Cragside – Rhododendrons June 2019

It’s cold here in the UK, the summer flowers have gone and the autumn leaves blown away, so let’s take a walk through the estate at Cragside and remember warmer times.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” Rachel Carson


“Plant seeds of happiness, hope, success, and love; it will all come back to you in abundance. This is the law of nature”. Steve Maraboli

“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” Laura Ingalls Wilder

“Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Albert  Einstein

“Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.” Hans Christian Anderson

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” John Muir

“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” Frank Lloyd Wright

“On earth there is no heaven, but there are pieces of it.” Jules Renard


“Time spent amongst trees is never wasted time.” Katrina Mayer

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Lao Tsu

“The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.” George Santayana

all pictures by me and embiggenable with a click

If you want a longer walk there are more pretty pictures HERE

Cragside ~ Nov 2018 ~ part 3

Part 1 HERE.      Part 2 HERE

We only had a couple of hours if that before darkness was due to descend, so we drove the 6 mile route around the estate, but stopped for a wander here and there when we came across something interesting.

Our first stop was the quarry from whence the stones came to build Cragside.

Upwardly mobile tree.

It’s full of rhododendrons in summer so we will be returning then.

Next stop was a short walk up to a lake bed that was drained but still had its boathouse. On the way I spotted some weird lichen/fungi

Coral Fungi ~ Yellow Stagshorn

and on researching them I found out “Although not known to cause poisoning, the Yellow Stagshorn fungus is generally regarded as inedible because of its gelatinous texture, lack of flavour and insubstantial proportions”. We gave it a miss.

Although the North lake had been drained there was still a rivulet coming from it



the lake bed was full of bullrushes

and at the far end, a forlorn boathouse.

North Lake Boathouse

I don’t know why the lake has been drained, there are other lakes though so went to see them instead.





When it started getting dark, we went home, but stopped on the way for this

end of day


As always, pictures are embiggenable with a click, and for more of the house and grounds, the full album can be found by clicking HERE


Cragside Nov 2018 ~ part 2

Part 1 HERE

Although it was a bit nippy it was a blue sky day, so when we came out of the house we went for a wander around the estate.

Straight out into the courtyard

and then down a steep path to a bridge

The Bridge over Debdon Burn


The glen north-west of the house is spanned by an iron bridge, crossing the Debdon Burn, constructed to Armstrong’s design at his Elswick Works in the 1870s. It is a Grade II listed structure and was restored by the Trust, and reopened to the public in 2008–2009.


Looking back at the side of the house


Over the bridge and to our left is another little bridge and a path through the grounds.

It was lunchtime however so we turned left under the bridge


and off we went to lunch.

We checked out the shop afterwards



Big lightbulbs

and as usual didn’t buy anything, gift shops are always expensive!

I wasn’t tempted by a spikey Christmas bauble for £6 😳

We’d had a late lunch and were about an hour and 1/2 away from it being dark, so we decided to drive the 6-mile route around the estate and stop at places of interest along the way, but that will have to wait for the next post.


Stay tooned folks 🙂

Cragside ~November 18th 2018

Cragside, what a wonderful day out we had there. It’s a National Trust property now but didn’t start out that way. I think we’ll have a bit of History and edumacation before we have a look at some photos.

The History Bit

Let me first introduce you to William Armstrong, 1st Baron Armstrong, for it is he who built Cragside as a family home. He was born on 26 November 1810 in Newcastle upon Tyne, the son of a corn merchant. Trained as a solicitor, he moved to London before he was twenty. Returning to Newcastle, in 1835 he met and married Margaret Ramshaw, the daughter of a builder. A keen amateur scientist, Armstrong began to conduct experiments in both hydraulics and electricity. In 1847, he abandoned the law for manufacturing and established W. G. Armstrong and Company at a site at Elswick, outside Newcastle. By the 1850s, with his design for the Armstrong Gun, Armstrong laid the foundations for an armaments firm that would, before the end of the century, see Krupp as its only world rival. He established himself as a figure of national standing: his work supplying artillery to the British Army was seen as an important response to the failures of Britain’s forces during the Crimean War. In 1859, he was knighted and made Engineer of Rifled Ordnance, becoming the principal supplier of armaments to both the Army and the Navy.

