The heart of a historic hall has been rescued with a £500,000 windfall award that will repair damage from nearly 200 years ago.
The money will be used to repair and conserve the Central Hall at the National Trust’s Seaton Delaval Hall in Northumberland, which was badly damaged in a fire in 1822.
The exterior stonework of the Central Hall has been deteriorating and pieces have dropped off.
Without the grant from the SITA Trust, the Central Hall faced closure for safety reasons which would have been a blow to the visitor attraction.
Now work will start at the end of September to repair the exterior stonework and re-carve some decorative features.
Inside the Central Hall, the marble black and white chequerboard floor will be lifted for repair for the first time since it was laid in the early 18th Century.
The interior’s fire-damaged six life-size statues representing the arts, music, painting, sculpture, architecture, geography and astronomy, will also be made safe.
At the same time the West Wing which has been closed for rewiring will re-open.
The East Wing, which housed prisoners of war in the 1940s, will also open for public tours for the first time in September.
Cheryl Moore, the National Trust’s chartered building surveyor for Seaton Delaval Hall who will be overseeing the work, said: “Without the generosity of SITA Trust and the generous help of several individuals and local trusts and foundations which have also supported the project, we would not have been able to keep the Central Hall open.
“The building is deteriorating at such a rapid rate that within 12 months we would have had to close that part of the building completely.
“In high winds last November we lost a couple of sash windows, masonry is falling and the cellars are regularly flooded because of gaps in the stonework.
“The money has come at the right time as other funds had run out. This is the biggest single grant that SITA Trust gives per year and one project across the whole of the country gets the money.
“Winning it has really put the spotlight back on the North East. When we lift the marble floor we will be excited about what we might find.”
Seaton Delaval Hall was one of three finalists whittled down from 12 potential projects invited to compete for the SITA Trust money to be used for urgent repairs either to ensure an important heritage site can stay open or re-open.
Marek Gordon, chairman and CEO of SITA Trust, said: “All three finalists made compelling cases, all were architecturally important buildings and all were in urgent need of support. All three teams presenting demonstrated immense passion and expertise. The final choice was exceptionally difficult.
“What was the deciding factor? Most likely it was the incredible local support and involvement of so many local people that nudged Seaton Delaval Hall over the line.”
The National Trust has already spent £2m on conservation work, rewiring, fire and security systems, preserving internal masonry, re-roofing and upgrading facilities at the hall in the last three years.
The latest project is expected to be finished by June next year.