There is a story that in 1774, among the numerous visitors to Delaval Hall, a Duchess from the South of England was accompanied by an unknown fair lady who attracted the attention of the young Lord John Delaval. It soon became known that the fair visitor and young Lord John were engaged.
This met with the disapproval of his father, Lord Delaval, as he wanted his only son and heir to be allied to a more powerful and wealthy family. He therefore gave orders for his son to join his regiment in Lincolnshire, and not to return until he was sent for, on the assumption that the prolonged absence would cool his ardour for the lady.
His son obeyed, but not before he pledged his love to the fair visitor, and declared that when he did return they were to marry.
Lord John had not been gone for many weeks when news came that he had developed an illness, and had died suddenly. The last male heir to the Delaval’s was now dead!
During the first weeks of young Lord John’s absence, the health of the fair lady gave cause for alarm, which necessitated her to maintain a prolonged stay at the Hall. When news of Lord John’s death reached the lady, her health deteriorated further and her mind began to wander.
Over the months that followed, she was frequently seen looking from one of the windows in her room, and when questioned as to what she was looking for, her reply was always the same: “For the return of Lord Delaval to his home”. She could not be comforted, and at nights when all was silent, she would wander from her room to the windows, which commanded the best views of the Avenue. Here she was frequently seen dressed in white, gazing into the darkness and wringing her hands in grief.
As her health slowly failed, death put an end to her sorrowful vigils, and she was carried south by her relatives to be laid to rest. It is fabled that she died of a broken heart.
Her name is unknown, but the memory of the faithful and beautiful white lady is still kept by her form, which can be seen only at certain times of the year.
It is a fact that when the sun sinks in the west, casting a halo over the tops of the Cheviot Hills, or when a full moon sheds its light over the trees which guard the Hall, thus casting a shadow of the nearby Lady Chapel onto the south front of the former ruins, if you look very carefully, you will then be able to see “The White Lady” gazing from the windows of the first floor of the east wing of Seaton Delaval Hall.
by Charlie Steel © 2016
Further reading for many of Charlie’s articles can be found in his books: ‘Monkseaton Village’ (Vol. 1 & 2), ‘North Shields Public Houses, Inns & Taverns’ (Part 1 & 2), ‘Tynemouth Remembered’ and ’Whitley Bay Remembered’ (Part 1 & 2) , all published by Summerhill Books.