History of Cragside

A historical black and white print of The Lodge 'Cragside', Northumberland, dated 1864-6, before Norman Shaw's additions.

Cragside was created very largely by three remarkable Victorians - its owners, William and Margaret Armstrong, and their architect, Richard Norman Shaw. Despite later changes, the house and estate still bear their distinctive stamp.

Where it all began

Sir William, later 1st Lord Armstrong (1810-1900), had one of the most extraordinary careers of the Victorian era. In 1863, not having taken a holiday for years and tired after organising a conference of the British Association, Armstrong visited Rothbury. He had happy childhood memories of the area, and decided to build a place in the country.
And so Cragside began.

Collecting the colossal in the garden at Cragside

The plant collection at Cragside is the largest collection in numbers and the biggest in its sheer physical size. Lord and Lady Armstrong directed the planting of seven million trees.

Cragside's art collection

Lord and Lady Armstrong collected art all their married life and had a fine collection at their homes, here at Cragside and at Jesmond Dene in Newcastle.

Science & engineering at Cragside

From an early age, the young William Armstrong had a natural aptitude for all things mechanical, taking apart toys to find out how they worked and inventing and making his own with materials found around the house.

Life of a Lady

  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • Her interests were many, but top of the list must come gardening and landscaping for which she had a great flare.

Lord Armstrong - the man at work

What was Lord Armstrong like? Words like focused, driven, inspirational, visionary, entrepreneurial would be used today to describe this very individual man.
" ‘However high we climb in the pursuit of knowledge we shall still see heights above us, and the more we extend our view, the more conscious we shall be of the immensity which lies beyond’."
- Lord William Armstrong