IT’S ours! The National Trust will announce today that Seaton Delaval Hall has been saved for the North East and the nation.
A campaign – championed from the off by The Journal – was launched to acquire the 18th century hall in south east Northumberland, with its gardens and over 400 acres of surrounding land.
Now, after 18 months of fundraising and activities involving 30,000 people – mostly from the region – the masterpiece by architect Sir John Vanbrugh and its “green lung” surrounds will open to visitors from May 1 next year.
The hall is sited in an area of Northumberland that has missed out in the past on major visitor attractions and is on the doorstep of the Tyneside conurbation.
It became available after the deaths in 2007 of Lord and Lady Hastings, who lived in the west wing. The property passed to their son, Lord Hastings, who farms in Norfolk.
Today, culture minister Margaret Hodge will join Fiona Reynolds, director-general of the National Trust, people from the local community and many other supporters and well-wishers in a celebration at Seaton Delaval Hall.
Local fundraisers from south east Northumberland alone raised £70,000 for the campaign.
David Ronn, regional director for the National Trust, said that behind the success of the appeal was a phenomenal public response which raised over £3m.
£1m came from One North East, and £100,000 each from Northumberland County Council and the Art Fund.
The final piece in the jigsaw was the hall, its gardens and the majority of the contents of Seaton Delaval being accepted by the Government in lieu of inheritance tax and gifted to the National Trust through the Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) scheme. The process allows people to offer property of cultural and historic importance to the nation in satisfaction of an inheritance tax bill.
Following the death of his parents, Lord Hastings had such a bill, and applied to the Government to settle it by offering to the nation a significant part of the Seaton Delaval Hall estate and many of the contents of the hall. The acceptance satisfies £4,884,000 of tax.
The money raised by the appeal will be used to buy some of the land around the hall and pay for the extensive works needed to open it to the public.
The National Trust trustees have also pledged £6.9m to create an endowment fund for Seaton Delaval Hall
Mr Ronn said: “The enthusiasm and generosity of people in the North East, especially those local to Seaton Delaval Hall, has been especially heartening through hundreds of fundraising events and sponsored activities.
“People raised money in some very ingenious ways. We’ve seen everything from sponsored clog-dancing, to a cow being auctioned on our behalf and a teenage girl giving up her mobile phone for a week, then donating the money she saved on calls and texts.
“We’re also indebted to a whole host of local pubs, cafés and shops, schools, churches and community groups for promoting our collection tins or organising events.”
Margaret Hodge said: “Seaton Delaval Hall is a masterpiece of 18th Century architecture and I am delighted that it has been saved thanks to the Government’s AIL scheme and fantastic campaigning and fund raising. ”
Fiona Reynolds said: “This is a wonderful Christmas present for the nation.
“It has been an incredible journey and we have been thrilled by the goodwill and support we’ve received from so many people.
“From the start of the campaign we’ve worked together with the public – and especially the local community – to shape Seaton Delaval Hall’s future and decide how the building, gardens and grounds can best be used for the benefit of everyone.
“I pay a warm tribute to Lord Hastings for giving us the time to put this package together and in particular to his parents whose love of the hall, gardens and estate ensured survival into the 21st Century.
“We also thank everyone who has helped us – from the highest echelons of Government, to the children in the local school.”
Jonathan Scott, chairman of the AIL Panel, said: “The importance of Seaton Delaval Hall, a masterpiece of English Baroque architecture, was immediately apparent when the AIL panel visited the property. This is a major heritage attraction for the North East and will be a significant boost to the tourism of the area. For the first time, all of the property will be accessible to visitors.”
The Journal’s role praised
A SPECIAL tribute was paid to The Journal for our backing of the Seaton Delaval Hall campaign.
David Ronn, regional director for the National Trust said: "The Journal has been a fantastic partner from day one in our campaign to save Seaton Delaval Hall and has been behind us all the way.
"I’d really like to give a special thanks to Journal staff and readers for all of their support.
"I have no doubt that by sharing the news of the fundraising campaign and the exciting opportunities that Seaton Delaval Hall has to offer the region, The Journal has helped us to reach our fundraising target. We truly hope that this partnership will continue in the future and that the National Trust can work together with The Journal to bring news of what’s happening at Seaton Delaval Hall to the people of the North East."
How the hall was won
July 3: Launch of the Save Seaton Delaval Hall appeal
Sept 12 : Heritage Open Day. The National Trust hosted over 1,000 people at the hall with £2,500 raised, including a single donation of £500.
Sept 28: Holywell Dene Welly Walks.
A local resident offered guided walks around the beauty spot next to the Seaton Delaval Hall estate, raising over £400 .
October 5: Art Auction. A Newcastle artist approached the National Trust to organise an auction. Over 100 North East artists donated their work £15,000 was raised .
Oct 11: Performances of the musical Those Delavals, about the life of the hall’s aristocratic family in the 18th Century, were held in the central hall with the cast of the Tynemouth Priory Theatre contributing their time to raise £1,500 .
Oct 12: Family Fun Day. This was the biggest event that Seaton Delaval Hall has ever seen with 3,000 local people coming to support the fundraising cause, and for many, visit the hall for the first time. £10,000 raised.
Oct 12: Souter Lighthouse to Seaton Delaval Hall family cycle ride. Over 80 people pedaled from Souter Lighthouse. More than £1,500 raised.
