Dreams of Nature: William Armstrong and Jesmond Dene

William Armstrong, Baron Armstrong of Cragside (1810–1900) is best known as a practical engineer and scientist – the inventor of modern artillery and creator of the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity – but he had an intensely romantic side that revealed itself in his shaping of the landscape around him. ‘I am a greater lover of nature than most people give me credit for,’ wrote Armstrong in 1855, by which time he had started to transform his garden and grounds in Jesmond Dene to reflect his dream of living in the mountains.

Early 20C postcard of Jesmond Dene, published by Alexander Denholm Brash of 92 Heaton Road

Early 20C postcard of Jesmond Dene, published by Alexander Denholm Brash of 92 Heaton Road

Armstrong’s attachment to Jesmond Dene, which began in childhood, remained strong throughout his long life. As his prosperity increased, he was more and more inclined to share the pleasures of the place with others. For example, in the early 1860s, he built a Banqueting Hall in the dene – not for lavish feasting, but for entertaining his workers at tea parties. In 1884 he handed over the dene and the hall to the citizens of Newcastle in perpetuity, with clear instructions about their preservation and use.

Another early 20C card of Jesmond Dene by Alexander Denholm Brash

Another early 20C card of Jesmond Dene by Alexander Denholm Brash

AT our talk on Wednesday 25 March 2015, Henrietta Heald, author of ‘William Armstrong, Magician of the North’, will talk about the long association between Armstrong and Jesmond Dene, the dene’s status as a public park, and the future of the Banqueting Hall, which is now the subject of a restoration campaign. The talk will take place at The Corner House, Heaton Road, NE6 5RP at 7.30pm (Doors open at 7.00pm. You are advised to take your seat by 7.15pm). Please book your place by contacting maria@heatonhistorygroup.org /07443 594154.

Please note: this replaces the originally advertised talk by Andrew McLean.

2 thoughts on “Dreams of Nature: William Armstrong and Jesmond Dene

  1. Keith Fisher

    At one time (in my youthful innocence) I thought I knew everything there was to know about Jesmond Dene and the Banqueting Hall – having spent a great deal of time in both places; although obviously more in the Dene, because my time in the hall was restricted to Saturday night pop concerts back in ’67/8, Anyway: conceive my astonishment when – during a guided tour of the Dene by our very own inestimable Mr Morgan – I was told about a gulley and pipe arrangement that channelled water down from the pond in Paddy Freeman’s across the valley into the banqueting hall to power the hydraulic harmonium. There now, revelation shared. Up until now I think only he, and I, possessed this knowledge. Well done, yet again, Mr Morgan. If we could just get you a laptop for Christmas you could follow this website and all would be hunky-dory. And, of course, as ever, well done Lord Armstrong.

    Reply

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