Chasing the Byron connection? Windswept at Seaham

Rough seas at Seaham Harbour - copyright Ian Britton at Freefoto.com

Life is strange sometimes, isn’t it?  It was one of those “blowing a hooligan” days, but the sky was blue and bright and I just couldn’t stay home.  As always, it was the lure of the sea that pulled me up the coast to Seaham.  It’s a place I don’t often visit, but whenever I do it seems to have improved.  Over the years it’s had to pull itself up by the bootstraps.

Revitalised Terrace Green, Seaham

The Durham coastline is rugged in the extreme and Seaham Harbour was hacked out of these cliffs to provide transport for locally mined coal.  Seaham’s deep mines reached out more than 3 miles beneath the North Sea.  Seacoal and waste despoiled these beaches as far as the eye could see when the last mine finally closed in 1992.  Almost 20 years later, the sea has washed and groomed them back to a semblance of their old selves.

Of course, man has pitched in to help with the repair.  The success of this is evident in the Coastal Footpath which now graces the clifftops.  At numerous points along the coast road it’s easy to drop down onto wide sweeping stretches of coastline.

Seaham itself has a vast panorama.  At the southerly end the lighthouse juts out into the harbour.  Sometimes, returning home by train from Newcastle, I’ve witnessed the sea battering its way in over the harbour wall.  Today was not so ferocious, but I had to lean into the wind.

Lower promenade

From North Terrace you can descend to a lengthy promenade which hugs the cliffs.  Not pretty in itself, still it gives shelter from the wind and the chance to observe the nooks and crannies of the giants above.  Dogs foolishly bark at the waves and small wellie-wearers enjoy the rock pools.

Seaham Hall Beach Car Park Sculpture

At the northern end I clamber back to the cliff top to admire the Seaham Hall Beach Car Park sculpture.  Shaped like the layout of St Mary’s Church, it’s one of a number of sculptures which pay tribute to the town’s heritage.

Vane Tempest Sculpture

The Vane Tempest Sculpture is a striking piece of art work, depicting the skyline of the former Vane Tempest Colliery.

The upper promenade leads back to Terrace Green.  Opposite, at 17A North Terrace, is my favourite coffee stop in Seaham, “Leaf, Bark and Berries”.  An intriguing mix of food emporium, café and furniture shop, the homemade quiches are excellent and I always enjoy a browse at the crafts and cabinetry on display.  Using the sizeable properties to their full potential seems to be a Seaham trait, as I noticed that the newer “Black Truffle Coffee Shop” on Terrace Green boasted a boutique at the rear.  Must check it out, next time.

Leaf, Bark and Berries- cafe-cum-browsing opportunity

Looking back at my subject, you could be forgiven for wondering what all this has to do with Lord Byron.  On 2nd January, 1815 he married Anna Isabella Milbanke, the daughter of the owner of Seaham Hall.  The marriage took place at the Hall rather than at nearby St Mary’s, and was thought by many to be doomed for this reason.  Whatever the cause, they were to last only a year.  A child, Augusta Ada, was born on 2nd December.  She never knew her father, but at her own request was buried next to him in the family vault at Hucknall Torknard Church, Nottingham.  Which, completely coincidentally, brought me full circle with my last post on Byron’s ancestral home, Newstead Abbey.

Seaham Hall today is a very grand and successful hotel, the only obvious connection, Lord Byron’s Walk. www.seaham-hall.co.uk

Many more details of history and heritage can be found on www.seaham.com from whom I have borrowed a number of photographs.  The most recent addition to the town sculptures sits beside the new Byron Place Shopping Centre.

The Brothers- waitin t'gan down

Life as it was in Seaham, a town proud of it’s industrial past, yet reaching out to the future.

12 comments

    1. I can’t claim credit, Karen, unfortunately. 🙂 I never use other people’s photos these days, but this is quite an old post, and I got this fabulous shot on the web. (I did credit it in the caption) Many thanks for your company.

  1. No, def didn’t see this nearly three years ago. Haven’t you posted about Seaham Hall before? or somewhere similar? Always check the menus to see how veg friendly they are. It isn’t. 😦

    1. You may be thinking of Byron’s Newstead Abbey that I did a piece on when I was visiting my daughter in Nottingham one year? I have done a couple of Seaham posts, including the one I link to in the body of Seaham ‘Tommy’ but just the one mention of Seaham Hall, I think. It’s a bit posh for me. One of my son’s friends was chef-ing there for a while and I popped in for an evening wedding reception. Only bought one drink though- small mortgage 😦
      How’s foot?

  2. Fabulous sculptures; love the way they have tried to make the best out of the grim industrial past. Fascinating connection with Lord Byron and, through him, his fabulously talented daughter.

  3. This is a nicely presented posting with
    a fine quality, and with so much added
    information too…

    Thank you for sharing this one my friend 🙂

    Androgoth

  4. Great post Jo and love that opening photo.
    This reminds me of my Army career. I joined the Army in 1963 as, a hopefully, future Communications Engineer. I was 16 years old with absolutely no idea of life and was shocked into becoming a better person. So why should your post remind me of this? One of the first persons I met when arriving at Harrogate Apprentice College was a young man from Seaham. We were posted to different parts of the world after graduation, but met up again five years later in Germany, Sadly, I don’t know how they are doing now, hopefully ok, but each time that I am driving up the A19 and see the roadsign for Seaham, I think of them.

    1. Thanks David for all your support. It’s nice to be able to say good things about our area and I much appreciate your sharing this. It’s funny, I knew a chap from Seaham in my Benefit Office days who I lost touch with, and I often do the same!

      Wasn’t expecting to hear from you so soon- thought you’d still be snowed under with Freshly Pressed fans. Really happy for you- again, our industrial landscape.

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