our statues

David and Goliath, posturing in the courtyard, almost immune to the bitter North Wind.

David and Goliath, posturing in the courtyard, almost immune to the bitter North Wind.

The Lead Statues at Seaton Delaval
Recently as part of the long term work at Seaton the Trust’s Adviser on metal conservation came up from his studio in London, he came to assess the three large 18th cent lead statues at Seaton. These are rare representatives of what were popular 18th cent adornments to large gardens. The ones at Seaton are a group with attitude, David about to strike Goliath with a sword, Samson slaying the Philistine and the Goddess Diana, also not someone to mess around with. This assessment is part of the long term planning of potential conservation work at Seaton.
Originally these statues, larger than life size, were on the Bastions at each corner of the Haha walls, painted white they would have looked like marble and been a striking sight standing on their great curved Bastions. There are of course 4 Bastions and only 3 existing figures, we don’t as yet know what the 4th figure was. The only photo so far found is not very clear and seems to show a figure with a sheep or goat over its shoulder. Its Bastion is in the Churchyard, and it can be imagined what an incongruous figure it would have been when the Churchyard became officially Church property in the late 19th cent. Perhaps this may have been the reason for its disappearance, a minister feeling a pagan figure was unsuitable for a Churchyard… We hope the surviving stonework will hold clues as to the original figure.
The 3 figures have all had some major work in the 1980’s, there is an inbuilt problem that these statues suffer from. They have an iron armature inside, to which the lead is fixed and which is what holds the figure onto its stone base. This over time rusts, and in so doing expands, cracking the lead and eventually causing the whole statue to collapse. The other major issue is that all the statues have been moved, so that none are where they ought to be, this complicates things. As it isn’t simply a case of moving one but rather becomes a dance where each moves, together with its stone plinth, back to its original bastion. And with statues weighing 600kg and stone plinths of a tonne or so, this will call for some very large equipment. So one outcome from the adviser’s visit will be a plan for the conservation work and the potential move around.


Hatching plans.

clock workings


West Wing Re-roof

As part of the conservation work at Seaton we are planning for the next big project looming over the horizon. This is the re-roof of the West Wing, at present roofed in felt, which is long past its prime, there are various leaks in the rooms below, that cause buckets to be set beneath when wind driven rain hits. Of course whilst the roof is off we will tackle any other building issues, crumbling stone, pointing losses and capped chimneys. On the roof of this wing there is one of the treasures of Seaton Delaval, sitting quietly inside its pediment is an early 18th cent turret clock mechanism. Covered in pigeon droppings and with woodworm in the wooden rollers it looks unloved and forgotten. However this is far from the truth, we are planning for its conservation, but we’ll say more of that another day, except to add when the re-roof happens we’ll be very carefully lifting the clock out of its pediment and sending it to Cumbria, where the specialist in these clock movements is based.

A big part of the planning for the re-roof is thinking about where to store the collections, as these will need to be removed from the West Wing. When we re-wired this wing we set up a store in the Old Kitchen and one at each end of the Long Gallery. The really big paintings stayed in place where possible and were carefully boxed in, but this time we’ll need to move everything. Fortunately we now have the East Wing with its lovely new roof, so this where we’ll set up our store rooms. We’ll put in place the measures to control light exposure, humidity and of course security. With the added complication that any wiring required will have to be temporary and with nothing fixed to the building. We’ll take these steps as we don’t want to damage the floors and walls of the East Wing, this wing has never been wired upstairs, so the floors have not been disturbed.