Seaton Sluice and Blyth in Troublesome Times
Seaton Delaval was granted to the Delaval family in the late 11th century. Though the Hall and some of the surrounding land were acquired by the National Trust in December 2009, most of the estate remains in the ownership of their descendant, Lord Hastings: that is over 900 years in one family. During those 900 years the area was threatened by Scottish incursions, civil conflicts and wars against the Dutch, French and German nations. The Hall and estate played their parts in protecting the area. One of the earliest records of a building here is of a defensive ‘tower’.
This is a circular walk of about 6 ½ miles, or 3 ½ hours at a moderate pace and takes in both coast and countryside. The paths can get muddy so stout footwear is needed. There are public toilets at Seaton Sluice and Blyth.
Seaton Delaval Hall main gates, grid ref. NZ321766. On days when the Hall is closed, the walk can be started at Seaton Sluice or South Beach car parks.
Towards the end of the 18th century, with war raging against France, an invasion from the sea was feared. Lord Delaval raised the Seaton Delaval Associated Corps of Volunteer Infantry. The members were not paid and they had no government funding so their equipment and training came from Lord Delaval. The men were organised into three divisions depending on their height: 5 feet 6 inches & under (Light division), 5 ft 6 in. to 5 ft 7¾ in., and 5ft 8in and over. In 1800, Lord Delaval’s agent, the 5 ft 11 ¼ in. tall Captain-Commandant John Bryers, was in command. The next year he had ‘3 Guns for Volunteers 4 bayonets’ in his office at the Hall. Lord Delaval also had his staff make ‘A Return of the Several Persons within the Township of Seaton Delaval & Parish of Earsdon who from Age, Infirmity, or any Other Cause are to be removed in Case of Invasion with the number of the Ticket and Cart in which they are to be removed, with the Station and Number of Each Cart’. Sadly the document doesn’t tell us whither the aged and infirm would be carried for safety. Leave the grounds by the main gate and turn right to head down the hill towards Seaton Sluice. As you round the first bend notice the slag capping on the wall to your right, which was built in the 18th century to enclose a hare park. Slag is a waste product from industrial furnaces, such as glass works or iron smelters. During World War I, the hare park was used as a hutted military camp.
The Hall and its grounds were requisitioned for military use in both World Wars. Older local residents remember the German prisoners of war who worked on the farms and were housed in the Hall for some years during and after World War II.
A little further on, Lookout Farm is on your left. The house was built in 1720 to house James Mewburn who combined farming with acting as agent for first Admiral George and then Captain Francis Blake Delaval. A number of his letters and accounts survive giving an insight into the building of the present Seaton Delaval Hall. There was once a gun loop in the farm wall, and in a nearby field is a gun emplacement disguised as a sheep fold.
Almost opposite the farmhouse, the hare park ends and the deer park begins. The hare and deer park walls were built around the same time as the mausoleum, which is hidden in the trees for much of the year. Now a ruin, the mausoleum was built to house the remains of Sir John (later Lord) Delaval’s son, John, who died aged 19 in 1775. The building was never consecrated, so no bodies have ever been laid to rest there. Young John remains, along with his sisters Rhoda and Sophia, in his ‘temporary’ grave in Doddington Church in Lincolnshire.
Towards the bottom of the hill, look out for an opening in the wall to your right. Go through the gap into the Parkfield Estate, so called because it was built within the deer park. Turn left. Follow the pavement round, turn left then right and left again. Nearly opposite, at the T-junction, there is a footpath between the bungalows.
At the far end of the path, go right towards the Seaton Sluice Upper Harbour and the Seaton Burn. At low tide, off the end of the slipway you may be able to see the remains of a footbridge that once crossed the burn. The Royal Northumberland Bottle Works stood on the high ground on the opposite bank until late in the 19th century. The glass industry was established in Seaton Sluice by Thomas Delaval in the 1760s. At its peak, it was said to have been the largest bottle works in the country. Houses now occupy the site. Follow the stream under the modern road bridge. By the stone abutments to the two lower, earlier road bridges, with the tide at full ebb you may be able to see the remains of the wooden sluice that gave Seaton Sluice its name.
In the late 17th century, Sir Ralph Delaval made various improvements to the harbour so he could ship out the coal and salt produced on the estate. He protected his port from attack by the French or the Dutch by providing a gun battery on the seaward side of what is now called Rocky Island. The guns were used in anger at least once, in 1667. A small cargo vessel ran to Seaton Sluice when it was chased by a Dutch privateer and Sir Ralph fired warning shots at the privateer as well as sending out two boats to escort the vessel in.
At the lower harbour, turn sharp left then climb the steps up to the main road. Follow the pavement to the right (northwards). The hillock to your right is called Sandy Island and was formed over decades by ships casting their ballast after they entered harbour to load cargoes. Carry on along the pavement to the Eve Black Way. This walk follows the full length of the path. (At low or medium tide you can walk along the beach instead. It is 3km long and about 2/3 of the way along you can see the tip of the silo at Gloucester Lodge farm (6). You rejoin the route when you reach the sea wall and Blyth Battery at 8. Along the beach there are several concrete blocks, each about 1m3, used on large stretches of the Northumberland coast to impede invading tanks.)
