Ups and downs at Seaton Delaval

Admiral George Delaval (c 1667-1723) by Godfrey Kneller. ©NTPL/John Hammond

As part of the National Trust’s work to inventorise the collections at Seaton Delaval Hall, most of the portraits there have recently been photographed, so I can show some here.

The forecourt and north front of Seaton Delaval Hall. ©NTPL/John Hammond

As mentioned in previous posts, Seaton Delaval was acquired by the National Trust in 2009 the help of many individuals, charitable trusts and companies, and also through the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme, and with generous grants from organisations like the Art Fund.

During its history the house has seen a remarkable series of ups and downs, some of which still remain to be fully unravelled. John Goodall has a made a first attempt with his interesting article in the 7 April 2010 issue of Country Life.

The imposing stables at Seaton Delaval. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

It was Admiral George Delaval who commissioned the house from John Vanbrugh in 1720. He died unexpectedly in 1723, however, before the work was finished.

His nephew and heir, Captain Francis Blake Delaval, carried on adding to the house, although it is not clear who oversaw the work and when various things were done.

A partially hypothetical view of the north front by Arthur Pond, 1745. ©NTPL/John Hammond

A pair of paintings by Arthur Pond dated 1745 seem to record what had been built as well as what was being planned at this time. The wings encompassing the forecourt, which include the stables, were in fact completed, but some other elements were not.

Sir Francis Blake Delaval (1727-1791), after Joshua Reynolds, c 1760. ©NTPL/John Hammond

In 1752 Captain Delaval was succeeded by his son Sir Francis, whose spendthrift ways caused further work to the house to be halted.

John Hussey Delaval, first Baron Delaval (1728-1808) in Van Dyck costume, by W. Bell, 1774. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Sir Francis sold Seaton Delaval to his younger brother, John Hussey Delaval, first Baron Delaval. He was a succesful entrepreneur who developed the coal and mineral resources at Seaton. He added the statues to the hall and began work on the wings on the south front, but again they don’t seem to have been completed.

After the death of his brother Edward Hussey Delaval in 1814 the estate devolved onto the Astley family.

Watercolour of the south front by P. Abbott dated 1809, showing the south-west wing in an unfinished state. ©NTPL/John Hammond

In 1822 a fire gutted the house and since that time the central block has been left empty, although it was re-roofed in 1860. During the Second World War the east wing was used to house prisoners of war.

The post-war rose garden at Seaton Delaval. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

In 1946 Edward Astley, 22nd Baron Hastings, moved back into the west wing and over the following years did much to restore the house and the garden. He moved into Seaton Delaval permanently in 1990.

Following his death in 2007 his son, Delaval Astley, 23rd Baron Hastings, sold Seaton Delaval to the National Trust.

8 Responses to “Ups and downs at Seaton Delaval”

  1. littleaugury Says:

    I am as mentioned time and time again-fascinated by portraits. The Hussey portrait reflects his bringing in statues-he is adopting the pose and draping perfectly-though the frippery on the shoes is pure vanity. Following style blindly has always been a ruin of many a man! The pink must also be significant, No? pgt

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes he looks a bit ridiculous to us – almost camp, as you say – but it was quite popular in the eighteenth century to be portrayed in ‘Vandyke’ dress, a sort of pseudo early-seventeenth-century-style costume inspired by the portraits by Sir Anthony Van Dyck. People thought it made them look like figures in an Old Master painting, giving them historical gravitas. Oliver Garnett has just written an interesting little article on the subject in the latest edition of the ABC Bulletin (

  3. littleaugury Says:

    oh dear! yes of course right in time with Gainsborough’s little Blue Boy-but not nearly as darling. I will look forward to the article.thank you Emile

  4. carl Says:

    The stables photo is incredible.

  5. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thank you. Yes it is almost Piranesian.

  6. M Ritson Says:

    The ‘hypothetical’ view of the South front appears to be the North front!

  7. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    You are quite right – I am getting my fronts back to front! I will correct that.

  8. M Ritson Says:

    I know the feeling – I also know the Hall!!

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