The Parish - Our Lady

   
     

The little 900 year old Church of Our Lady, tucked away behind Seaton Delaval Hall on the A190, has several features which make it a rarity, perhaps unique:

  • Despite its age (it was built by Hubert de Laval and dedicated in 1102 by Bishop Flambard, of Durham), it has only been a parish church since 1891. Before that it was a private chapel for nearly 800 years.
  • Its chancel, choir and nave are separated by superb Norman arches and to have two in a building of this size is very unusual.
  • A blocked up window and stonework in the north wall of the nave and the top section of the font suggest pre-Norman origins but the nave also has a classical 18th century ceiling. So we have an Anglo-Saxon/Norman church with a Georgian ceiling!
  • The church is one of very few in the Church of England dedicated solely to Our Lady – indeed it may be the only one. Inquiries by the Friends of the church to find others have so far discovered only ones naming Our Lady and another saint.

Other features include 13th century effigies of a knight and a lady, eight cusped panels from about the same period containing shields bearing Delaval and other arms, a piscina bowl with credence shelf above (possibly from the 14th century), six hatchments of the Delaval and Astley families, and the tracery from a 14th century window at the east end (the window was replaced in 1861, and the old tracery, carved out of one piece of stone, was placed against the south wall outside the church until it was built into the wall above the door of the entrance porch, which was constructed in 1895).

The stained glass in the windows are all Victorian. The window in the east end wall is believed to be by William Wailes of Newcastle, and most of the others are by his successors, Wailes and Strang. The one exception is in the south wall of the choir. The Prince of Wales window, possibly by Thomas Willement, was bought in 1841 by Sir Jacob Astley, later Lord Hastings, and came from the Colosseum in Regents Park, London. It was thought at that time to depict the Black Prince, and it was not until the late 1990s, that it was discovered that it in fact shows Prince Arthur, eldest son of Henry VII and brother of Henry VIII. It is a copy of a light in the Magnificat Window, in Great Malvern Priory.