After a good wander around the grounds we went to visit the museums. The first museum we got to was the Armstrong & Aviation museum, which houses some of the stuff that Armstrong produced for WW2, and some stuff from WW1.
I’m sorry to say I didn’t take notes or many photo’s in this museum, I’m not sure why it didn’t float my boat, however there was a really nice vintage car that I liked.
We also visited the Archaeology Museum and saw some nice bling that they had dug up. The pieces were incredibly small, but beautifully decorated, and they were covered by a magnifying glass so you could see the detail. Not easy to shoot through 2 layers of glass so not the best shots ever, but you can see what I mean.
There is also a Stones museum which we looked into.
An anglo-saxon well can also be seen there.
Of course the castle rooms are all home to interesting bits of history
There’s a nice little keepsake of Queen Mary’s signature from a vist she made there in 1924
Stay tooned for part 3 when we visit the state rooms.
After our washed out morning at Dunston Staiths,we crossed the River and went to visit St.Johns Cemetary. We came across some Chinese tombstones, not a usual find when we’re traipsing through graveyards. So I did a little research…..
Back we go to the late 1800’s and to the later part of the Qing dynasty, which, as I’m sure you all know, was presided over by the Empress Dowager Cixi, a formidable and capable lady who had a fascinating life, having started out as a lowly concubine, but ending up as head Missis to the Emperor. The Chinese had four modernized navies during this period, and the Beiyang Fleet dated back to 1871, when four ships from the southern provinces were shifted north to patrol the northern waters. Initially considered to be the weakest of the four navies, that all changed when one of the most trusted vassals of the Empress, a chap named Li Hongzhang, decided to allot the majority of naval funds to the Beiyang Fleet thereby making it the largest of China’s navies.
What has all this got to do with Newcastle I hear you ask, so I shall tell you. You may remember my visit to Cragside last year, which was built by the engineer William Armstrong. You can read about him on that post HERE for it was he who had built a shipyard at Elswick in Newcastle, on the River Tyne, and Li Hongzhang populated his new navy with ships from Germany and Britain. Two of these were built at the Elswick yard, steel protected cruisers, fast and with big guns, the Zhiyuan, and the Jingyuan.
A delegation was sent to Newcastle from the Beiyang Navy. Sadly, 5 of the sailors died of an unspecified illness, whilst waiting to sail the ships back to their base in China. Yuan Peifu, Gu Shizhong, Lian Jinyuan, Chen Shoufu and Chen Chengkui. They were buried in St Johns Cemetery in Elswick, and over the past 100 years or so their tombstones had deteriorated, collapsed, and sunk into the ground.
In 2016 a student from the Royal College of Art in London posted photos of the cracked tombstones online and quickly attracted the attention of the China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation, a nonprofit organization. The president of the foundation, Li Xiaojie launched a global crowdfunding thingy and raised the money to pay for the tombstones to be restored.
Zhang Rong was the engineer sent by the Foundation to fix the tombs. He flew to Newcastle and met with the council to have a conflab on how to go about it. “We went through each item line by line, trying to find common ground and iron out any differences,” Zhang said. “It was worth the time because we learned so much during the process, especially about improving our standards.” In China, repairing tombstones is quite basic, glue the pieces back together, whereas in Britain, you also have to insert steel rods to make sure they keep standing and don’t fall over on top of people.
Together with Joseph Richmond & Son Memorials, Zhang and his team completed the restoration of the tombstones in December 2018. The graves were originally purchased by the Chinese Government for £5 each, (equivalent to £5000 nowadays). The Chinese didn’t have much foreign cash at the time, and this would have been a great sacrifice for them.
The rededication ceremony was in June 2019, with Chinese and Newcastlese dignitaries and the like all saying nice things about each other, which is kind of sweet.
“The five sailors can rest peacefully knowing that even after all these years, people back home still care about them. This is a project full of human warmth and love.” said Li Xiaojie.
When China take over the world we up here will be alright I think 😊
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.
It burnt off quite quickly though.
The first part we visited was the library, which didn’t seem to have many books!
but did have some interesting objects
There’s a dining room off the library, with an inglenook fireplace.
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
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.
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