Seaham Hall Hotel

WELCOME TO THE SEAHAM HALL HOTEL The beautiful and exclusive Seaham Hall Hotel is a luxury 5 Star boutique hotel with a fascinating history, located on a cliff top on the wild and romantic Durham Heritage Coast.

Seaham Hall remains the North East's premier 5 Star hotel, and with the award-winning purpose-built Serenity Spa in the grounds, Seaham Hall has plenty to offer the discerning guest.

Benefitting from a recent £1.5 million enhancement, the facilities at Seaham Hall are genuinely spectacular. Not only is the location delightful the hotel features a range of elegant function rooms and bars, luxurious bedroom suites, and first rate catering.

Our motto 'Luxuria Semper' sums it up beautifully...Luxury Always.


Our Philosophy

THE HISTORY OF SEAHAM HALL The aristocratic Seaham Hall estate has enjoyed a rich and varied past, and like many Georgian country houses it has a fascinating history.


In 1791 44-year-old Sir Ralph Milbanke, 6th Baronet of Halnaby, was MP for County Durham and a significant and influential landowner in the North East. He was living at Elemore Hall at Pittington near Durham, but decided to build himself and his wife the Hon. Judith Noel, daughter of the 1st Viscount Wentworth, an impressive new house on land he owned on the wild and romantic North Sea coast at Seaham.

The new home, Seaham Hall was effectively an extensive rebuild of Seaham House, a medieval manor house (the original structure of which can still be found within the hotel) positioned on high ground above the town.

Lord Byron

The completion of the house in 1792 corresponded with the birth of the couple's only daughter, Anna Isabella (affectionally known as Annabella) - who later went on to marry celebrated bon vivant and leading figure in the 18th century Romantic Movement Lord Byron in the drawing room of the house on 2 January 1815.

Whist their marriage was neither long nor terribly happy, it did produce a daughter in December 1815, the Hon Augusta Ada Byron, later Countess of Lovelace, and commonly known as Ada Lovelace.

Despite the failure of the marriage Annabella was known as Lady Byron for the rest of her life, despite of inheriting the title Lady Wentworth in 1856.

Ada Lovelace

Ada was something of a nineteenth-century enigma. In an age when aristocratic women were expected to concentrate on the home and family she proved to be a remarkably talented and influential mathematician and writer. She is chiefly remembered for her pioneering work on Charles Babbage's revolutionary mechanical 'general-purpose computer', the Analytical Engine.

Her notes on the engine in the 1840s included what has since been recognised as the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine. Because of this she is often considered the world's first ever computer programmer.

The Marquess of Londonderry

In 1821, as a consequence of failing health and increasing financial problems, Sir Ralph Milbanke sold Seaham Hall estate to soldier, politician and Irish-born nobleman Charles Vane, Baron Stewart for £63,000. Having married the impossibly wealthy heiress Lady Frances Ann Vane-Tempest in 1819, Charles Stewart (as he was then), second son of the 1st Marquess of Londonderry, took the surname Vane by royal licence and used his bride's immense fortune to acquire the estate with a view to developing the surrounding coalfields.

He quickly added a large northern wing to the house, containing kitchens and servants' apartments, and also financed the building of the harbour at Seaham, hoping to rival the nearby port of Sunderland. In 1822 he succeeded his brother and became the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry, and in 1823 he was created Earl Vane and Viscount Seaham.

The family also used their considerable resources to redecorate their main country seat in Ireland, Mount Stewart in County Down, and bought and remodelled Holderness House on London's Park Lane which they renamed Londonderry House -- and made it one of the most architecturally significant and celebrated great houses in the capital. They also bought the immense Wynyard Hall estate near Middlesbrough.

With so many properties around the British Isles the family did not spend very much time at Seaham Hall, but the Londonderry's regularly hosted the great and the good - with the likes of the Duke of Wellington (1827) and future Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (1861) joining them at Seaham Hall.

World War One

At the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 the Londonderry family placed the house at the disposal of the British Army to be used as a military hospital. The hospital was furnished with 112 beds and treated 3,534 patients over the course of the conflict. Seaham Hall was returned to the Londonderry family on 31 March 1919.

Spey Whisky and US Prohibition

In May 1922 the Londonderry family auctioned off the contents of Seaham Hall and left the property uninhabited. This provoked a rather unusual chapter in the house's history -- it became a secret bottling and distribution centre for Scotch whisky.

At the centre of this astonishing new role for the house was Sunderland man Alec Harvey, a descendant of John and Robert Harvey who had started distilleries in Glasgow in the 1770s. Having served in the Great War he had now established himself as something of a local entrepreneur, trading in livestock, household good and significantly Scotch whisky.

