Our first day in Northumberland and the weather really was a bit much for us soft southerners. We repaired to the archives at Woodhorn, a wonderful facility but in common with many archives, its opening hours have been drastically cut since our last visit. We struggled against the biting wind to cross the car park and began to look for evidence to confirm the parentage of my great great grandfather John Hogg. I am pretty sure I know who his parents are but a bit more evidence would be helpful. Great great grandfather John has done everything he can to be elusive. His censuses entries give different places of birth each time. The birth years calculated from these entries and his death certificate are inconsistent. Not only am I confused about where and when he was born, he even calls himself George in one census! In theory, he ‘marries’ twice. His second ‘marriage’ should be well within the era of civil registration. A marriage certificate could confirm (or refute) the putative father I have pencilled in but marriage certificate is there none. I know, at this point, the antennae of my family history friends will be twitching and they will be keen to see if they can succeed where I have failed. So, if you can find a marriage for a John Hogg and Elizabeth Pearson I would be very grateful. They were not married in 1851, when John was a widower living just outside Morpeth Northumberland. Their first child was registered in 1854 and the certificate implies they are, by then, married. Elizabeth too was born in Northumberland and was in Morpeth in 1851.
The evening was set for a reunion with my second cousin and her husband. We were due to meet in an Indian Restaurant. I have made a note of the address of the restaurant for sat-nav purposes. I have failed to make a note of the name. Surely there can’t be many Indian restaurants in that part of Whitley Bay. Oh! It turns out there can. I have the full address but none of the shops are displaying numbers. I think the restaurant probably begins with S. We hesitantly enter one of two adjacent Indian restaurants beginning with S. Relief; we are being waved at, so either we are all in the wrong place or we have picked the right one. The meal was lovely, it was even bargainous special menu day and the company was great too. We speculate what our mothers and grandmothers might have thought at us meeting up many years down the line and so far from where we grew up.
What a difference a day makes. The sun shines on the righteous and on us as well. We even cast our clouts (well our coats at least) until a sharp wind blows up in the afternoon. We decide to avoid Newcastle as apparently half of it has been cordoned off into a ‘fan zone’ for a rugby match tomorrow. Instead, we travel a couple of miles up the road to Seaton Delaval. This stately home is undergoing serious renovations and learning about these was part of the visitor experience.
Extensive estates and a Saxon church were gifted to Hubert De La Val by William I after the conquest and a member of the family married William’s niece. A fortified dwelling was constructed on the site. Family fortunes declined and in 1717, Admiral George Delaval bought out his impoverished cousin. He commissioned John Vanbrugh to build a home, on a much smaller scale than Castle Howard and Blenheim Palace, for which Vanbrugh is better known. Neither the owner nor architect lived to see the completion of the house. Admiral Delaval was killed falling from a horse in 1723. The work was finished under the ownership of Delaval’s nephew, Captain Francis. He too met an unfortunate end when he fell from a terrace, to be succeeded by his son Sir Francs Blake Delaval. The ‘Gay Delavals’ spent the best part of the eighteenth century hosting flamboyant parties on the estate. They were known to play practical jokes on their guests, including rigging rooms so that the walls disappeared, or the beds could be lowered into baths of cold water, when the unsuspecting guests were asleep.
The Delavals were able to establish successful businesses, exploiting the saltpans at Seaton, founding a bottle and glass manufactury and benefitting from mining interests. They created the sluice at Seaton to enable larger vessels to enter the harbour. By the end of the eighteenth century, their lavish lifestyle became unsustainable and in 1822, a fire gutted the property, destroying the south-east wind entirely. The estate passed through the female line to the Astley family, who held the title of Lord Hastings. Some attempts at restoration were attempted in the 1860s but the property remained largely a shell. The property was requisitioned in both world wars and this left its mark. Some improvements were made in the second half of the twentieth century and the west wing of the house was again lived in before the property was given to the National Trust.
We wander round the beautiful gardens and are guided by Hilary on a ‘Spotlight’ tour. I was particularly taken with the high-viz jackets sported by the cherubs on the roof. We learn about the repairs to the ‘muses’, statues that have been created by plastering over an iron framework. In order to stop the iron rusting, they have had an electric current passed through them using innovative cathodic protection technology.
Enthusiastic guides show us round The Church of Our Lady, which was extended by the Delavals and consecrated in 1102. A record survives of the baptism of Henry de Laval in 1343.
A quick look at the sluice itself and then back to the van.