Guy de la Val

Seaton Delaval Hall
Seaton Delaval Hall - Photo © Alan J. White, April 2006

The Delaval name derives from Laval , a town in the valley of the Mayenne River , in the département of Mayenne in old Maine, north-western France . An early ancestor, Guy de la Val II, built a castle there in the first half of the eleventh century. One of his descendants,Guy de la Val III, fought at the Battle of Hastings and thereafter the De la Vals settled in Northumberland. At Seaton they built a small fortified dwelling near the existing Saxon church, which in 1100 Hubert de la Val rebuilt bringing into being the present Church of Our Lady near Delaval Hall.

The initial fortified dwelling evolved into the mediaeval Seaton Tower, around the fourteenth century. This was extended in Tudor and Jacobean times to form a rambling manor house of considerable size. In the earlier eighteenth century, this was replaced by the present Seaton Delaval Hall, the third and last great mansion designed by architect and playwright Sir John Vanbrugh . This was devastated by a fire in 1822 but later restored apart from the interior of the main block.

The Delaval surname died out on at least two occasions in the Middle Ages, but was re-adopted by lords of Seaton presumably because of the prestige attached to its Norman-French sound. The Delaval family played a prominent part in the life of the county of Northumberland; several served as High Sheriff of the county, others became Members of Parliament and some served as Border Commissioner .

The fortunes of the Delavals of Seaton rose to their peak in the eighteenth century. However, with the death of Edward Hussey Delaval in 1814 , the Delaval line died out, and the manor of Seaton Delaval and other estates passed to the Astley family of Melton Constable.

Guy de la Val II was the father of two sons, Jean and Hamon. Jean at the age of twenty three became a monk at the Abbey of Marmoutier. Hamon, his second son, along with his own son Guy de la Val III, called the 'young and the bald', joined the forces of William the Conqueror. Hamon's son Guy was rewarded after the battle, with the hand of William the Conqueror's neice Denise, daughter of Robert of Mortain, Earl of Cornwall. Hamon succeeded his father in the Lordship of Laval, the year after the conquest and died in 1080. Hamon's son Guy remarried Cecile, a kinswoman of the Counts of Mayenne, after the death of his wife Denise. Guy died in 1095 and was burried beside his first wife at Marmoutier.

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