A Northumberland conservation mason will join a host of local workmen to restore an historic hall rescued by a £500,000 windfall award.
Yesterday The Journal reported how a grant from the Sita Trust will be used to repair and conserve the Central Hall at the National Trust’s Seaton Delaval Hall in Northumberland.
The central section of the building was badly damaged in a devastating fire in 1822 and the exterior stonework of the Central Hall has been deteriorating and pieces have dropped off.
Without the grant, the Central Hall faced closure for safety reasons, which would have been a blow to the visitor attraction. Work will start at the end of September to repair the exterior stonework and re-carve some decorative features.
Conservation mason Brendan Teasdale, who works for Blyth company Team Force Restoration, remembers visiting the site as a child with his grandparents, but never thought he would be working on the building.
The 46-year-old, formerly of Blyth but now living near Amble, said: “Working on the building comes straight from the heart – it’s something I have always wanted to do. To get to this level in stone masonry is absolutely fantastic. I’m very proud of it.
“As a child my grandparents would bring me here in the late ’70s when the Hastings family had it. I have great memories of the place and I never thought I would be involved in the project to restore it. I never thought I would be helping to rebuild it.”
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.
Robyn Brown, project director of Seaton Delaval Hall, is keen to recruit local people for the refurbishment work. She said: “It’s very much a local project and that’s really important to us. The National Trust have national advisers and we have to take their advice on board, but we want to use as many local workers as we can.
“If we can’t choose companies from Newcastle and Northumberland, we will certainly be looking for companies in the North of England.”
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 chief executive of SITA Trust, said: “We chose this project because of the tremendous local support.
“Local people have been involved in the fundraising in the past and this building had a great story.
“The building needed fixing and we are glad we have been able to help. We wanted to make sure a project that was at risk of closing didn’t close – we wanted to find something important to the public.”