Discover Britain's original smart home

The kitchen at Cragside showing the baking table, range and rotating spit.

Discover Britain’s original smart home – a pioneering Victorian mansion filled with the latest gadgets and inventions. Illuminated with hydro-electricity and powered by hydraulics, this impressive Arts and Crafts House was designed for modern living and efficiency.

The vast Kitchen with its double-height ceiling and windows for natural light and ventilation, was well-equipped for the servants with labour-saving gadgets including a water-powered rotating spit, a large range for cooking, and an early dishwasher for maximum productivity. There was also a hand-operated ‘dumb-waiter’ for hoisting items up from the scullery and pantries.

See the labour saving gadgets in the Cragside kitchen
The kitchen at Cragside showing the baking table, range and rotating spit.
See the labour saving gadgets in the Cragside kitchen

The Library houses four of Joseph Swan’s original incandescent lamps. Swan’s lamps were shaded by glass globes and displayed atop cloisonné enamel vases. Originally the vases stood in a bowl of mercury with the copper side of the vase acting as a ‘return wire’. Servants would activate them by placing them in the mercury to complete the circuit, wearing gloves to avoid electrocution. The House shone with electric-light, powered by Armstrong’s expertly integrated hydro-electricity system, which harnessed the power of water from man-made lakes across the estate. 

Electricity didn't run through the House at all times, it had to be switched on. A phone line in the Butler's Pantry was connected to the Office of the Keeper of the Electric Light at the Power House. The butler simply rang the office when power was needed to light up the House. 

The Butler called the Keeper of Electric Light when power was needed to light up the House.
The Office of the Keeper of Electric Light at Cragside
The Butler called the Keeper of Electric Light when power was needed to light up the House.

A luggage lift rises nine metres from the basement to the bedrooms above. Driven by a hydraulic piston engine, the lift was operated using cutting-edge industrial technology, repurposed for domestic use. This technology was created by Armstrong’s very own Elswick Works in Newcastle that manufactured hydraulic machines.

Guests could enjoy lavish luxuries including hot and cold running water throughout the House, central heating for the cold Northumberland winters, and even a sunken bath and fitted sinks in the Owl Suite. People flocked to Cragside from all over the world drawn by tales of the ‘modern magician's’ palace, filled with lavish gadgets, intriguing inventions, and electric light. In 1884 the Prince and Princess of Wales - the future monarchs, King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra – stayed at the House during their tour of the North.  They chose not to visit the region’s castles and royal homes, but to explore this home of a Geordie genius.

Discover the lavish luxuries of the Owl Suite
The lavish sunken bath in the Owl Suite with hot and cold taps
Discover the lavish luxuries of the Owl Suite

Fashion-forward and with a passion for natural sciences, inside the House you can discover many examples of how the Armstrongs were inspired by their surroundings.  The House’s interiors include timber panelling intricately carved with woodland animals hidden amongst leafy branches, sunflowers depicted on stained glass, and William Morris & Co wallpaper featuring birds and flora in their design.

Collecting was a highly fashionable pastime for Victorians and as you journey through the House, you’ll find an impressive collection of exotic taxidermy and an assembly of 7000 seashells – each carefully labelled and displayed in cabinets.

Over 7000 shells make up the Armstrong's collection, each expertly labelled and displayed in cabinets in the Gallery.
A close up of the Armstrong's shell collection
Over 7000 shells make up the Armstrong's collection, each expertly labelled and displayed in cabinets in the Gallery.

Discover more about Britian's Original Smart home as you explore the rooms and corridors of the House. Look out for inspiration from nature in the decor and see if you can spot some of the ingenius inventions that made Cragside a unique and pioneering home. This impressive House sits at the heart of this 1000-acre estate. A stroll through Debdon Burn is a must to see the House in all its glory, sat atop a rocky crag, giving the estate its name – Cragside.