Life of a Lady

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Lady Margaret Armstrong
Wife of Lord William Armstrong
Cragside, Northumberland

What was Lady Margaret Armstrong like? It is a frequently asked question, and from historical sources a lot can be revealed.

  • She was the daughter of a Bishop Auckland engineer, William Ramshaw. The young William Armstrong, a student at the grammar school in the town, was to meet the 18 year old Margaret after being invited to the family home. She was 3 years older than he was, but they must have seen something in each other for them to marry on.
  • No love letters survive from the decade between the initial meeting and their marriage on 21 April 1835, but certainly after the marriage the young couple were observed to be very much in love.
  • In a 58 year marriage they shared many things, but children were not to be part of their remarkable life stories and we can only speculate what that would have meant to them.
  • Their great friend and diarist, Thomas Sopwith, gives many indications that Lady Armstrong was a great follower of fashion and liked to entertain and to be entertained. Sopwith in relation to these parties, uses phrases such as ‘hilarious enjoyment’ and ‘hearty and unrestricted spirit of festivity’. She would often go to London with friends, while Lord Armstrong was absorbed in other things, to see exhibitions, concerts and the opera.
  • Her interests were many, but top of the list must come gardening and landscaping for which she had a great flare. An article in the Throne Magazine 1906 reports: ‘The late Lady Armstrong was often up and around the estate at six in the morning, in order to see his wishes were carried out and the whole work was ably superintended by Mr. William Bertram, steward to the estate.’  She took full part in the planning of this wonderful landscape you see today.
  • An accomplished botanist she knew her plants, from hardy, through temperate to tropical species. Geology and the study of minerals was another passion of hers and she gave generously to secure a good collection for the Hancock Museum (now the Great North Museum) in Newcastle.
  • From the little we do know, she was very self assured. It is Margaret who greets the Royal party on the steps of Cragside, she who is at the centre of the Royal group in the drawing room and who, on meeting the American President Grant, proves to be no shrinking violet.
  • Lady Margaret was a very kind person by all accounts and very motherly towards the children of friends and relatives. Always taking a great interest in what they were doing and often becoming a surrogate mother if any of the parents were not around or had died.