Baroque house of banter gets £3.7m National Lottery grant

One of the country's most banter-filled Baroque stately homes has been given a £3.7m restoration grant from the National Lottery.

The 18th-century Seaton Devalal Hall in Northumberland has been described as a party house and is looked after by the National Trust.

The Hall was once the venue for the theatrical Delaval family's lavish balls, elaborate practical jokes and spectacular plays.

The larger-than-life "Gay Delavals" were among the most outrageous of all Georgian partygoers.

Guests were victim to elaborate practical jokes and would awake to find their rooms had been turned upside down with furniture fixed to the ceiling.

A mechanical bed would give way to drop the sleepy occupant into a bath of freezing water and walls would disappear just as guests were undressing.

Built by Sir John Vanbrugh, architect of Blenheim Palace, the Hall was splendid.

But it was seriously damaged in the 19th century and parts of it fell into disrepair.

The National Trust acquired it in 2009 and has been carrying out crucial repairs to ensure the survival of one of Sir John's greatest works.

The £3.7m lottery grant will allow further urgent conservation works to be done on the roof, basement and circular staircases.

It will also allow the Trust to install new visitor facilities and work with artists to develop new exhibitions.

Ros Kerslake, chief executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: "This final architectural work of Sir John Vanbrugh, Seaton Delaval Hall, is a particularly fine example of Baroque architecture in England, with an equally rare and important designed landscape.

"Plans to create a more welcoming experience for visitors, including highlighting the Hall's reputation for theatrics and parties and involving local students in the restoration, make it thoroughly deserving of National Lottery support."

The National Trust is putting £3 million of its charitable funds towards the project.

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