Seaton Sluice isn’t the most inviting place name I ever came across. Yet I knew from a previous expedition to nearby Seaton Delaval Hall that it provides an interesting gateway to the sea. A bright and free day took me back up the north east coast to explore.
Seaton Burn flows into the North Sea midway between Whitley Bay and Blyth. Place names are interesting, aren’t they? Seaton Sluice was once part of the village of Hartley, and was called Hartley Pans because of the salt pans, where salt was panned as far back as 1236. The area once belonged to Tynemouth Priory, but in 1100 the land became the property of Hubert de Laval, nephew by marriage to William the Conqueror. The Delavals, as they became known, settled about half a mile inland at Seaton Delaval Hall. Seaton derives from Old English and means a settlement (‘ton’) by the sea. Let’s go look around, and I’ll explain a little more.
At low tide, the area fails to look its best, but there was excitement to come. First, a little more history. Up until 1550, the salt produced at Hartley Pans was transported to Blyth for export. After this it was shipped directly from the small natural harbour, and the village, now known as Hartley Haven, was used to export coal as well as salt.
The little harbour was prone to silting and this limited access by ships, but in the 1600s Sir Ralph Delaval had a pier constructed, and sluice gates which trapped the seawater at high tide. Hence the name, Seaton Sluice. At low tide, the gates were opened, flushing the sand from the harbour.
The harbour remained like this until the 1760s when another Delaval, Sir John, had ‘The Cut’ blasted through solid rock to make a new harbour entrance. 54ft deep, 30ft wide and 900ft long, the result created an island of the land between the old entrance and the new channel. Enterprising men these Delavals. The new channel could be sealed off at both ends so that boats could carry on loading, irrespective of the tide. For me, the excitement begins when the channel meets the sea.
I’m on the southern edge of Northumberland here, and if you know anything at all about Northumberland you’ll know it has magnificent beaches. In the distance you can see Blyth and an offshore wind farm. Next year there will be a Tall Ships Race too.
Salt continued to be exported from Seaton Sluice until the advent of a new salt tax in 1798. It was replaced by a new export, glass bottles. In 1763 Sir Francis Delaval obtained approval from Parliament to develop a glassworks. Skilled men were brought from Germany to train the locals in glass making, using the materials to hand- sand and kelp from the sea, and local coal and clay. The bottles were sent to London on ‘bottle sloops’, with a main mast that could be lowered to enable sailing beneath the arches of old London Bridge.
Hard, now, to believe that such industry once took place. Competition from other glassmakers brought the bottle trade to an end, and a major disaster at Hartley pit, in which 204 men and boys perished, spelled the end of the coal trade.
My adventure with the sea isn’t quite over yet though. Following the other side of the channel I come to a narrow cut. Looking south along the coast I am thrilled to find that in the far distance I can see St. Mary’s Lighthouse at Whitley Bay. You might remember my post.
I follow the coastal path back into the village. Looking down at the rocks I’m astounded to find a heron, nonchalantly checking out the seafood. I do hope he approves.
Meantime I should thank Wikipedia for all their information, and you for sharing it with me.
Kettle’s on and I just have time to tell you that I have lots more wonderful walks to share this week before it boils. Details of how to join in are on my Jo’s Monday walk page. A click on the logo should do it. Thanks to all of you, old friends and new. Bring on the walks!
Violet Sky was first to share this week, with such a good-looking lighthouse, too!
And Anabel is going for broke- 3 for the price of 1!!!
Exotic Wats and stupas all the way from Thailand, with Junk Boat Travels :
And Jesh has me wanting a goat’s life in Zion National Park!
Quite a few wild orchids down Eastbourne way. Cheers, Geoff!
Can’t you almost feel the rain dripping down your neck with Ruth?
Jude is taking me to unknown parts of Cornwall this week. Please bring a walking pole for safety!
Drake is dallying by the water (in his element). A peaceful and idyllic place to be :
Keeping an eye out for bears seems a good idea when you’re in the woods! Please say ‘hi’ to Woman’s Eye View :
Gilly has a lovely new look! Have you seen it yet?
And a beautiful garden sequel. Don’t miss it! Even the title is beautiful!
Pauline’s gone all modern and high rise on us. Come and look (if you’ve a head for heights)!
And take a peak at what’s in store for the future :
That’s it for another week! Hope you can join me next Monday. In the meantime you could do worse than pop in to Monday Escapes. Happy walking!