Revealing the evolution of Cragside House
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Cragside House evolved as Lord and Lady Armstrong formulated their dreams, desires and needs for the place.
It began in 1863, with the building of a modest house of 10 or so rooms to serve as a country retreat. It was a place to indulge in their hobbies and interests, especially outdoors with gardening, landscaping, wildlife, walking and fishing. They clearly had great fun designing the place from scratch.
A house within a house
The dynamic of Cragside changed in 1869-70. The arrival of the railway to Rothbury made the journey much quicker and simpler. Building literally expanded outwards and upwards to almost envelop the original house and take it inside itself.
It is one of the great joys of viewing the house today to see old exterior walls within new interiors - have a look in the kitchen corridor for an outstanding example.
Richard Norman Shaw's expansion
Great London architect, Richard Norman Shaw was employed to carry out this expansion; imagine being presented with extending this little house on a precipitous crag.
It's worth walking around the outside of the house before entering to really appreciate the complex, almost higgledy-piggledy, nature of the build: the ‘roofscape’ is amazing.
The additions - to approximately 100 rooms - were completed 1870-85. The only work carried out after this was the building of the Billiard Room and new Laboratory for Lord Armstrong, in 1895 - by the Gloucester designer Frederick Waller.
The house reflects the Armstrongs' personalities. You can see their imagination, drive for improvement and 'anything is possible' attitude which made them successful enough to afford do to all this.
The best of the best in art and crafts
The inside is a place of very fashionable arts and crafts designs, using great designers of the period: William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Philip Webb and Burne-Jones, to name a few. Cragside House has some of the finest surviving Victorian interiors to be found anywhere in the country.
Great crafts people were employed, with fantastic wood carvings by James Forsyth and furniture by Gillows of Lancaster as examples. Everything was of the highest quality and up-to-date fashion of its day, which was raved about then as it is now.
Modern living beyond luxury
Their passion for collecting soon took hold: they acquiring great works of art and every available modern comfort for their home on the crag.
It truly is the house where modern living began, with the telephone, electric light, passenger lift, wall-to-wall carpets, bathrooms, toilets and central heating. That's familiar today but back then it was luxury beyond most people’s imagination.