Cragside house to be lit by water power once again

Water will once more power the lights at the National Trust's Cragside house in Rothbury

The drained Cragside lake
The drained Cragside lake

Water power will once more illuminate a Northumberland mansion which was the first in the world to be lit by hydro power.

Lord Armstrong installed two hydro schemes and used his friend Joseph Swan’s new light bulb invention to light up his Cragside home in 1880.

Now the National Trust house will be turned on to water power once more with the installation of a device at the property’s Tumbleton Lake.

The Archimedes screw is made from galvanised metal and measures over 10m long and is two metres in diameter.

It will be mounted near the lake dam in a semi-circular cradle.

The flow of water from the lake to the Debdon Burn will turn the screw, which will be connected to a generator to produce electricity.

This will be sufficient to power the lights in the house.

Visitors will be able to watch the generating process.

“We are not hiding it away.

“It will be an almost sculptural sight in the landscape,” said Cragside conservation officer Andrew Swayer.

“It will be a very visual demonstration of the way hydro power works.”

Visitors will be able to view the apparatus from above and from steps along the side of the site.

The lake has had to be drained to allow preparatory engineering work to take place.

The lake is no longer stocked as a fishery so the limited brown trout population was able to move into the Debdon Burn.

The screw is made from galvanised metal and measures over 10m long and is two metres in diameter.

It weighs several tonnes and will need to be craned into position.

It is anticipated that the screw, which has been made in Germany, will arrive in February and the lake will be allowed to fill naturally by spring time.

To generate hydro power in the 19th Century, Lord Armstrong constructed Nelly’s Moss lakes at Cragside.

A gas engine was installed to add more power in 1895 and in 1945 Cragside was connected to the National Grid.

“Now we will be able to light the house again with water power,” said Andrew.

Trust consultancy manager Sarah Pemberton said: “We are really excited at being able to re-tell the story of Cragside being the first house to be lit by hydro electicity.”

The Archimedes Screw has been used for pumping water for over 2,000 years.

The Cragside system has been designed by York-based Mann Power Consulting Ltd which has been at the forefront of supplying this equipment for hydro generation projects since 2004.

Meanwhile, the National Trust has switched its North East headquarters from Scots Gap in Northumberland to the listed Holy Jesus Hospital in Newcastle.

Around 25 staff have been involved in the move.

The trust’s inner city youth project has been based at the former hospital and more space became available after Northumbria University moved our of offices in the building.

At present the Scots Gap building, a former temperance hotel, is being used by the trust’s Wallington countryside team.

“The hospital is a building with a lot of history in a city centre location and it was felt it would be a positive move,” said Sarah.


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