The life of Lady Armstrong

Lady Armstrong in the foreground with the royal guests at Cragside, 1884

A loving, caring and independent lady, we're shining a light on Margaret Ramshaw, wife of Lord Armstrong.

Designing Cragside

Lord William and Lady Margaret Armstrong were very much a partnership in marriage. Together they sculpted the landscape of Cragside and transformed what was a baron, rocky, heathland into the diverse estate that we know today. Having a keen interest in gardening, flora and fauna, much of Cragside’s landscape was designed by Lady Armstrong, as it had been at the couple's first home, Jesmond Dene in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Lady Armstrong was a great organiser, she managed the affairs at Cragside and was known for being on the estate at dawn to ensure that her husband’s wishes were being carried out. While Lord Armstrong had a passion for efficiency and engineering, Lady Armstrong led the way in creating a series of natural ‘rooms’ across the estate with a forward-thinking vision that would in-time transform the land into a woodland of over 7 million trees, including the Pinetum - which today is home to some of the tallest conifers in the UK, the creation of a colourful Formal Garden with an impressive Orchard House.

Lady Armstrong had a love of natural sciences; geology, botany and horticulture. The House was filled with over 7000 collected shells and an array of specimen cabinets. This interest in nature and wildlife influenced the interior design of the House including the William Morris wallpapers, the dainty sunflower designs on knives and forks, animal and insect wood carvings on dado rails and the ornate leafy tiles which line the hallways.

Helping the local community

Throughout her life Lady Margaret worked tirelessly to improve education and healthcare, taking a particular interest in a local sick children’s hospital where she donated a lot of her own money. She also worked with deaf, blind, and women’s charities to name a few. A newspaper obituary noted “during her long lifetime Lady Armstrong became as distinguished for her modesty and generosity as her husband. She was a cheerful helper in all efforts of a charitable or philanthropic character.” 

An independent lady

When her husband was away on business or busy working, Lady Margaret carved a life out for herself. Having a close circle of friends around her, she would throw parties with music, dancing and games, or would take regular trips to London to see exhibitions, concerts and the opera. Lady Margaret was a spirited person in her own right, taking great interest in many things beyond home life.

Discover more

Cragside was as much Lady Margaret’s vision as it was her husband’s. Their spectacular landscape vision and home full of invention is the perfect backdrop to their story. Visit us to find out more about their fascinating life together that spanned 58 years.