Cragside – National Trust

1128 Reviews

Star Travel Rating


Review type

Things to do


Date of travel

March, 2019

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Product country

Product city

Travelled with

On your own

Reasons for trip

The main reception rooms and the servants area are on the ground floor. The bedrooms, owl suite, gallery and drawing room are on the first and second floors.

The main door leads into a large wood panelled entrance hall with fireplace and two archways. The larger was used by the family and guests. The smaller was used by the servants and lead to the kitchens and butler’s pantry.

The Butler’s pantry is near the front door. He was responsible for the family silver which was locked away in large chests when not in use. He was also in charge of lighting the house and had a telephone to contact the ‘Caretaker of Electric Light’ in the power house to arrange for which rooms needed to be lit.

The kitchen is a large and well lit room. There are two massive cast iron ranges on one wall with a meat spit worked by hydraulic power. In front of one of the ranges is a plate warmer. Food was kept cool on a marble slab surface. There is a dumb waiter, electric lights, electric bells to summon servants and an electric gong to announce mealtimes. Over the sink is a primitive dish washer used to rinse plates before they were washed thoroughly. This would originally have been in the scullery.

From the kitchen. stone steps lead down into the scullery in the basement. There are no windows and the only lighting was from the electric lights. The mechanism to work the spit is here. A dumb waiter carried dirty dishes and pans to be washed in the scullery and then sent them back to the kitchen.

Off the scullery is a small room with a brine tank for curing hams. At the far end is the game larder.

There was a hydraulic passenger lift which went from the basement to the to the second floor which was used by the servants to take luggage, hot water and coal for the fires in all rooms of the house. This was worked by water power. Water was let into the jigger (moveable ram) from a reservoir above the house and pushed it over a system of pulleys which raised the lift. When the water was released, the lift was lowered. The system was designed so the lift stopped automatically at the correct place. The passenger compartment had a manual control to determine the direction of travel to the jigger control valves. There was also a control handle on each floor to call the lift.

A long corridor leads from the large archway in the entrance hall and gives access to the main reception rooms, with the dining room at the far end. The bottom of the walls are covered with brightly coloured Majolica tiles.

The study, next to the staircase and nearest the entrance hall was originally Lady Armstrong’s sitting room and has a beautifully moulded plaster ceiling. It later became Lord Armstrong’s the which he also used for scientific experiments. On the desk is his microscope and a slide box.
It is a cosy room with dark red walls lined with tall bookcases.

Next to it is the garden alcove with a wood panelled ceiling and doors leading out onto the rock garden.

Beyond is the Japanese room. Armstrong’s shipyards on the Tyne supplied many battleships to the Japanese. Armstrong developed close links with the Tokugawa, who was an uncle of the Empress. The room contains prints and other gifts given to Armstrong by Tokugawa.

Stairs next to the Japanese room lead down to the Turkish bath. This is a suite of rooms with steam room, cold plunge bath lined with blue and white tiles, shower and changing rooms. Bathers undressed and then lay in the sauna with hot dry air coming up from the furnace room through grating in the floor. They then either had a cold shower or jumped in the plunge bath before getting dry and dressed again. The steam generated by the Turkish bath was recycled and used to heat the rest of the house.

At the end of the corridor is the inner hall with doors leading into the library and dining room. These two rooms are considered as two of the finest surviving examples of Victorian interiors in England.

The library originally the drawing room with a large bay window, which looks down over the ravine. The panels of stained glass were designed by Rossetti and Burne Jones and produced by William Morris. The middle six panels depict St George and the dragon.

Low bookcases line the base of the walls. The colour of the pale beige wallpaper was designed to show off the oil paintings. The beautiful panelled ceiling is made of walnut and has carved bosses and a frieze of plants and leaves on a gold background.

The onxy surround of the fireplace was acquired on a sales trip to Egypt and is framed with red marble and blue and white majolica tiles.

The dining room is next to the library and was designed to be impressive but also homely. The base of the walls are panelled with green patterned wallpaper above. Round the top of the panelling is carved frieze with animals and plants.

At one end is a large bay window. Opposite is the massive sideboard set between two doors; one used by the servants, the other by the family.

The large dining table is most unusual. Known as a Capstan Table, it is made of segments which can be opened out by turning a handle. Large straight segments can be slotted in between the original segments to make the table larger.

The massive stone inglenook fireplace has two wooden settles. These are modern reconstructions of a settle Armstrong is sitting on in one of his portraits. The beautiful four panels of stained glass in the Inglenook were designed by William Morris and represent the four seasons.


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