THE first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity is again to be powered by water – 150 years after being built.
The National Trust is to install a modern hydro system that will produce enough energy to light Cragside house, and enable the charity to re-tell the story for which it is famous.
The house, built by pioneering engineer Lord William Armstrong as his home in 1863, was first powered by hydroelectricity in 1878, when he used water from the lakes on his estate to generate energy through a turbine.
In a year with the theme of Building Dreams, the reinstatement of hydroelectricity is just one of the major pieces of work taking place at the attraction near Rothbury to mark its 150th year.
The trust will be starting work to install an Archimedean screw hydroelectric turbine at the southern end of Tumbleton lake in the spring.
Andrew Sawyer, conservation and interpretation officer at Cragside, said: “Lord Armstrong was an exceptional man with a genius mind, and the prospect of bringing his vision for Cragside into the 21st Century is a dream come true. Hydroelectricity is the world’s most widely used form of renewable energy, so we are looking forward to sharing this very special part of its heritage.
“The best thing about the screw is that it’s visible, and we hope this will add to people’s understanding of why Cragside is so special.
“Visitors will be able to view the technology from the lake side.”
Later in the year, the trust plans to open a new exhibition in the house.
Entitled Captured on Camera, it will show for the first time images from a personal photograph album of Lord Armstrong’s great nephew and his family, who took over as owners of Cragside when its creator died.
The exhibition will give a rare insight into the family life of the Armstrongs, and help to explain how the childless first Lord Armstrong ensured his dreams had a legacy.
In June, there will be three temporary major art installations on the estate, all inspired by Lord Armstrong’s achievements.
Part of the Festival of the North East, they will give a modern interpretation of the pioneering vision of Lord and Lady Armstrong.
The trust hopes that in the longer term it will be able to transform the boat house on Tumbleton Lake into an area where visitors can read about hydroelectric power at Cragside, as well as creating a viewing platform.
Mr Sawyer said of the Armstrongs on the anniversary: “A century and a half later, visitors can step into their dream to discover the wonders of this amazing place and the people who created it.”