval for his son John, who died in 1775 aged 19. The Mausoleum was never consecrated and John is buried at Doddington, Lincolnshire.
Seaton Delaval Hall main gates, grid ref: NZ321766
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