Delaval Hall

Delaval Hall is an English baroque house, built between 1718 and 1728 for Admiral George Delaval. The house is regarded as the finest example of design by Sir John Vanbrugh; who also built Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard. It has a Coach House, with a collection of interesting vehicles and a restored Ice House.

The gardens, designed in 1947 by James Russell and have been enhanced by the late Lady Hastings. A walk around the ground reveals statues; topiary; a pool and fountain and is a relaxing and pleasant way to spend an hour or so.

The Hall now belongs to the National Trust. 

Hall History

Admiral George Delaval

 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-covered dome and a portico resting on huge monoliths weighing several tons. It was erected by Lord Delaval to his only son, John, who died in 1775 aged 20, “as a result of having been kicked in a vital organ by a laundry maid to whom he was paying his addresses.”


John Vanbrugh





Seaton Delaval

The Delavals

The Delavals, like most northern barons clashed with King John and they played a part in forcing him to sign Magna Charta in 1215. The family nearly died out in the 15th Century but a James Horsley, whose mother was a Delaval, changed his name to Delaval so the line continued. The family played a prominent part in the life of the county – several served as High Sheriff of the county, others became Members of Parliament

The Delaval Family originally came from La Val in France. They were kinsman of Duke William of Normandy and came over with his army in 1066. Their descendents settled in Northumberland around 1095. The King granted lands to them in Seaton, Callerton and Dissington. At Seaton they built a small fortified Dwelling near the existing Saxon church, they rebuilt the church and dedicated it in 1102, this church named ‘The Church of Our Lady’ became their private chapel. It is still in use today.
Some served as Border Commissioner. Their estates slowly expanded as they acquired land at Biddleton, West Heddon, Horsley and Holywell.

The old tower at Seaton was extended as their fortunes grew. Mention is made of a Tudor Manor House, then a Jacobean Mansion. Records also mention that a Sir Ralph Delaval (1576 – 1625) had 20 children and converted the estate from arable farming to pasture. Later the estate was turned over to tenant families.

The Delavals were fortunate to have coal under their estates and they encouraged the exploitation of this resource. In 1660 the Delavals built a pier at Seaton Harbour to protect the entrance so that more coal and salt could be exported.

By the end of the 17th Century, the Delaval Estates were in crisis due to ill-conceived will making, lawsuits and contesting of rights to land. Sir John Delaval was crippled by a legacy due to his niece and secured on the estate; he could not pay his debts. At this critical point, Sir John’s cousin, Admiral George Delaval purchased the estates. George had made his money in the navy and as an envoy for Queen Anne. He set about transforming the estates.

Admiral George approached Sir John Vanburgh with a view to modernizing the old mansion at Seaton. Vanburgh advised demolition and rebuild. So the site was cleared of everything except the ‘Church of our Lady’, and Vanburgh started to build what some considered being his masterpiece – Seaton Delaval Hall. Work started in 1718 and continued for about 10 years. Unfortunately Admiral Delaval fell from his horse and died in 1723 before the hall was completed. He left his estate to his nephew, Captain Francis Blake Delaval.

Francis Blake Delaval inherited Ford Castle and estates on the death of his mother (hence the name Blake). He married Rhoda Apreece of Doddington in Lincolnshire who inherited a large estate, so Francis owned three estates. Francis was a naval Captain who had little money of his own, so although he inherited large estates his income was relatively low. Francis moved in to Delaval hall around 1726 and over the next 20 years had 8 sons and 4 daughters. As his children grew older the Delaval reputation for gay and exciting living began. Francis died in 1752 after falling down the steps of the hall.

Rhoda Delaval (1725 – 1757)

Eldest child of Captain Delaval. Like all her family she was celebrated for her beauty and accomplishments, she was an artist of repute. She married Sir Edward Astley of Melton Constable. Her only son eventually inherited the Delaval estates on the death of the last Delaval in 1814.

Francis Blake Delaval (1727 – 1771)

Eldest son of Captain Delaval inherited the estate on the death of his father in 1752. The most notorious of the family, a practical joker with a flair for theatrical entertainment, he was not really interested in running the estates, he left that to his brothers. His principle interest was the pursuit of pleasure but he was elected a Member of Parliament on three occasions, usually by dubious means. He also became a soldier for a while and was decorated for bravery in 1760. He spent his life in debt, and married an elderly widow simply to get her money. He had several mistresses and at least two illegitimate children. Francis Blake Delaval died alone in London in 1771, leaving large debts, which were never paid off. He was buried in the Chapel of Our Lady after an extravagant funeral.

John Hussey Delaval (1728 – 1808)

Took over management of the estates on the death of his father. A good organizer and manager, he completely reorganized the estates. At Ford he brought farming practice, which had changed little in centuries, right up to date. Farm rents went up 10 times in about 30 years. With his brother Thomas, he modernized Seaton Sluice harbour and introduced glass making, improved productivity in the coal pits and introduced pumping engines etc. He made the estates profitable.

John Hussey Delaval married twice. By his first wife he had several children but unfortunately his son predeceased him. He was made a baron in 1776 and died in 1808. He left the Ford estates to his wife and granddaughter and the Delaval and Doddington estates to his surviving brother Edward.

Edward Hussey Delaval

Edward’s early life was devoted to study and scientific experiments. He was a fellow of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge and spent most of his life in London and rarely visited Seaton Delaval. His friends and associates were scholars and he wrote papers on artificial gemstones, lightening conductors etc. Edward spent his last years at Doddington and never visited Seaton Delaval after his brother’s death.

