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, constructed in 1895).

The stained glass in the windows is 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.

The Parish of Delaval


Exploratory work to be undertaken at The Church of Our Lady in 2013/14.


Over recent years it has become evident that the structure of this Norman church is suffering from ground movement which is causing cracks to appear in the walls and arches. This movement has been professionally monitored since 1998 but from 2009 it was noted that movement in some areas was becoming progressive. The vault was opened in 2010 to check the condition of stonework below ground level and everything was found to be in very good order. The decision was taken to carry out more detailed exploratory work in, around and under the church in an attempt to understand what was causing movement and this work is planned in three main stages.

Stage 1. 20 th and 21 st August 2013. Accurate measurement of reference points on the building to indicate the extent of current movement in the walls and arches. At the same time the soak-away drainage system will be explored and research of coal mining records carried out.

Stage 2. September 2013. A number of pits will be dug close to the walls to discover what is happening below ground and to enable investigation of foundations. Narrow holes will also be bored around the church and cores removed to discover the nature of the rock strata, coal seams and general condition of the ground the building stands on.

Stage 3. 2013 to 2014. Sensitive equipment will be lowered down one of the 30 metre core boring holes to measure movement below ground level over a period of time.

Data gathered from all these sources will enable judgements to be made about actual causes of movement and damage. This will lead to the design and implementation of structural solutions for support and repair to the church which will ensure its survival long into the future.

This essential investigative work is financially supported by English Heritage, The Heritage Lottery Fund, The Northumbria Historic Churches Trust and The Friends of Our Lady. The Parish of Delaval is immensely grateful for their invaluable help towards the long term preservation of this Grade 1 listed church. Thanks are also expressed to The National Trust for their positive support and practical involvement, especially with archaeological aspects of the project. Members of the public are welcome to visit the site to see what is taking place and to experience the beauty and serenity of The Church of Our Lady.

If you would like further information about the work or if you would like to offer financial support for this respected place of worship and valued local heritage site please contact

Revd. David Bowler on 0191 2371982 or Mr R. Kermode, Churchwarden, on 0191 2371136. Thank you,


  © Delaval Parish 2007