Friday, 27 July 2007


Yesterday I decided we'd waited far too long for the weather to clear so we took off north to visit Cragside.
It's a wonderful drive to Rothbury and then onto the Alnwick road where Lord Armstrong built his house, but we'd hardly gone half a mile before the rain began.
We drove on, ever hopeful, and left the rain behind. We stopped in an empty picnic spot on the Cragside estate and the heavens opened, so we ate our picnic inside the car.
Every time we stuck our noses outside the car, it rained, so we went inside the house. We've been many times before. There seemed to be far too many people crowding into every room, so we ducked outside again and I took a few more pictures before - you've guessed - it began to rain again.
The arch in the first picture leads into the main hall of the house, but this arch, which is just to the right of the first picture. leads through and out on the other side. The horse carriages must have made a noise as they rattled through. Today the cars creep through at 5mph and are virtually silent.
Lord Armstrong bought the land alongside the Debdon Burn in 1863 intending to make it a holiday home - he loved fishing and the famous Coquet runs through Rothbury. Railway traffic made the journey to Newcastle easy, and the small holiday home grew and grew and became his principal residence to which the Prince and Princess of Wales and their daughters came in 1884.

This is the view from the other side of the arch. The house is famous for many things: a hydraulic lift which the servants must have loved as they used it to carry coal and hot water and baskets of dusters, brushes and polishes about the house; the library was the first room to be lit by Joseph Swan's newly invented filament light bulbs, which were powered by the first hydro-electricity in the world; the suite of steam bath, cold plunge, hot bath and shower plus water closets and changing rooms were first used in 1870.

Many people visit simply to enjoy the gardens, which are vast. If you love rhododenrons and azaeleas, then this is the place for you in late May early June as the whole hillside around the house is a blaze of colour. A lovely walk away from the house takes you to the formal gardens that are a delight for the eye and nose. The huge plant pots on turntables are worth seeing in the Orchard House, too.

The Visitor centre has expanded over the last decade and there are many mini exhibitions detailing Armstong's work for those who like to know more about lifts, rams, turbines, guns and the like. Gentlemen seem to hover longer over these longer than the ladies.


carrie_lofty said...

Wow! That third picture is amazing. And the list of features! It's positively modern...

Jen said...

Yes, he was ahead of his time with the gadgets. Sad thing was that he had no children so the estate went to a great nephew and his children, who failed to produce offspring. Which is how the property came into the hands of the National Trust.

Ray-Anne said...

Hi Jen
we met very briefly at the RNA conference the other week, but there were so many folk there I don't expect you to remember me.
I was born and bred in Alnwick and we used to come to Cragside for days out all during the year - always loved it. One adiding memory was the hand painted wallpapers- and of course, the gardens. Have you been to the old Alnwick Castle pastures and walked through the exotic trees?
What an amazing generation of collectors these land owners were.
Although definitely a walk for a sunny day - the grounds spread for miles!
Take care, Ray-Anne

Jen said...

Ray-Anne, I do remember you - we always seemed to get distracted by other people and never got to talk!
I've been to Alnwick Castle but missed the exotic tree walk. We concentrated on the water gardens and the tree house plus a tour of the Castle - more than enough for one day. Hopefully I'll be back before too long.