The Astleys

After John Delaval’s death in 1880, the Delaval Family never lived in Seaton Delaval hall again. A caretaker was left in charge. When Edward Delaval died in 1814 the Delaval line died out. The estate was inherited by the Astley Family of Melton Constable (Rhoda had married Sir Edward Astley). The Astleys had estates in Norfolk so rarely visited Seaton Delaval. The Hall caught fire in 1822 and the central block was seriously damaged. It was not repaired until 1860. Delaval hall was not occupied again until the 1980’s when the present Lord Hastings (The Astley Family revived the Hasting title in the 1840’s) moved in.

Sir Jacob Astley, Baron Hastings, the first Baron after the revival of the title in 1841, but 16th Baron from the creation of the title in 1290. Edward Hussey Delaval having died without an heir, and all the brothers having pre-deceased him without male issues,
The Seaton Delaval estate reverted to the heirs of his sister Rhoda, the eldest daughter of Captain Delaval and who on May 23rd, 1751, had married Mr. (afterwards Sir) Edward Astley of Melton Constable, Norfolk, but who died Oct. 21st, 1757. Her eldest son Sir Jacob Henry Astley, thereby, on the death of his Uncle, Edward Hussey Delaval in 1814, became the owner of the Seaton Delaval estate. He married Hester, daughter of Samuel Brown Esq., of Kings Lynn, and having died three years after he became the owner of Seaton Delaval, viz., 1817, the Norfolk and Northumberland estates passed into the hands of his eldest son, Sir Jacob Astley (afterwards Lord Hastings who in 1819 married Georgina Carolina, second daughter of Sir Henry Walkin Dashwood, Bart., and died December 27th, 1859, aged 62 years.It was during his baronetcy that the disastrous fire on January 3rd, 1822 left the centre block of Seaton Delaval Hall a ruin. It was partially restored in 1959 & 1963.

Jacob Henry Delaval Astley, 17th Baron Hastings, elder son of the 16th Baron Hastings. He married Miss Francis Cosham in 1860, and died without issue.

The last hatchment is that of Rev. Delaval Loftus Astley, brother of Jacob Henry Delaval Astley. He married the Honourable Frances Diana Manners, daughter of Viscount Canterbury in 1848, and died in 1872, having only held the peerage for one year

He was succeeded by his son, Bernard Delaval Astley, 19th Baron Hastings, who died unmarried in India during the Prince of Wales visit in 1874. He was succeeded by his brother, George Manners Astley, 20th Baron Hastings who married Elizabeth, daughter of Baron Suffield, and was the donor of the Church of Our Lady to the parish of Delaval.


The Late Lord Hastings

Lord and Lady Hastings

  Edward Delaval Henry Astley

22nd Baron Hastings,12th Baronet Astley

(14 April 1912 – 25 April 2007)

The 22nd Lord Hastings was renowned for his lifelong love of Italy and ballet and his political and charitable work. Born at Melton Constable Hall in April 1912 Edward Delaval Henry Astley, who died at the aged of 95, was known for his solid performance in the House of Lords and as a junior member of the Macmillan and Douglas-Home governments.

His family own about 4,600-acres of farm and woodland around Norfolk, much of which is now tenanted out, while Melton Constable Hall was sold to the Duke of Westminster in 1948 and has changed hands several times since. After living in London for a period he returned to live in Norfolk with his family in 1967 when he bought Fulmodestone Hall, which he later sold in 1990 to move to the 17th century Seaton Delaval Hall in Northumberland, which he spent 51 years restoring.

Lord Hastings became patron of the Camphill Communities trust for people with learning difficulties after his second son Justin was born with Down’s Syndrome, and gave the trust Thornage Hall, near Fakenham, in Norfolk, along with 50 acres. He was the son of the 21st Baron Hastings and Marguerite Neville and the barony dates back to the 1290s. Lord Hastings was educated at Eton and after travelling across the continent as a young man worked for the Gold Coast Selection Trust in London and joined the supplementary reserve of the Coldstream Guards, before travelling 22,000 miles across the US in a Ford V8.

He arrived back inA Britain after the Second World War was declared and spent a year with the Coldstream Guards before transferring to the Intelligence Corps, which sent him to North Africa and Italy, where he ran theatre and radio services after the war. On returning home he had a spell on the board of the London and Eastern Trade Bank, which got into difficulties, then bought a 5,000-acre farm near Salisbury in Southern Rhodesia, where he also was local branch chairman of the United Party.

It was in Salisbury that Lord Hastings met the former model Katie Hinton, known as Nicki, whom he married in 1954, with whom he had three children and two stepchildren. He took his seat in the Lords following his father’s death in 1956 and four years later was appointed a Lord in Waiting and then a parliamentary secretary. He continued to attend the Lords until excluded by the Blair reforms in 1999 but also found time to be president of the British Epilepsy Association, the Epilepsy Research Foundation, and the Joint Epilepsy Council. For more than 40 years he was a governor and vice-chairman of the British Institute of Florence, as well as being president of the British-Italian Society – later being appointed as the Grand Officer of the Italian Order of Merit in 1968 for launching the Italian People’s Flood Appeal.

His passion for dance, which developed after seeing the Ballets Russes at Covent Garden during the 1930s, led him to attend rehearsals at the Ballet Rambert school and later became the governor of the Royal Ballet for more than 20 years. He is succeeded in the titles by his son Delaval Astley, then aged 47.