Knowing Seaham Hall was now completely unoccupied and had extensive network of cellars, Harvey quickly spotted a commercial opportunity and, because of his family connections in Scotland began using the empty house to both store and bottle Spey whisky.

In the dead of night he would smuggle the whisky down to Seaham Harbour and load it on ships bound for the Bahamas, from where it was redirected to New York and Chicago during the height of US Prohibition. Harvey would later claim his customers included renowned bootlegger George Remus and gangster Al Capone. He also exported Spey whisky to the Far East, effectively establishing the brand worldwide and making himself a small fortune.

Interestingly Spey whisky already enjoyed a long association with Seaham Hall -- to celebrate his wedding to Annabella Milbanke in 1815 Lord Byron had sent a bottle of this rare single malt to his good friend King George III.

Distilled, under licence of the Historic Royal Palaces at Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands, the exclusive and highly sought-after Spey Royal Choice Whisky is now only available at six specific venues in the UK -- the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace, and (thanks to Alec Harvey's celebrated exploits) the Seaham Hall Hotel.

Seaham Hall in public hands

In 1927 the Londonderry family gifted the house to the Durham County Council and £20,000 was spent converting it into a sanatorium for those suffering from tuberculosis (TB). When it opened on 25 February 1928 it had 80 beds for women and children, and a children's orthopaedic ward was added in 1929.

In 1931 the council invested a further £30,000 - adding a new west wing with 52 more beds and an operating theatre, together with a new staff annexe (Byron's Court) to the east of the main building. This new annexe offered quarters for the medical officer, the matron and had 26 bedrooms for nurses and other staff.

By July 1948 the local Hospital Board took over the management of Seaham Hall and added a cardiothoracic ward. It remained a hospital for a further 30 years.

Sale and hotel development

In 1978, and despite much local opposition, the authorities decided to close the hospital and put it up for sale. Thereafter the building lay empty and unloved for six years - until it was bought by the owner of a successful Sunderland-based engineering firm, Mr Kusia Jalal. The Iraqi-born entrepreneur Jalal was determined to convert the deteriorating yet still imposing house into a private hotel.

In 1985 the lovingly resorted house was reopened as the Seaham Hall Hotel.

However, by 1991 it was on the market again. This time it was purchased by local GP, Dr Mullier, who planned to operate Seaham Hall as a residential nursing home. As part of his refurbishment he added a huge hydrotherapy pool for the elderly, in what was once the drawing room.

Sadly this venture proved unsuccessful and the business went into liquidation in 1995. Seaham Hall was dormant once again.

Tom Maxfield

Sunderland-born Tom Maxfield had had a spectacular business career -- he joined burgeoning Newcastle-based enterprise software company Sage in 1984 as sales director, and helped establish it as a successful multi-million pound global operation. Having become a main board director, he left Sage in 1997 after the death of his wife, wishing to find a new purpose in life.

A fortuitous flying lesson took him over Seaham Hall that very same year, and he recognised the potential of the dilapidated building below -- so he bought the whole estate with the objective of turning it into the North East's first 5 Star hotel.

After four years of hard work, and a considerable financial investment, Tom unveiled the luxurious Seaham Hall Hotel on 19 March 2001. Thereafter he opened the purpose-built Serenity Spa in the grounds in December 2002.

Von Essen Hotels

With many other entrepreneurial projects in hand, Tom decided to sell Seaham Hall in March 2008 to Von Essen Hotels, who operated 27 other luxury hotels around the country - including the historic Cliveden House Hotel in Buckinghamshire and the magnificent Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath.


Von Essen Hotels hit financial troubles in early 2011, and the hotel and spa was ultimately acquired by an independent hospitality organisation in April 2012. It set up the Seaham Hall Management Company to run the business -- and has committed considerable funds to ensure Seaham Hall's long-term future and position as the finest 5 Star hotel in the North East of England is secure.

Staff Benefits

Unlock your potential at Seaham Hall

You and the pursuit of excellence

Seaham Hall is committed to providing our guests with the highest standards of personal care and attention, something we would not be able to provide without our team of staff and their dedication to the pursuit of excellence.

The people who work for us have the ability to anticipate the needs of our guests and must be motivated by raising service standards to the highest level attainable.

The best salaries and working conditions

We believe in investing in our people since it is vital that each and every person is motivated and happy. Only then can we provide the best. With salaries and working conditions second to none, whatever your chosen field of expertise and level in the organisation, you can also expect excellent training and career development opportunities.

Seaham Hall is truly an international hotel, with a number of different nationalities employed. That is probably one of the reasons why this is such a vibrant, exciting and rewarding place to work.


Number of rooms:20