Cragside - History and Facts | History Hit


Whitton, England, United Kingdom

Cragside is an historic house and gardens in Northumberland and was the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectric power.

Lily Johnson

09 Apr 2021
Image Credit: xlibber / CC

About Cragside

Cragside is a historic house in Northumberland that was once the country retreat of the first Lord Armstrong, a successful Victorian industrialist in the 19th century.

Cragside history

The first building on the site of Cragside was constructed in the 1860s as a two-storey shooting lodge, after its founder William Armstrong fell in love with the area whilst out walking there with friends. From 1869 to 1884, the house saw a transformation when it was expanded with designs by leading Victorian architect Robert Norman Shaw, becoming the ‘fairy palace’ that had been envisioned.

Not only was Cragside a marvellous palatial home, it was also first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectric power, enabled by Lord Armstrong’s love of efficiency and engineering.

Lady Armstrong also had a large hand in the site’s design through her keen interest in natural sciences and landscaping. She established a number of natural ‘rooms’ throughout the gardens with the foresight that they would one day become a vast woodland, and amassed a large collection of shells and natural specimens featured inside the house.

In August 1884, the Prince and Princess of Wales – the future King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra – visited Cragside, during which the house and its gardens were lit up with 10,000 lamps, Chinese lanterns, and fireworks that were set off in their honour.

Cragside today

Cragside is today managed by the National Trust and is open to the public. Its many eminent rooms may be explored, including the Drawing Room with its ornate Italian marble chimney piece, while throughout a stunning collection of art and furniture may be admired. Among these are portraits of Cragside’s founders, and many other intriguing paintings and antique objects.

Cragside’s extensive grounds make up 1,000 acres of beautiful gardens and parkland to explore. Highlights include the Pinetum, featuring a host of towering non-native trees that emulate the forests of North America, and the Formal Garden that overlooks the picturesque Coquet Valley. There are 14 different waymarked routes around the gardens, including the ‘Power Circuit Walk’ which features the restored power circuits used originally to power the house.

Getting to Cragside

Cragside is located in Rothbury, 15 miles north-west of Morpeth on the B6341, and there are numerous free car parks on the estate. The nearest train station is 17 miles away at Morpeth station, while the Arriva X14 bus service runs to the nearby Rothbury from Newcastle Haymarket. From Rothbury there is then a challenging 15-minute walk to Cragside.

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