The Seaton Sluice Watch House Museum is open to the public, staffed by volunteers from the Seaton Sluice and Old Hartley Local History Society, every Sunday afternoon throughout the summer (2019 dates: Sundays, 26th May to 29th September, incl.), from 2 pm to 4:30 pm. In addition, the Watch House will be open on the following dates in 2019: Bank Holiday Mondays 27th May and 26th August, also from 2pm to 4:30pm ; Heritage Open Days, Saturday 14th September to Sunday 15th September, 10 am to 4:30 pm). The Watch House will also be open on Harbour Day.The story of The Watch House, and the Volunteer Life-Saving Company, started on the North East coast. At the end of the 18th century, by far the greatest number of wrecks occurred on this coast because of the sheer volume of shipping and the severity of on-shore gales in winter. This led to the first purpose designed lifeboat, the ‘Original’, being stationed at South Shields in 1789.
In 1822 HM Coastguard was formed to combat smuggling but also to be responsible for supervision of life-saving from shipwrecks. Because the efforts of the Coastguard were sometimes inadequate, the first corps of shore-based rescuers, Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade, was set up in 1864. Thereafter, the Merchant Shipping Act regulations required the Coastguards to act as recruiting officers for the Volunteer Life-Saving Brigades, and here, in 1876, a small group of volunteers was enrolled to assist the local Coastguard, thus creating the Seaton Sluice Volunteer Life-Saving Company.
Soon afterwards, a Cart House, in which to keep the life-saving apparatus, was built behind the King’s Arms, and on 14th January 1880 this Watch House was opened. It was built at the expense of Lord Hastings of nearby Seaton Delaval Hall and consists of a Watch Tower and a Muster Room, originally fitted with a cast?iron range with fire grate & flanking hobs, “for the convenience of the men” and a Coal Store. The Watch House is now a Grade II Listed Building and belongs to Northumberland County Council.