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World Famous Architects Join Fight To Save Forgotten Gem

Monday, 06 October 2008

Some of Britain’s leading and best-known architects today join forces in an attempt to rescue Sir John Vanbrugh’s last masterpiece for the public.

In an open letter published in today’s Times, Lord Rogers, Will Alsop and Ptolemy Dean join more than 25 prominent architects from across the UK in calling for Seaton Delaval Hall in Northumberland to be preserved for the public.

In it, they claim that while other Vanbrugh masterpieces such as Castle Howard and Blenheim Palace have become well-loved national treasures, Seaton Delaval is at risk of being forgotten and put up for private sale.

Calling the hall a “landmark of the English Baroque,” the letter reveals that unless £3 million can be raised by the public, Seaton Delaval is at risk of being sold and turned into a hotel or private accommodation.

“Quite simply, there is no place like it,” the letter reads. “Designed in 1719, but gutted by fire a century later, the Hall’s ability to captivate and inspire remains clear to all who see it. The grandeur of its stern, coal-stained façade fits its rugged setting on the Northumberland coast perfectly.

“But while Vanbrugh’s other great buildings, Castle Howard and Blenheim Palace, have become well-recognised and well-loved national treasures, Seaton Delaval now stands more vulnerable than ever.”

The letter comes as The National Trust – which has led the campaign to save and shape the future of the hall - enters the final 100 days of its campaign.

Designed in 1719, Seaton Delaval Hall in Northumberland was Vanbrugh’s final masterpiece, completed as it was two years after the influential architect and one-time successful playwright died.

By then, its patron, diplomat and naval admiral George Delaval, had also died and the house was passed down through the family.

When the 22nd Baron Hastings died last year, his son inherited the hall and approached The National Trust in the hope it could buy and protect the property for the public.

Liz Fisher, Area Manager for the National Trust, said: “When fire threatened to destroy Seaton Delaval in 1822, 200 villagers turned out to fight the flames – and it is that public spirit that the hall needs again right now.

“As a country house, it is a forgotten gem of British Architecture and, as such, it is hugely important that it is saved and preserved in a way that the public can enjoy.

“The National Trust is doing all it can to raise the £6.3 million needed to save the hall, its gardens and landscape. At least £3 million of this is needed from public donations. We have also launched our biggest ever consultation to find out what people would like us to do with the building if we are successful. But we still need more help.

“For the next 100 days, we as a nation have the opportunity to buy this wonderful hall and protect it for the benefit of generations to come.

“Without that final £3 million, however, the hall will be sold privately and will almost certainly be lost to the public, possibly forever.”

– ENDS –

Notes to Editors:

Please find attached the text of the open letter written in support of the campaign

The full list of those who have signed the open letter is as follows:

  • Lord Rogers, highly respected designer of the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Millennium Dome
  • Will Alsop, one of the most prominent of UK architects and former Stirling Prize winner
  • David Adjaye, global “starchitect” often described as one of Britain’s most promising and original architects
  • Ptolemy Dean, renowned architect and TV presenter, Member of The National Trust’s Architectural Panel
  • Sir Richard MacCormac, one of UK’s most distinguished architects and designer of award winning Southwark Tube station. Former president of RIBA
  • Professor Sir Peter Cook, founder of Archigram and one of the designers of London 2012’s Olympic Stadium
  • Ian Simpson, Manchester-based architect who has played a key role in that city’s rebuilding after the 1996 IRA bomb, including designing No 1 Deansgate, Urbis and the Hilton Tower.
  • Professor Malcolm Airs, President of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain
  • Robert Adam, prominent classical architect
  • Professor Vaughan Hart, professor of History of Architecture at the University of Bath and author of Sir John Vanbrugh: Storyteller in Stone
  • Kevin McCloud, designer and presenter of TV’s Grand Designs
  • Sir Terry Farrell, Designer of the MI6 building who also refurbished the Royal Institution of Great Britain
  • Richard Simmons, Chief Executive of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE)
  • Jack Pringle, Immediate Past President of RIBA and Sterling Prize judge
  • Geoff Rich, one of the designers of the award-winning Heelis building, now the Central Office for the National Trust in Swindon
  • Francis Carnwath, Chairman of The National Trust’s Architectural Panel
  • Professor Peter Stone, Head of the School of Arts & Cultures, University of Newcastle
  • Nicholas Cooper, Member of The National Trust’s Architectural Panel
  • Birkin Haward, Member of The National Trust’s Architectural Panel
  • Margaret Richardson OBE, Director of Sir John Soane’s Museum, Member of The National Trust’s Architectural Panel
  • Mark Hoare, specialist in ecological buildings. Member of The National Trust’s Architectural Panel
  • Peter Inskip, specialist in the restoration and conservation of historic buildings and gardens, Member of The National Trust’s Architectural Panel
  • Professor Marilyn Palmer, Head of the School of Archaeology & Ancient History University of Leicester.
  • Alan Smith, influential architect and designer of Northern Rock’s headquarters in Newcastle.
  • Simon Green, President of Manchester Society of Architects
  • Steve Kearney, Regional Chair for RIBA East
  • Gordon Murray, award winning Scottish architect and Sterling Prize judge
  • Richard Elphick, North East based architect with a strong interest in building conservation
  • David Walker, Chief Executive of Sunderland arc leading the regeneration of Sunderland
  • Andrew Guest, Director of Northern Architecture working to promote architecture and design of public space in the North of England
  • Belinda Irlam-Mowbray, Regional Director, RIBA North West
  • Dolan Conway, regional chair of RIBA North East


The National Trust is Europe’s biggest conservation organisation and looks after special places across England, Wales and Northern Ireland for ever, for everyone. People and places are at the heart of everything it does. Over 3.5 million members, over 50,000 volunteers, 500,000 school children, and millions of visitors, donors and supporters help the Trust look after 300 historic houses and gardens, 707 miles of coastline and 250,000 hectares of open countryside.