The Delaval family had owned the estate since the time of the Norman conquest. Admiral Delaval, having made his fortune from bounty while in the navy, purchased the estate from an impoverished kinsman. (He had also served as a British envoy during the reign of Queen Anne.) The Admiral had originally wanted John Vanbrugh to modernize and enhance the existing mansion, but upon viewing the site, Vanbrugh felt he could do nothing and advised complete demolition of all except the ancient chapel near to the mansion. The resulting new mansion was to be the last country house Vanbrugh designed—it is regarded as his finest work. The style of architecture is known as English Baroque, which Vanbrugh evolved from the more decorated and architecturally lighter continental baroque popular in Europe.
The design is of a centre block, containing the state and principal rooms, and two flanking arcaded and pedimented wings containing the stables in the east wing, and secondary and service accommodation in the west wing. Since completion of the house in 1728, it has had an unfortunate history. Neither architect nor patron lived to see its completion; it then passed through a succession of heirs being lived in only intermittently.
In 1822 the Centre Block was gutted by fire, and the house was deserted (it was partially restored in 1862–63). In spite of further restoration in 1959, the house was to remain unoccupied until the 1980s, when after a period of 160 years, Edward Delaval Henry Astley, 22nd Baron Hastings moved into the west wing. It became his permanent home until his death in 2007. While the exterior is still a perfect example of English baroque at its finest, the interiors of the state rooms remain unrestored from the fire.
Seen above the trees in the park is a stone mausoleum with a majestic lead-