Wonderful Engineering

Take A Tour Of Cragside – World’s First House That Had Electricity

About ten years before Thomas Edison started his famous work on incandescent lamps and an affordable mean of bringing electricity to the Victorian homes, a country house – Cragside – located close to the town of Rothbury in Northumberland, England was using electricity. The said house was owned by William Armstrong.

Back in those days, there was no concept of a national electric grid that could provide you power. So, if you really wanted electricity; you had to find a way of generating it for yourself. However, it did require an inclination towards electricity and a huge fortune; luckily William Armstrong had both. He was an inventor and a wealthy industrialist. Along with an architect Richard Norman Shaw, he built Cragside.

Cragside was basically modest mansion in mock Tudor style that has been constructed on the slopes of a small hill situated outside Rothbury. William Armstrong then added various inventions into Cragside including water-powered laundry, an early version of the dishwasher, a hydraulic lift, small elevator that moved goods between the floors of the mansion, and much more.

Armstrong dammed various small streams in the area for creating a total of five reservoirs that helped him power all of these machines at Cragside. He installed a hydraulic engine that was used for driving the hydraulic machines in the house. A year later, in 1870, he also added a dynamo to the mix thus creating the world’s earliest domestic hydroelectric plant. The electricity that was generated from this plant was used to provide power to Cragside and a number of farm buildings on the estate.

The first room to enjoy electrical lighting in Cragside was the gallery. It had only a single arc lamp that was hung from the ceiling. However, eventually the entire Cragside was wired for electricity, and the gallery had twelve overhead lamps along. Armstrong continued improving and extending his power plant; however, after his death, the house was abandoned up until the original power source was restored in 2006. It was once again upgraded in 2014 thus bringing the generators’ capacity to a total of 12kW which was enough to power up all of the 350 light bulbs at Cragside.

Armstrong is also credited for his devotion and commitment to planting trees. He planted more than seven million trees and shrubs around his estate thus changing the climate appreciably in this corner of Northumberland. Cragside was opened to the public for the first time in 1979. Take a complete tour of this house in this video: