Women and Power at Cragside

The office of the Caretaker of the Electric Light with original furnishings

In 2018, the centenary of some women gaining the vote, Cragside is celebrating the achievements women have made in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) over the last 100 years with two brand new exhibitions

Home to pioneering industrialist and inventor Lord Armstrong as his wife Lady Margaret Armstrong, Cragside is a feat of Victorian engineering. With the house and landscape designed and created to harness the power of nature, it became the first home in the world to by lit by hydroelectricity. In 2018, this engineering masterpiece will become the backdrop to the stories and ideas of past, present and future female innovators.


Today, the innovative spirit of Cragside is still visible indoors and outdoors. The house is home to many ingenious gadgets for the time, such as a hydraulic lift and internal telephone system. Outside, the power house, pump house and Archimedes’ screw tell the story of hydroelectricity at Cragside in past and present.


In 1847, before Cragside was built, the Elswick works were established for the production of Armstrong’s hydraulic cranes. This modest stretch of the River Tyne soon became the epicentre of North East industry, employing over 20,000 men and expanding into shipbuilding, armament and locomotive production.


After the death of Lord Armstrong in 1900 and the onset of the First World War, the Elswick works became the fulcrum of a major societal shift. By 1918, the year that some women were given the vote, one-third of the factories’ workforce was female.


In 2018, the centenary of the passing of the Representation of the People Act that began the inclusion of women in the political system, Cragside is exploring the stories of female engineers over the last 100 years, and looking forward to the future of Cragside presented by contemporary female innovators within science, technology, engineering and maths.