The MadGang Visit Seaton Delaval Hall

When I first moved to Northumbria, twenty years ago, I worked as a curate in a parish that you could easily see from Seaton Delaval Hall. At that time it was still in private hands. In 2008, wonderfully exhorbitant death duties forced the sale of the estate and the National Trust managed to get the money raised to buy it. They have been working flat out ever since to bring the dilapidated old pile back to life and the results of their endeavour are spectacular. A couple of weekends back we visited the house and gardens for the first time and had a lovely afternoon there in the pleasantly warm, English summer sunshine. It was sad that we could not get into the church due to health and safety reasons (see below) as I had once celebrated communion there, which I remember to have been a really cool experience.

Seaton Delaval Hall is a Grade I listed country house in Northumberland, England. It is near the coast just north of Newcastle upon Tyne. Located between Seaton Sluice and Seaton Delaval, it was designed by Sir John Vanbrugh in 1718 for Admiral George Delaval and is now owned by the National Trust. Since completion of the house in 1728, it has had an unfortunate history. Neither architect nor patron lived to see its completion; it then passed through a succession of heirs, being lived in only intermittently. Most damagingly of all, in 1822 the central block was gutted by fire, and has remained an empty shell ever since.

The little, nine hundred year old Church of Our Lady, tucked away behind Seaton Delaval Hall, has several features which make it a rarity, perhaps unique. Despite its age (it was built by Hubert de Laval and dedicated in 1102 by Bishop Flambard, of Durham), it has only been a parish church since 1891. Before that it was a private chapel for nearly eight hundred years. Its chancel, choir and nave are separated by superb Norman arches and to have two in a building of this size is very unusual. A blocked up window and stonework in the north wall of the nave and the top section of the font suggest pre-Norman origins but the nave also has a classical eighteenth century ceiling. So we have an Anglo-Saxon/Norman church with a Georgian ceiling! Unfortunately, the church is not open at present as the building is subsiding due to some idiot in the past allowing the digging of graves into the soak away. The church members have applied for a one hundred thousand pound National Lottery grant which they hope will cover enough work to be carried out to, at least, allow the church to be opened for worship and visitors again.

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