Responding to climate change at Cragside, Northumberland
With its dramatic rock-face setting, impressive interiors and history of invention, Cragside in Northumberland has always been at the forefront of modern living.
Lord William Armstrong had a passion for efficiency and was an early adopter of emerging technologies, filling the home with Victorian gadgets and inventions. The estate made a name for itself in 1878 when it was the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity using arc lamps. In 1880, the library was fitted with incandescent light bulbs created by the chemist and physicist Joseph Swan.
To this day, Cragside uses a hydroelectric system. In 2014 we installed an Archimedes Screw, which uses water from Tumbleton lake. As water passes through the spiral blades, the screw turns and harnesses the energy of the falling water. The electricity produced lights the whole house, and any surplus goes to the National Grid.
Damage caused to irreplaceable marble fireplace
While Cragside harnesses the force of water to light the House, increased rainfall brought by climate change is overwhelming its drainage system creating problems for the two-story-high marble fireplace.
Rainwater is pushing salts in the stonework of the house into the decorative marble and plasterwork of the fireplace inside, causing its surface to deteriorate, meaning urgent work is needed to save this irreplaceable piece of architecture from crumbling away.
A two-stage project is currently underway to stabilise and future-proof the fireplace against climate change.
The conservation and repair of the fireplace are possible thanks to generous donations from the Wolfson Foundation, a grant from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund administered by Historic England, and two private donors.