The Church of Our Lady

 But tucked away, just beside the Hall is a hidden jewel of Northumbrian history

The late chapel of the Delaval Family of Seaton Delaval Hall.
This little church is one of the oldest working churches in England

Open Times are. Easter Sunday and Monday and on Fridays, Sundays and Bank Holidays from the beginning of May 
until the end of September.The times are 1pm – 4.30pm on Sundays and 11am – 4.30pm on Fridays and Bank Holidays.

Admission Free – Donations Welcome


The Impressions of a Visitor to the Church


The road from Seaton Delaval village down to neighbouring Seaton Sluice is full of surprises. At the end of a straight, tree-lined avenue, you turn a corner and come upon Seaton Delaval Hall, Sir John Vanbrugh’s masterpiece of design. Another corner, and you’re looking down to the unspoiled dunes of the wild Northumberland coastline. But tucked away, just beside the Hall, is a hidden jewel of Northumbrian history:

 ‘The Church of Our Lady in the Parish of Delaval’.

This tiny Norman church is reached by a short walk through a single gate and on down a country path. At first glance, the church is plain and small, with a homely look, perhaps explained by the fact that this was the private chapel of the Delaval family for over seven hundred years. Although it has been given permanently to the Church of England, for the ‘spiritual welfare’ of the people of Northumberland, the links with the Delaval family still remain. Shields bearing different coats of arms adorn the walls; and examination of these reveal many interesting facts about the history of the family. For example, the arms of Sir Francis Blake Delaval (1727-1771) show a Knight holding a scroll bearing the words ‘Magna Charta’. This recalls that his ancestor,Sir Gilbert de laval, was one of the Barons who held conference with King John, at Runnymede in June 1215, when the text of the Magna Carta was agreed upon. More striking though, are a pair of effigies – stone figures representing a Crusader Knight and his Lady. It is amazing to think that this Knight actually took part in the Crusades –and his Lady would have waited and wondered about him at home. The effigies originally guarded the Delaval Family vault, which is situated beneath the church, and although chipped and worn, provide a very solid reminder that history is about the lives that our ancestors lived.
Inside, the church is sparse by modern-day standards, with stone floors, plaster walls and high-backed wooden pews at either side of a central aisle. Closer inspection reveals details such as ornamental arches, with a zigzag pattern typical of Norman design. But the overall plainness adds to the atmosphere and feeling of history within the church – this small, simple place of worship has been standing for over 900 years, and is still in use. An old-fashioned feeling of community surrounds the church too – with the ‘Friends’ acting as guides in the summer, and holding fund-raising events supported by the patronage of the current Lord at the Hall next door. Local brides book early to marry there, and the newest members of the congregation are welcomed to the parish at the annual carol service. Often the church is full, and the small pews encourage friendly conversation with the people nearby, whilst regulars are unembarrassed to bring rugs to protect against the cold.
History, architectural interest, community, continuity and spirituality blend together to give the Church of Our Lady a special atmosphere. It’s well worth making the trip to tthe little church.

Church Layout


Before you enter the church, the first thing you will notice above the doorway is the ancient window. This was carved originally for the 14th century east window. It is a wonderful piece of medieval workmanship, as it is carved from one piece of stone and only came to light when the porch was built in 1892. It had been lying neglected in the churchyard since being replaced in 1861. The glass in the window is of Victorian origin . The porch, which was build with great hindsight by the then vicar, Reverend Jackson has protected the front of the church, saving it from the ravages of time and preserving it for future generations to enjoy’

Once through the entrance, you will see above the doorway of the church, the original tympanum with a surround of dogs tooth carving. As you can see it is very worn, and what was originally enclosed there is difficult to decipher. Above are three stone shields, the Royal Lion flanked by the Delaval Coat of Arms on either side. It is still possible to make out the shapes, even though they are also very badly weather beaten. These were once part of a tomb complex which was situated further down inside of the church

As you enter and look down into the church you will see the magnificent Norman style of Chancel, Choir and Nave which are separated from each other by two beautiful arches, perfectly carved with chevroned carving and supported by low strong pillars with heavy capitals. The large window that can be seen is where the original Norman apse would have been, but this would have be much smaller. The apse was replaced in the 14th century with a plain window similar to the one you see today.

The first window on the right-hand side was erected in 1902 by the parishioners of Seaton, on the 800th anniversary of the church. It shows Hubert Delaval, nephew by marriage of William of Normandy, who built the church in 1102. At the top it states that it was consecrated by the Bishop of Durham (Bishop Flambard). At the base it shows the coat of arms of the Delavals.


The inscription reads,

To the Glory of God in commemoration of the building of this church by Hubert Delaval, AD 1102 and the giving to the parish of Delaval by George Manners Baron Hastings, Ad 1891

Next, we have a window bought by the Davison family.

It is inscribed.

I am the Good Shepard
To the Glory of god. In loving memory of William Davison who died Jan. 1902. aged 30 years. This window was errected by his mother.

When a Knight dies it is customary to place funeral regalia on top of the coffin. The sword and shield, are both made from wood and the shield is decorated with a Coat of Arms. The set we have in the church is from the coffin of Sir Francis Blake Delaval.

