Victorian Cascades At Cragside Restored After 90–Year Break

By Graham Spicer | 14 July 2006
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photo of a woman sat at the bottom of a series of rocky manmade waterfalls

The restoration of the cascade is part of a £6m regeneration of the Cragside estate. Photo Simon Hobson

The dramatic water cascades at the National Trust’s Cragside property in Northumberland are reopening after a break of almost 90 years.

Part of a £6m regeneration project, the cascades will be switched on again on July 17 2006 at the 1,000 acre Grade I listed estate near Morpeth.

The original cascades were designed by pioneering Victorian engineer Lord Armstrong in the 1870s and 1880s for the rock garden at the front of the house. They were regarded as one of the best country house water features of the 19th century but were last operated in the 1920s.

painting of three victorian girls stood on a bridge above a stream with a dog and a fourth girl sat on a rock beside them

A painting by HH Emmerson from 1884, showing the three children of thePrince and Princess of Wales with the Cragside cascades in the background. © NTPL/John Hammond

“In the garden of a great water engineer there had to be water,” said Cragside Head Gardener Andrew Sawyer. “When we turn the cascades on for the first time it will be an Armstrong moment. There will be a series of different waterfalls and pools, and the sound of tumbling water – a feast for the eyes.”

Armstrong had originally intended the rock garden and cascades, one of the largest in Europe, to resemble a Himalayan landscape, but it eventually became overgrown with shrubs and rhododendrons. More than 4.5 acres of land were cleared for the restoration, with some 500 boulders used to recreate the cascades.

Cragside was the most technological advanced mansion of the Victorian era, used hydroelectric power and featured one of the first flushing toilets. Lord Armstrong, who lived from 1810-1900, was among the north-east’s leading engineers and philanthropists. He made many advances in hydraulics and is also known for Armstrong guns, which paved the way for modern artillery weapons.

photo of a woman sat in from of a rocky waterfall with a large manor house in the background

Cragside was the home of pioneering Victorian engineer Lord Armstrong. Photo Simon Hobson

The National Trust started work at Cragside in 2001, which saw the restoration of the cascades along with a number of new facilities including an adventure play area, stabilisation of the rock garden and increased access to the formal garden.

More work is also planned with the house set to reopen in April 2007, hydroelectricity generation scheduled for the first time in a century from Easter 2008 and the restoration of the Iron Bridge and opening of the refurbished Electrical Room in 2009.

Cragside Property Manager John O’Brien said: “Cragside already offers visitors so much to enjoy but the present restoration programme is designed to provide even more. We are very excited about the cascades, which is the latest project to be completed.”

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