Seaham is a small town on the northeast coast. More commonly known as Seaham Harbour, building began here in 1828, and the new harbour was for the purpose of transporting coal by ship, which was easier and cheaper than carrying it overland. The harbour was built by the 3rd Marquis of Londonderry, who was married to Lady Frances Vane-Tempest, an heiress of large estates in Co. Durham. He was given the title Viscount Seaham, and the name of the ship which carried the first coal out of Seaham Harbour was named the Lord Seaham. Previously coal was carried by horse drawn railway, and that, together with the growth in shipping, contributed to the development of the town.
Despite Seaham being a place from which coal was shipped, the sinking of the first mine was not started until 1849, but, as Seaham eventually had three pits, Seaham Colliery, Vane Tempest Colliery, and Dawdon Colliery, coal mining became a major part of people’s lives there. These collieries are now all closed.
Seaham Hall, the house of the 3rd Marquis and his wife, was built by Ralph and Judith Millbanke, whose daughter, Anne Isabella, married Lord Byron in 1815. They had one daughter, but the marriage was unhappy, and she left him in 1816. Anne Isabella was the cousin of Lady Caroline Lamb, one of Byron’s most well known lovers. In 1820 Seaham Hall was sold to the 3rd Viscount of Londonderry.
Seaham Hall was used as a war hospital during the First World War, and later became a sanatorium for tuberculosis sufferers. Today, it is a luxury hotel and spa, and its beautiful cliff top location is perfect place for an establishment of this kind. It sits on a tree lined road called ‘Lord Byron’s Walk’.
On top of the cliffs next to the harbour are the Londonderry Offices, which were built in 1857. These were the headquarters of the Londonderry business empire. After serving as Seaham Police Station, it is now being redeveloped.
Seaham has a lovely promenade and esplanade, with much interesting decorative art, and it is possible to take a walk along the coast of just over three miles (five kilometres). There is a picnic area with plenty of car parking space, and if you visit the North Beach, lots of rock pools to explore. A long seawall protects the cliffs and coast road from the ravages of the sea.
The town has a good shopping area, and the Byron Place Shopping Centre was opened in 2007.
The Church of St Mary the Virgin in Seaham is of Anglo Saxon foundation and its history is thought to go back to the 7th century. It is considered to be one of the 20 oldest churches in the country.
For a quiet stroll, Seaham has no less than four public parks. Seaham prides itself on the appearance of the town, and this is enhanced by numerous floral displays and hanging baskets.