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£3.7m lottery boost for John Vanbrugh hall restoration

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A Mosedale Gillatt project to restore Northumberland ‘party’ house Seaton Delaval Hall has received a £3.7 million boost from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)

The HLF has awarded the sum to the National Trust to help repair and conserve the Baroque property, which was built by John Vanbrugh, the architect behind Blenheim Palace.

The hall is the former home of the theatrical Delaval family, who used it to host lavish costume balls and stage spectacular productions and elaborate practical jokes. It fell into disrepair following fire damage in 1822. 

The National Trust acquired the property, which is north of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 2009. Seven years later, it sought an architect for a £500,000 contract to conserve and upgrade the mansion, which celebrates its tricentenary this year, and selected Mosedale Gillatt Architects in September 2016. 

The National Trust is putting £3 million towards the project, which will see the installation of a new basement floor, a new roof for the west wing and interpretation facilities to tell the stories of the Delaval family. Planned improvements include a café in an old brewhouse, toilets and a new woodland play area. 

The lottery funding will allow work to start this summer but the trust needs to raise a further £724,000 to secure every element of the project, which it expects to complete by 2021.

Lead architect Jenny Gillatt, a specialist conservation architect, said it had been ‘a long road’ to get to this point as much survey work was needed along with ‘forensic investigation’ into why certain issues were occurring.

She added: ‘One of the things that makes the project so interesting is the variety across the site because we are dealing with historic parkland as well.’ The site includes 1.6km of ha-ha and bastions. 

As well as work on the hall’s west wing, the practice is also helping restore structures including a Grade II*-listed ‘magical and romantic’ semi-derelict mausoleum dating from the early 1700s.

Gillatt said: ‘There are elements of [the project] all over the estate but when you bring them all together it’s almost a synergy. The sum of the parts is greater than the whole.’

HLF chief executive Ros Kerslake said: ‘This final architectural work of Sir John Vanbrugh, Seaton Delaval Hall, is a particularly fine example of Baroque architecture in England, with an equally rare and important designed landscape. Plans to create a more welcoming experience for visitors, including highlighting the hall’s reputation for theatrics and parties and involving local students in the restoration, make it thoroughly deserving of National Lottery support.’

Emma Thomas, general manager for the National Trust at Seaton Delaval Hall, said: ‘Seaton Delaval Hall is an architectural gem, one of Vanbrugh’s greatest works and is much loved by many in the local community and across the country. However, time and the elements have really taken their toll on this historic house.

‘While we’re carrying out this important work, we’ll be looking at how we can bring the drama of the Delaval family alive for every visitor. We’ll be working with community groups, artists, students and volunteers to develop an experience befitting this spectacular place.’ 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Jenny, Surely the whole is greater than the sum of the parts?!

    Good luck with the whole job, and getting the additional £724K?

    Will be worth travelling north of Newcastle when it’s all don? Amazing that such an important house and grounds should have been allowed to decay so far? Hopefully the AJ will cover every stage and part as they complete?

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