THE colourful characters who made history at a Northumberland stately home are to be brought back to life in a new research project.
The National Trust has been awarded a grant of £24,400 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the venture at its Seaton Delaval Hall property.
Entitled the Delaval Lives project, it will involve the trust working with communities to investigate the lives of people who lived and worked at the hall and learn to share their stories in a new way.
This will see people participating in costume- making workshops led by North East designer Paul Shriek.
Already 50 people have attended an initial meeting to discuss how 18th Century-style costumes will be created, with a 21st Century touch in terms of colours and materials. The creations will be showcased in a Georgian catwalk show in June and afterwards used in a dressing up box for hall visitors who want an unusual photographic souvenir.
The HLF funding will also enable hall volunteers to learn the art of story-telling from a professional story teller, based on what the building and its inhabitants witnessed over the centuries.
There will also be education packs for local schools and other educational activities looking at 18th Century family life, the lives of servants, estate workers and local industry.
Helen Nisbet, trust project manager, said: “The overall aim is to bring the place to life in a unique way, creating the feel of the 18th Century.”
The project is a partnership with Northumberland Archives at Woodhorn Museum which has loaned the Delaval section of its Working Lives exhibition to the hall. The exhibition, which opens at the hall this weekend, draws on archival material and stories about the hall and its characters.
It focuses on the opening on March 20, 1764, of the new harbour and dock at Seaton Sluice.
John Delaval, who took over at the hall from his brother Francis, worked with his other brother Thomas to expand industrial operations in the area.
This involved quarrying through 900ft of sandstone to create a new harbour entrance, allowing easier and greater exporting of coal, salt and bottles from Seaton Sluice.
Francis had lived the high life in London, gambling and hiring the Drury Lane Theatre to stage a family version of Othello.
The exhibition draws on Woodhorn’s extensive Delaval archive to focus on characters like Francis, John and his wife Susanna, their son’s black boy servant who appears in a family painting, and real people whose names are found in the archive who worked for the Delavals.
They include housekeeper Anne Whitesmith, colliery viewer William Brown, glass worker John Manchester and pitman Matthew Hall.
The HLF-funded Working Lives scheme encourages more use and accessibility to Woodhorn’s archives by unearthing stories from the historical material.
Head of HLF in the North East Ivor Crowther said:
“We always look to fund projects that are interesting and different, and that will reach out to new audiences and providing innovative and exciting learning opportunities for everybody to enjoy.
“We were delighted to be able to support the Delaval Lives project which will give communities a chance to show their creativity, as well as creating fun new opportunities for visitors to explore the history of Delaval Hall.“