Despite having declared that its portfolio of stately homes was complete, in 2008 the National Trust was presented with an opportunity too good to miss; to purchase Seaton Delaval Hall. With half of the funds required available from the trusts reserves, they had just six months to raise the remaining £6.3m, a huge sum of money for a building that was an empty shell, with an interior that had been exposed to the elements for years as a result of a major fire. Even the wing that had been occupied by Baron Hastings, whose death duties had forced the sale, was empty for 160 years before he moved in.
So why all the fuss?
The radical playwright and architect (strange combination) Sir John Vanbrugh is the answer. The man designer of Castle Howard and Blenheim Palace was also responsible for Seaton Delaval Hall, and indeed it was his last great project, dying before the building was complete.
Open to the public for nearly four years, the property is rich in photographic possibilities, and whilst I’ve been here before, the Trusts restoration work means that there is always something different to consider.
The main hallway is the most stark, but the exposed brick and plaster work gives it a unique charm, as do the statues that bear the scars of fire, weather and even air rifle target practice. These are due for examination and restoration this year, but are currently “bandaged” with wire and plastic sheeting to hold them in place.
The Hall is a Smörgåsbord of shadows and textures, with light pouring in from open doorways and windows at several levels.
An extensive cellar has limited appeal, but is reached at either side of the Hall by magnificent spiral staircases. I could (and have) spend hours working to capture interesting shots here. Maybe its just me.
The stable block is just screaming for an interestingly lit fashion shoot,
and there are photogenic details aplenty.
There are formal gardens,
but Mother Nature is not to be outdone by Vanbrugh and provides some interesting elements of her own.
It doesn’t matter that the restoration work won’t be completed in my lifetime, it remains an impressive edifice. A giant laid low that will slowly rise again.