The black-and-white marble Central Hall at Seaton Delaval Hall has been chosen by the director general of the National Trust, Dame Helen Ghosh, as one of the UK’s top 20 historic floors.
The list, compiled by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, supports History at Your Feet – a campaign to encourage everyone to be more aware of the importance of old floors.
Seaton Delaval was one of architect Sir John Vanbrugh’s smallest country houses. It was built for the Delaval family who loved a performance, staging events from rope dancers and sack races outdoors to masquerade balls and even their own theatrical productions.
Dame Helen said: “This wonderful marble floor has taken all sorts of punishment – fire and flood, falling statues and falling 18th century party guests – and it survived.”
A devastating fire in 1822 left the Central Hall roofless and open to the elements for 40 years.
The black-and-white tiled floor, the scene of many wild parties, fell victim and became damaged. The slabs were unstable and loose, so much so that every time they were walked on there was a risk of them moving against each other and chipping the edges.
But the hall is now something of a phoenix as the National Trust purchased the site after a public appeal and subsequently received a large grant for a restoration project.
Stone masons carefully numbered, plotted the position of and lifted every slab from the floor. Once lifted, all the numerous cracked and shattered slabs were painstakingly bonded together again using resin adhesives mixed with pigment and stainless steel dowels have been added to give them strength.
The original three layers of screed have been replaced where they had been weathered to nothing and now, where possible, each slab has been returned to its original position.