Thanks to a massive fundraising effort, and with substantial support from the local community The National Trust acquired Seaton Delaval Hall in 2009. Since then the National Trust have been carrying out critical building repairs to ensure the survival of one of Sir John Vanbrugh’s greatest works.
The £5.3 million ‘The Curtain Rises’ capital works project is the largest and most ambitious National Trust project of recent years. This has been supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and other generous funders and donors. The completion of the repair and conservation works are now setting the scene for the delivery of an exciting and innovative range of interpretation and exhibition installations that will reflect the history of the Delaval family and put the drama back into Northumberland’s most flamboyant ‘party’ house.
The property is Grade I listed and plays host to over 20 individually listed buildings and structures with the spectacular form of the fire damaged mansion at its heart. This project involved conservation and adaptation across the entirety of the historic estate and the range and nature of the works make this project really stand out as an exemplar of conservation practice in the region.
Critical conservation work within the Central Hall included the repair of the fine elliptical cantilevered east and west stairs, mitigation of water ingress to the basement area and reinstatement of the lost basement stone floor. The works have improved accessibility and legibility of the historic environment, offering a wider range of experience across the site.
Throughout the West Wing works were completed to remove the existing unventilated bitumen felt roof, complete timber repairs and install a new insulated and ventilated stainless steel roof. A new conservation heating system was also installed, and masonry and joinery repairs completed. The works included underpinning a section of the building with an innovative injection system that minimised excavation and helped manage any impact on the archaeological significance below ground.
Within the wider Estate, sections of the Walled Garden have been consolidated, and rebuilt where previously unsafe, along with extensive masonry repairs to the Haha that surrounds the Pleasure Garden. The Bastions, which act as viewing platforms at the corners of the main gardens, required significant intervention to prevent potential future collapse through the installation of internal ring beams. Further to this, aspects of the Sea Walk Walls, Orangery and Mausoleum have been restored, stabilised and consolidated as part of the wider site restoration works.
Contemporary interventions were also sensitively placed to support the property with much needed new visitor facilities. This included the new Brewhouse café where a new-build extension was crafted to house a much-needed commercial kitchen and additional seating. Within the East Wing Carriage House a free standing internal pod has been developed to house modern W.C facilities that are accessible to all. This pod construction is built independently of the historic fabric so that it forms a reversible intervention and allows the wider form of the existing building to be read.
Extensive remodelling of both the hard and soft landscape, inspired by historic estate plans included new path networks, planting, trees, estate railings, play area and contemporary interpretation. This has transformed the external landscape and brought the site together to expand the understanding and experience of Seaton Delaval Hall for visitors.