Oct 20: Hug the Hall event, with 750 children and families on a sponsored walk from six local schools to circle the hall as part of a big hug, followed by forming a huge heart in the central courtyard. £1,500 raised.
Oct 26: Fundraising Sunday: Scouts sponsored walk and Jazz in the Afternoon. Over 50 Scouts braved blustery weather for the walk and over 90 people enjoyed a jazz concert and auction at the Crescent Club in Cullercoats, raising over £720.
Oct 28: Guerrilla Lighting at the hall. Launching the Northumberland in Lights festival, the hall was illuminated with architectural lighting and a special display publicising the text donations number. £400 raised.
Nov 6: Launch of Delaval Ale.
The Wylam Brewery from the Tyne Valley designed a special edition ale.
Nov 21: The Peter Donegan Band. Peter, son of skiffle king Lonnie Donegan, and the band staged a concert in Seaton Delaval.
Nov 30: Songs of Praise. Local churches and chapels enjoyed the hall’s fantastic acoustics and join forces to support the appeal with an Advent service and seasonal hymns.
Dec 7: Seaton Delaval Hall Community Christmas Party - 1,500 children and their parents enjoyed the hall decked in festive splendour.
Dec 30: The National Trust joined forces with Blyth Spartans when they played Blackburn in the FA Cup. Seaton Delaval Hall hosted a press conference and photo shoot.
Jan 12: Hall appeal hits £2m.
Feb 17: An online eBay auction of unique National Trust experiences raised £2,630.
March 1: Pupils from St Benet Biscop School in Bedlington designed and sold Seaton Delaval Hall mugs as part of a Young Enterprise project and donated all their profits to the appeal.
March 10: Newcastle United keeper Steve Harper signed a glass sculpture of himself for auction.
June 25: Newcastle Racecourse donated a percentage of ticket sales from their Seaton Delaval Trophy Day.
Sept 12: £1m boost from One North East and Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall visit Seaton Delaval Hall to support the final push for donations.
Dec 17: The campaign’s victory is announced.
Page 4 - Big tasks and even bigger opportunity >>
Big tasks and even bigger opportunity
A DAZZLING range of opportunities is offered by Seaton Delaval Hall, its gardens and surrounding land, believes new property manager Catherine Atkinson.
The shell of the main central hall has been empty since a major fire in 1822.
But that makes the hall the only National Trust property with an inside, flexible space for all kinds of events and functions.
Catherine said: “I remember walking into it for the first time and thinking ‘wow, this is fantastic.’”
Then there are the perfectly preserved stone stables, with the 18th Century horses’s names still in place above their stalls. The west wing, where Lord and Lady Hastings lived, will lend itself to guided tours. The east wing was used to house German prisoners of war and for the last 50 years has served as a storage facility for the Hastings family.
Catherine said: “There is everything from boarding school trunks and paintings to fire extinguishers with instructions in German.”
The first task will be to make the east wing safe. The hall’s parterre gardens will be maintained in keeping with their creator Lady Hastings’s vision. A network of walks are available across the surrounding land.
Major jobs will now include re-wiring the hall and tackling parking provision.
“We will also plan our use of space and interpretation to capture all the aspects of life at Seaton Delaval,” said Catherine.
This will include the colourful history and characters of the Delaval family and the farming and former mining and glass industries of the area.
The equivalent of 14 jobs will be created by the opening of the hall on May 1.
Around 40,000 visitors are expected in the first year, rising by 10,000 in each successive year.
In the first year, the property will be open on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays, with guided tours by appointment on other days.
A main aim is to continue the community involvement which played such a key role during the campaign.
A lifetime to prepare for job of a lifetime
IT doesn’t get much better, it seems, than being queen of the castle.
But today for Catherine Atkinson it has.
Catherine is property manager for the National Trust’s Lindisfarne Castle, one of the most scenically beautiful and historic parts of the Northumberland coast.
Now she will also be in charge at Seaton Delaval Hall.
"It’s brilliant and I can’t wait to put the vision for Seaton Delaval into action," she said.
Catherine grew up in Durham City, where her father was a canon at the cathedral.
She began her working life as a student nurse at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle and went on to study midwifery. Eventually she became an operating theatre sister in a nursing career spanning 17 years.
She lives in Warkworth in Northumberland with her husband of 40 years, Peter Atkinson, who retired six years ago as governor of Acklington Prison.
In their earlier years Peter’s work involved moving around the country which made it difficult for Catherine to progress her nursing career. So she became a freelance textile designer.
She took a textile design course at Harrogate School of Art and continued her studies at Leeds University.
Catherine specialised in furnishing fabrics and worked mainly with companies in the United States and Germany.
Later she lectured in textiles and then moved on to academic reviews of higher education establishments.
Ten years ago she and Peter moved back to the North East, with Catherine becoming an non executive director with the Northumberland Health Authority.
"But my life had become about writing reports and sitting in meetings," she said.
Then, on a leisure visit with friends to Lindisfarne castle, she heard by chance that there could be a future vacancy.
"I had thought about working in the charitable sector," she said.
"I reckoned that it would be nice to work in a place where you welcomed people who wanted to be there."
The Lindisfarne job came up and Catherine landed it six years ago.
"I have loved every minute of it," she said. "Now there is Seaton Delaval Hall and I am sure there will be challenges down the line in a five-year programme to get the vision for the site up and running."