Cragside

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Category: Blog
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Written by afanen Hits: 7054

OK, I haven't blogged much lately, mostly because I had so much work,  I just couldn't get myself to blog. And stories? Oh, well. Still working on my first novel. I'm hopeful to see the thing finished by the end of the year. But no promises...

 

Now I'm on a holiday in Northumberland, and I must say: Good decision. Even during the bank holiday it wasn't overcrowded, the air is fantastic and it's wonderfully quiet. And did I mention there is no mobile signal here? So my boss can call as he wants, he won't be able to reach me. It might be a major inconvinience to the locals, but for me it's heaven. If you ever worked in the software industry, you know what I'm talking about.

I'm staying at a lovely inn near Kielder in the Kielder National Park.  Today, I went to see Cragside. Cragside  is one of the most magnificent houses of the Victorian Era.

Cragside House

 

I think you get what I mean. Cragside Estate covers 911 acres of land, most of it covered in forest and rhodedendron. It was built in 1863 by the businessman and inventor William George Armstrong, who -although at first a trained lawyer- had made a fortune by inventing a hydraulic crane, that could load and unload ships much faster and easier than before.

 

Not only is his house moist beautiful, it is also filled with all sorts of gadgets. Armstrong used his expertise on hydraulics. to install one of the first hydroelectric generators. The house was the first home in the world. to have a room lighted by the newly invented incandecent light bulbs, which were installed by their inventor Joseph Swan himself.

 

It also had hot and cold running water in most bathrooms, central heating and a turkish bath. The water came from a reservoir above the mansion, where it was pumped by a hydraulic pump, Armstrong had designed himself. It also had the worlds first working automated elevator, which also was operated hydraulicly.

 

Armstrong's wife, Lady Margaret Armstrong was a master gardener. Most of the landscape around the estate was desinged by her. She managed to create something that, although entirely artifical, had the look a magical wilderness. While walking through the vast estate (for which Lady Margaret thousands of north american pines imported), I felt like I was walking through an enchanted forest of some Victorian fairy tale.

 

The Armstrongs had, for unknown reasons, no children of their own. W.G. Armstrong, by then Lord Armstrong, inherited his company and his estate to his nephew Wiliam Watson-Armstrong, the later 1st Baron Armstrong.

 

When I walked through gallery in the enormous drawing room, I stumbled over the tragically short life of his daughter, Winifred "Winny" Margaret Watson-Armstrong, who died 1912 aged only 18 from a menengites.

 

She is depicted here in oil by Mary Lemon Waller:

 

WinifredWatson

 

Growing up in the magical environment of Cragside, I think she is the perfect candidate for a little Edwardian ghost story. I'll see what I can make of this.

The visit to Cragside has been inspiring and enchanting.