Armstrong had spent much of his childhood at Rothbury, escaping from industrial Newcastle for the benefit of his often poor health. He returned to the area in 1862, not having taken a holiday for over fifteen years. On a walk with friends, Armstrong was struck by the attractiveness of the site for a house. Returning to Newcastle, he bought a small parcel of land and decided to build a modest house on the side of a moorland crag. He intended a house of eight or ten rooms and a stable for a pair of horses. The house was completed in the mid-1860s by an unknown architect: a two-storey shooting box of little architectural distinction, it was nevertheless constructed and furnished to a high standard.

But he didn’t stop there. In 1869, he employed the architect Richard Norman Shaw to enlarge Cragside. In two phases of work between 1869 and 1882, they transformed the house into a northern Neuschwanstein. (That seems to be German for Bavarian Romanesque Castle. ) The result was described by the architect and writer Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel as “one of the most dramatic compositions in all architecture”. Armstrong filled the house with a significant art collection; he and his wife were patrons of many 19th-century British artists. And Shaw wrote that it was equipped with “wonderful hydraulic machines that do all sorts of things”. The lakes were used to generate hydro-electricity, and the house was the first in the world to be lit by hydro-electricity, using incandescent lamps provided by the inventor Joseph Swan.  Swan had invented a filament electric lightbulb in 1850, and eventually joined forces with Thomas Edison and formed Edison & Swan United Electric Light Company. In the grounds, Armstrong built dams and created lakes to power a sawmill, a water-powered laundry, early versions of a dishwasher and a dumb waiter, a hydraulic lift and a hydroelectric rotisserie. He kept himself very busy.

He had a good inning, being 90yrs old when he shuffled off the mortal coil in 1900. After he died his heirs struggled to maintain the house and estate. In 1910, the best of Armstrong’s art collection was sold off, and by the 1970s, in an attempt to meet inheritance tax, plans were submitted for large-scale residential development of the estate. In 1971 the National Trust asked the architectural historian Mark Girouard to compile a gazetteer of the most important Victorian houses in Britain which the Trust should seek to save should they ever be sold. Girouard placed Cragside at the top of the list & in 1977, the house was acquired by the Trust with the aid of a grant from the National Land Fund. A Grade I listed building since 1953, Cragside has been open to the public since 1979.

It didn’t used to be open during the winter months, but this year they decided to let people in to the grounds and to the ground floor of the house. They had shut all the curtains and made it look like it would have done in the evenings, which was interesting as they’d taken some of the barriers down and you could get further into the rooms instead of just looking from one part. Of course that didn’t make photographing it very easy and I didn’t have a tripod with me, but I did my best.

We’ll have a look around the house before we go out into the grounds, but we were lucky to have a mist around the house as we arrived in the car park, so we shot the side of the house as we walked up to it.

Misty Morniing

It burnt off quite quickly though.

Side entrance.


The first part we visited was the library, which didn’t seem to have many books!

Umm…. The Library


but did have some interesting objects

Hand painted lampshades


The solid gold cage is for keeping tobacco in, but I don’t think you’d get away with it these days being held up by slaves, different times folks, different times.


Writing desk, love that pen and holder!


Drinks cabinet, no drink though!


fireplace with fake flames and smoke!


a few more books 🙂 and you can see part of t he oak pannelled ceiling. (Pretend you didn’t notice this one’s a bit blurry! Wish I’d had my tripod 😦 )


There’s a dining room off the library, with an inglenook fireplace.

The stained glass in the windows of the inglenook is by William Morris, though I blew them out a bit in this photo due to exposure difficulties!


Detail of one of the William Morris windows.


The carving on the fireplace plinths. Cockrells, but not sure why!

We’ll finish up in the kitchen, large by Victorian standards and forms a considerable apartment with the butler’s pantry. It displays Armstrong’s “technical ingenuity” to the full, having a dumb waiter and a spit both run on hydraulic power. An electric gong announced mealtimes. For the visit of King Edward and Queen Alexandra, Armstrong brought in the Royal caterers, Gunters, who used the kitchen to prepare an eight-course menu which included oysters, turtle soup, stuffed turbot, venison, grouse, peaches in maraschino jelly and brown bread ice cream. Yum!!

Let’s have a look at some of his inventions

Pressure Cooker


Bottle opener




That’s about it for the rooms we visited, but we’ll go back later in the year when the whole house is open, in daylight! There’s a lot more to see.

Stay tooned for a wander around the grounds next time.