Keys to the Past

Local History

Seaton Delaval (Northumberland)

Seaton Delaval Hall. Photo by Northumberland County Council.
Seaton Delaval Hall. Photo by Northumberland County Council.

Seaton Delaval lies in south-east Northumberland, close to the North Sea coast.

The earliest remains are two Neolithic stone axes from Seghill and north-east of Holywell. Similar finds have been made all along the coastal plain of south and mid-Northumberland and are probably indicators of tree clearance in the area. A more mysterious prehistoric find is a cup marked stone in a late prehistoric settlement at Seaton Delaval; it is unknown how the slab reached this site, for it is some distance from the main areas where these have been recorded in the uplands. It may be associated with a possible causewayed enclosure north of Lookout Farm.

A Bronze Age cist at Seghill is the oldest burial in the area. Inside the cist was an even older object, a Neolithic axe. An earth or stone mound may have marked the burial place, but no trace survives.

The earliest settlements are probably Iron Age or Roman period enclosures, all discovered by aerial photography. They are roughly rectangular in plan and had a ditch and slight bank around the outside. Inside, there would have been circular huts with yards for animals. These small farmsteads have been found at Seghill, Seaton Delaval and Seghill Moor House. Others have now been built over, such as at Seghill.

In medieval times there were villages at Seaton Delaval, and possibly Seghill and Lysdon. During the wars with Scotland, there was a need for defences and a number of tower houses were built to protect people from raids. The tower at Seaton Delaval was demolished long ago and replaced by Seaton Delaval Hall, but the vaulted basement of Seghill Tower survives in the cellars of an inn. One of the few other medieval buildings to remain is the Church of Our Lady. The Delaval family owned much of the land here. Their reforming spirit in industrial developments was matched by their taste for practical jokes and amusements.

Typical of the developments in this period was the building of Seaton Delaval Hall designed by Sir John Vanbrugh. The whole estate has many important buildings, including a mausoleum, Starlight Castle, an obelisk and follies, as well as formal and kitchen gardens. The medieval village at Seaton Delaval was removed from the immediate area of the Hall when the grounds were laid out and the Church of Our Lady was effectively used as a private chapel by the Delavals.



In the 18th and 19th centuries, farming was developing and the effects of the Agricultural Revolution can be seen in the new farms built at Lookout Farm and Seaton Village. The main industrial enterprises of the area were based on the coal and glass industries with many based around the harbour at Seaton Sluice. Further inland, collieries were established at Seaton Delaval Colliery, Seghill Colliery and West Holywell Colliery. Some of the coal was turned into coke at Seghill. Clays were also extracted at a brickfield south-west of Seaton Delaval. Such underground activities were not without their dangers and New Hartley Colliery was the scene of a disaster where over 200 people were killed. Almshouses were built at New Hartley to commemorate the disaster.

Reference number:N13845

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Please note that this information has been compiled from a number of different sources. Durham County Council and Northumberland County Council can accept no responsibility for any inaccuracy contained therein. If you wish to use/copy any of the images, please ensure that you read the Copyright information provided.