National Trust, Seaton Delaval

Image credit: National Trust Images

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Seaton Delaval Hall, with its vertiginous spiral staircases and the striking interior of its central hall, was commissioned from the Baroque architect, John Vanbrugh, by Admiral George Delaval (1668–1723). It was built upon an estate in Delaval possession since Norman times. With its once busy port nearby, under the ownership of Sir John Hussey Delaval (1728–1808), Seaton Delaval played a large part during the industrial revolution. It was also famous for its large-scale elaborate family amateur dramatics by the ‘gay Delavals’ – the children of Captain Francis Delaval (1692–1752) and the heiress Rhoda Apreece. The last legitimate Delaval, Edward, died in 1814, when the house and estates passed to Sir Jacob Henry Astley (1756–1817), 5th Bt, of Melton Constable. It was his descendant, Edward (1912–2007), 22nd Baron Hastings, and his wife, Catherine, who made the house what it is today, restoring the fabric of the building, regenerating the gardens, and reassembling much of the collection, which had hitherto been dispersed to the other Delaval estates. Their son, Delaval (b.1960), 23rd Baron, has worked closely in collaboration with the National Trust, aided by a public appeal, acceptance in lieu of tax, and the Art Fund, to secure Seaton Delaval and its major contents for the nation, with greatly increased public access and involvement in 2009. The collection includes paintings by Arthur Pond (1700–1758), the Delaval children, and local artists, like Thomas Bardwell, John Theodore Heins Senior, an émigré from Germany, whose depiction of 'A Music Party at Melton Constable' is notable, and from Newcastle, the little-known provincial painter, William Bell. These works testify to a certain character and taste of the Delaval and Astley families, rather than just lack of connoisseurship.

The Avenue, Seaton Sluice, Northumberland NE26 4QR England

0191 237 9100

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