Imagine visiting a home without a power grid and using hydroelectric power to run lights, dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, and washing machines. There is a system for watering the plants and an intercom between the rooms. It’s not a big deal, right? After all, this is the 21st century.
But imagine again, you have left your time machine and found that this house is not today, but in 1870.Suddenly, things became even more impressive, all thanks to a man named William Armstrong built a house called CragsideEven if you have never been to Northumberland, Cragside may seem familiar.It appeared in several TV shows, but-perhaps most notably-played the role of Lockwood Manor in the movie Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
Armstrong was a trained lawyer, but he was involved in scientific fields including hydraulics and electricity-a hot topic in the early 1800s. He eventually gave up his legal business and founded WG Armstrong and Company, which is known for producing Armstrong artillery, which ranged from 2.5-inch to 7-inch breech artillery. By 1859, he was knighted and became the main supplier of army and naval armaments.
By 1862, Armstrong urgently needed a vacation. He spent his childhood in Northumberland, especially in the town of Rothbury, so he returned there to relax.
He liked it so much that he decided to buy land in the area and build a simple house. The original house was actually just a hunting lodge and did not provide much luxury, but Armstrong equipped it with furniture suitable for a more exquisite house. Over time, Armstrong became more and more fascinated by the area and decided to expand the house in 1869. An architect named Xiao quickly drew up the plan, but the execution took more than 20 years to complete.
Obviously, Armstrong is a difficult client of an architect. It is easy for him to change plans at any time, so the end result is a house that might best be described as disconnected.
Armstrong built a laboratory where he will conduct electrical experiments. This room is now a billiard room, which has existed since 1895. However, before that, the laboratory must be a busy place, indeed. Armstrong built a dam and built five separate lakes on this land. In 1868, a water mill provided mechanical power, and by 1870, Siemens generators turned it into what is considered the world’s first hydroelectric power station.
Armstrong is an avid art collector, so in 1878 he lit up his collection with arc lights. Arc lights are not the best choice for almost anything, let alone viewing works of art. Arc lamps usually produce harsh light and tend to flicker and hiss. Although these lights are good for street lighting, they are certainly not ideal for general use. But at that time, Edison’s incandescent light bulb was still a year away from its invention, and it was far from practical and usable.
When Edison received all the glory for inventing the incandescent light bulb, many people were conducting parallel studies, and at least one of them independently found a feasible design. Although Edison discovered that carbonized cotton and bamboo were suitable filaments around 1880, inventor Joseph Swan began to study carbonized paper as early as 1850 and had a feasible but impractical model in 1860. Problems include lack of a reliable source of power and difficulty in pumping a vacuum. Swan invented a mercury pump to solve the latter problem, and Hermann Sprengel also adopted this method.
It seems that Swann and Edison discovered cotton as a suitable filament at about the same time. Of course, his own home was the first to be lit with a bulb from Swan Electric Light Company. He also provided 1,200 light bulbs for the Savoy Theater in Westminster, which had been lit by gas until then. When lighting was installed in the theater, the home of Swann’s friend William Armstrong became the second residence to be lit by Swann bulbs. After all, in December 1880, the house was already powered on. Although the lights are far from perfect, they complement the modern conveniences Armstrong loves.
The bulb has low resistance and requires thick copper wire. They also burned down quickly. But it did make Cragside one of the first houses in the world to use electric lighting, and it was undoubtedly the first to use hydroelectric power.
Ahead of the curve
Armstrong It may not be a household name, but he has done a lot of noteworthy things. He built the mechanism to run the Tower Bridge in London. He also developed a method of storing hydraulic energy, called a hydraulic accumulator. He is the correspondent of Michael Faraday we often remember. He also used hydraulic pressure and friction to generate static electricity in equipment similar to the van de Graaff machine seen in the London Institute of Technology exhibition. No wonder he is called “the magician of the north”.
Armstrong seems to be ahead of his time in many ways. In addition to the modern appliances at home, he is also a staunch supporter of renewable energy. Obviously, he recognizes the power of water, but also the power of the sun. He also believes that coal is a waste and predicts that the UK will stop coal production within 200 years.
The house still receives part of its electricity from the hydroelectric power plant rebuilt on the site. You can watch a video about the project and get a glimpse of Armstrong’s extraordinary “hunting lodge” below.