The Eve Black Way, approximately 2 miles long, was named after Evelyn Ann Black (1931-2006), Mayor of Blyth Valley 1980-81. She campaigned for the construction of this path in 2000 and it was named in commemoration of her in 2007.
En route you will see Gloucester Lodge Farm, once probably called East Lysdon Farm. The name changed in 1795 when there was a vast military review on Blyth Links. It was overseen by the Duke of Gloucester, who is said to have used the farm as his headquarters, so it was renamed in his honour. During the review, Lord Delaval put on several lavish dinners at Seaton Delaval Hall to entertain the senior officers, including the Royal Duke. The farm house looks more modern, but there are still buildings with eighteenth century ‘tumbled in’ brickwork.
The various structures in the field across the road from Gloucester Lodge Farm are the remains of a Second World War anti-aircraft battery, manned at one stage by American troops. (Towards the end of your walk you will pass Lysdon Farm (step 16), which is 1 mile west of here. Should you wish to shorten this walk, there is a bridleway from here directly to Lysdon Farm: cross at the pedestrian crossing and go through the gate to follow the track indicated by the bridleway fingerpost).
Otherwise, continue on the Eve Black Way. The Ghost Riders sculpture commemorates three cyclists who were killed in an accident on the dual carriageway nearby while out riding with four friends.
The Eve Black Way ends at Blyth Battery, built to defend the major coal transport hub and warship building yards at Blyth. During the summer, volunteers open the buildings to the public. Two colours of paint have been used to distinguish between structures built in World War I (grey) and World War II (white).
Go towards the sea then left when you reach the promenade to walk to the ship-shaped Dave Stephens Centre, an amenity building named after a former leader of Blyth Valley Council.
Commemorated on the wall of the centre are eight private soldiers and the Lieutenant who organised the attempt to rescue them when they got into difficulties in the sea. They were all members of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, and they drowned here in August 1917.
From the Dave Stephens Centre, cross the car park and walk between the garage and the farm buildings to reach the road.Cross the dual carriageway with great care and go right towards the roundabout where you need to turn left into South Newsham Road. The Delaval family were Normans who supported Duke William’s invasion at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. For their continuing loyalty to the new royal family they were granted parcels of land in Northumberland, including Newsham with Seaton Delaval, Dissington and Callerton. As you walk down the pavement look across the fields on your left to see Seaton Delaval Hall silhouetted on the horizon.
The walk now crosses farm land so please keep livestock safe by keeping dogs on leads and fastening gates securely. Shortly after the second bus shelter on the left, turn left down the drive to South Farm (marked by a public footpath fingerpost) and keep right as the drive forks. Through the gate, the public footpath turns right between the fence and the farm buildings, then left beside the house and left again with the route marked by yellow arrows. Go right, in front of the wooden building and to the right of the cottage and then right again, to leave the farmstead. You reach a metal gate with a wooden pedestrian gate to the left of it with a yellow arrow indicating a path between a fence and a hedge. At the end of the fence, join the path going left and follow the yellow footpath arrow straight ahead down the left-hand side of the field to a sign, on your left, about Meggie’s Burn Reservoir.
In 1850 this small reservoir was part of a water works, and has since been part of a caravan site, but is now used by an angling club.
Go up the slope behind the sign and walk the perimeter path to see the reservoir and the views from its far side of the sea and Gloucester Lodge Farm. Back at the bottom of the slope leave the sign at your back to walk on the poorly-defined path along the edge of the field with the hedge on your left. (If you prefer not to go up the slope to see the reservoir, turn right when you reach the sign). When the hedge ends, pause to notice the railway line on the opposite side of the next field. This is one of few remaining of the myriad mineral lines that once criss-crossed the Northumberland coalfield. Turn left following the yellow footpath arrow down the edge of the field to a kissing gate into trees. Carry on straight ahead to another kissing gate on the far edge of the plantation. Through that gate, head down the fence to the next one at the far side of the field, and after that head for the metal gate across the field.
You have arrived at Lysdon Farm where the mineral line is carried over a sturdy stone bridge. Turn left to go round the end of the stone wall and the cart shed and head down the main drive of the farm. (Walkers who chose the short cut from Gloucester Lodge Farm should turn left as they arrive at Lysdon Farm). This takes you to a metal gate by a pair of houses: use the stile (indicated by a blue arrow) to pass the front of the houses and follow the drive as it bends to the right. Continue to Red House Farm where you keep left on the farm road to pass the buildings and continue down the drive to the main road. Walk ahead on the pavement.
As you approach the T-junction, look into the trees to your left for a plinth. This is what remains of an obelisk erected to mark the place where, in 1723, Admiral George Delaval fell to his death while out riding. The needle was removed in the 1930s, when this area was undermined to win coal and it was feared it would fall over. Turn left and, when it is safe to do so, cross the road. This busy, dead-straight road was once the private drive to Seaton Delaval Hall. Until the late 1930s the massive stone gate piers still stood at Avenuehead in the modern Seaton Delaval village. Admiral George laid out his avenue in 1719, with two rows of lime trees down each side of the carriageway enclosed by thorn hedges to protect the young trees from livestock. Follow the pavement round to the front of Seaton Delaval Hall with gates designed in the 1960s by the Estate Manager, Mr Fred Hetherington.
Seaton Delaval Hall main gates
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