This window was installed in 1840 by the Baron Hastings of the day. It was originally thought that it showed the Prince of Wales who had awarded the Astley family their ‘white plumes’ after the Battle of Crecy. It has subsequently been shown that the heraldry on the prince’ tabard is that of Prince Arthur, the eldest son of Henry VII, brother of Henry who became Henry VIII. It is this Prince Arthur who married Catherine of Aragon. He died very soon after his marriage and his brother then married Catherine. So the window was NOT the Prince of Wales that they originally thought it was.

When the crypt was opened over a hundred years ago, a number of coffin were found. The two coffin plates we have are the only ones that could be saved.

The Right Honourable
Sir Francis Blake Delaval
Knight of the Bath
Seaton Delaval
County of Northumberland
Born 6th March 1727 Died 7th August 1771. AE tat 44

To the Glory of God. In loving memory of Anne Ochiltree of Seaton Sluice. Erected by her sister-in-law Hanna Ochiltree, Nov. 1902.

The well known firm of Wailes and Strang, artists of Newcastle upon Tyne, produced this window. This is a fine example of their work.

A Piscina is a stone vessel having a drain that leads directly to the ground, located near an altar of a church, and used for disposing of water from ablutions.The credence shelf on which the wine would have been placed, has long since disappeared.

The bodies of the Knight and his Lady are buried in the crypt beneath the altar. We are not quite sure which Delaval he is. He would most likely have been part of an tomb chest which stood where the altar is now. They were separated and have been placed in a number of different spots around the church before arriving where they are now. They are badly damaged and worn, and retain no traces of the gesso and bright colours with which they must once have been enriched.

The chair, which is situated below the gothic window, was bought by the local parishioners as a memorial to the Reverend .G.R.Jackson, M. A., 1891-1931.

The Altar is relatively new and is of a metal structure. The original altar was removed and placed in a church in the village of New Hartley village, one mile away.

This is a gothic memorial window, first seen when you enter the church, and dates from 1861. The original decorated window was in place for 500 years. The tracery from this window is above the porch entrance to the church. The glass in the window shows the arms of the Delavals (left), Hastings (centre) and Astleys (right).
In affectionate remembrance of Jacob Baron Hastings, who died Dec.27th 1859 aged 62 years.

This window was erected by his sister, Blanche Astley, 1861

The brackets each side of the window, are two of a number on the walls of the church. These were used to hang flags and armour, but sadly these no longer exist. The flags have disintegrated through time and the armour, helmet and gauntlets stolen.

The shelf on the right was thought to be the credence shelf from the piscina, but it is of a later design. A statue of “Our Lady” stood on the shelf, this would have been removed at the time of the Reformation


Looking at the effigy, which is very worn and disfigured, you would not guess that when it was carved it was a fine and delicate piece of sculpture. She, like her husband, would have been painted in fine detail and colour.

 Above the figure of the Lady are the two aumbries or wall safes where the ancient Holy vessels were kept. This also shows the thickness of the walls which is two feet.

This is the older of the two plates, notice the finer detail it has compared to the other.

Francis Blake Delaval, Esq
obit. Dec, 9th, 1752
aged 59 years

To the Glory of god. In loving memory of Basil Delaval Jackson who died at Delaval Vicarage, November, 4th 1893. This widow was erected by his parents.
This was the son of the Reverend Jackson who did much work in preserving the church.
The Delaval part of the name was given to his son as a mark of respect to the Delaval family

The Shield, which is made of wood, is about 24 inches high and would have been used in ‘mock jousting’ competitions. These would be held as entertainment when guests were at the Hall. The Shield ‘s heraldic work is that of The Grey’s family of Gillingham Castle in Northumberland.

When the Effigies were moved, five of the eight stones from the base were embedded into the wall inside the church. You saw the others when you first entered. The first and fifth are the cross of the crusades, second and fourth are the Delaval arms and in the centre is the Royal lionThese also would have been painted in their original colours.

The font is of Saxon origin, and is most likely the original and would have been placed in the church when it was built. It is truly amazing how an object of this size and shape could have been been produced with only basic stone working tools.

Looking east we see the Gothic window, Altar and the Effigies. The Aumbries and Piscina can also be seen.

As you look west back to the entrance of the church you will see the layout of the Hatchments,the Altar Base Stones can also be seen. On the right is an exhibition about the old village of Seaton

We know the church was erected on a the site of a Saxon church, because only churches were built of stone, other buildings were of timber. The smaller stones in the right hand corner were part of the Saxon church. The Norman part is where the larger stones start. They also added the nave at the east end of the church.

Both Norman and Saxon stonework can be viewed more clearly on this photograph. Also the Saxon window can be seen where the two types meet showing that the church was built on an older building. This older structure would have been a church because other buildings were generally made of timber.

In the North facing wall can be seen the Jackson window and at the right side the Saxon wall and the Saxon window.

The East wall contains the Gothic Window.

South View of the Church showing the Hubert de laval, Davison, Prince Arthur and Ochiltree windows.

Showing the entrance to the Church.

A Church of Our Lady wedding

We hope you have enjoyed your virtual tour of our little church. If you are ever up here in Northumberland please give us a visit, and you will be able to get that wonderful feeling this tour cannot give you. That of standing in a building which is over nine hundred years old.