Wednesday 26 August 2015

(181) Armstrong (later Watson-Armstrong) of Cragside and Bamburgh, Barons Armstrong

Armstrong, Baron Armstrong
of Cragside
This post concerns two families, the Armstrongs and the Watsons, who were so closely connected that their stories cannot really be told separately. William Armstrong (1778-1857) was born in humble circumstances in Cumberland and brought up on the Losh family's Wreay estate in that county. As a young man he moved to Tyneside to work in one of their family firms, and when his employers ceased trading in 1803 he set up in business on his own account as a corn merchant, taking on some of their contracts. 

Over time, William became part of Newcastle's merchant elite, and in the 1820s he moved to a house called The Minories or South Jesmond House in the fashionable Jesmond area of the city. After the passing of the Municipal Reform Act of 1835, he became an elected member of the town council, and in 1850 he was Mayor of Newcastle. From childhood he had a gift for, and a passionate interest in, mathematics, and he built up a valuable library of mathematical books, most of which were bequeathed at his death to the Literary & Philosophical Society of Newcastle, of which he was one of the early members. He married a daughter of William Potter of Walbottle Hall, one of the local minor gentry families which had mining interests, and he moved easily between their world and that of the merchant elite. One of his close friends and neighbours at Jesmond was the splendidly named Armorer Donkin, who was one of the leading solicitors in Newcastle, and through his business dealings and his friendship with Donkin he came to see the law as the best passport to success and wealth.  He therefore insisted that his only son, William George Armstrong (1810-1900), later 1st Baron Armstrong of Cragside, should be educated for the law even though his natural bent was for mechanics and engineering. He also steered his only daughter, Anne Armstrong (1802-28) into marriage with another lawyer, William Henry Watson (1796-1860), who after a brief but exhilarating career in the army had entered Lincolns Inn in London. It seems likely that Watson was known to his father-in-law through contacts in the corn trade, as both his uncle, William Watson (1757-1814) of Adderstone Hall and his grandfather had been large-scale corn suppliers to the Government, from their bases at Berwick-on-Tweed and near Bamburgh. Sadly Anne's marriage was ended prematurely by her death in 1828 and she did not live to see her new husband qualify as a barrister, go on the eminent and lucrative rank of Queen's Counsel, or become a judge and be knighted. Their only son, John William Watson (1827-1909) would follow in his father's footsteps as a lawyer and eventually buy the freehold of Adderstone Hall, which his ancestors had leased in the 18th century.

William's son conformed to his father's wishes and qualified as a solicitor after training in his brother-in-law's chambers in London and with Armorer Donkin, and then went on to become a partner in Donkin's practice.  He married in 1835 and built a new house at Jesmond Dene, close to the homes of his parents and his partner, Armorer Donkin, where he and his wife gradually expanded their grounds and began landscaping the Jesmond Dene valley. In the mid 1840s, W.G. Armstrong finally followed his inclinations and made the move from a legal career into industry, where he began by exploiting his inventions in hydraulic power, but soon diversified into armaments and naval shipbuilding. By the late 19th century, his firm, W.G. Armstrong & Co., was one of the power-houses of the Empire, and Armstrong's wealth increased to match; at the time of his death he was worth some £1.4m (about the equivalent of £1.3bn today*). With the wealth came national recognition, in the form of a knighthood in 1859 and a peerage in 1887.

From the 1860s and especially after 1871, Armstrong withdraw from the active management of the business and focused his considerable energies in other areas. In 1863 he acquired land at Rothbury on which he built a shooting box which he called Cragside.  After the railway reached Coquetdale and he could travel into Newcastle quickly, he enlarged Cragside into a full-time country residence with the assistance of the architect Norman Shaw. 
The wonderful roofscape of Cragside. Image: Kevin Peterson.
There were three campaigns of work in 1870-72, 1872-77 and 1883-85 and he made further additions in the 1890s. Alongside the expansion of the house, and the extension of the estate, he and his wife also embarked on the formidable task of making a garden in the bleak and boulder-strewn landscape around the house.  When his wife died in 1893 he took on a new project, buying and restoring Bamburgh Castle on the Northumberland coast, with the intention that it should become a convalescent home in her memory, although work was still in progress when he died in 1900, aged 90, and his heirs retained the castle as a seat.

Lord & Lady Armstrong had no children of their own, and the heir to almost the entire estate was his great-nephew, William Henry Fitzpatrick Watson (1863-1941), who added the surname Armstrong to his patronymic in 1889. In 1903 he was also raised to the peerage as 1st Baron Armstrong of Bamburgh & Cragside, in what was effectively a recreation of his great-uncle's peerage. Watson-Armstrong was the grandson of Lord Armstrong's sister, Anne, and the lawyer, Sir William Henry Watson. His father, John William Watson (1827-1909), was also a lawyer, who bought Adderstone Hall near Bamburgh in the 1890s. Even though Cragside continued to be the principal seat of the family, the long association of the Watsons with the Bamburgh area, and with Adderstone in particular, may have prompted the new Lord Armstrong to retain Bamburgh Castle in his ownership, and if his conscience was troubled by not honouring his great-uncle's intention to make it a convalescent home, it was no doubt eased by his munificent gift of £100,000 in 1900 (about £95m today*) towards rebuilding the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

The 1st Lord Armstrong of the second creation died in 1941 and was succeeded by his only son, William John Montagu Watson-Armstrong (1892-1972), 2nd Baron Armstrong, who after fighting in the First World War and standing unsuccessfully for Parliament, lived in Canada for the more than twenty years, where he acted as a consul for the Siamese and Dutch governments. He returned to England in about 1946 and lived at both Cragside and Bamburgh Castle. When he died in 1972, however, his son, William Henry Cecil John Robin Watson-Armstrong (1919-87), 3rd Baron Armstrong, decided to live at Bamburgh and gave Cragside with 911 acres to the Government in lieu of death duties. The house was transferred to The National Trust through the auspices of the National Land Fund in 1977, and he made a further generous gift to the Trust to provide an endowment. The 3rd Lord Armstrong had no children of his own, but adopted a son and daughter, to whom his remaining estates passed at his death, although the peerage became extinct. In 1991 the National Trust acquired further land at Cragside including the formal terraced gardens, glasshouses, and parkland, and Bamburgh Castle is now also open to the public.

* Comparisons of economic power and cost from Measuring Worth.

Jesmond Dene, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Northumberland

Jesmond Dene: the house was built for the Armstrongs on land given to them as a wedding present in 1835.

The house called Jesmond Dene (sometimes Jesmond Dean and not to be confused with Jesmond Dene House, which belonged to Andrew Noble, one of Lord Armstrong's business partners) was built for the Armstrongs on 16 acres of land which they were given as a wedding present in 1835, in what was an increasingly fashionable area for the villas of Newcastle industrialists overlooking the valley of the Ouseburn. 

By 1858, when the 6" Ordnance Survey map was first published,
'Jesmond Dean' was one of several villas above the Ouseburn.

Jesmond Dene on the 6" OS map of 1895.
The name of the architect is not known. As his wealth increased, Armstrong acquired more and more of the valley floor, and subtly improved its natural beauties to create a dramatic landscape. This area was linked to the house and its pleasure gardens by tunnels under Jesmond Dene Road which still survive. In 1860-62 the elderly John Dobson designed a Italianate Banqueting Hall overlooking the valley, which Armstrong used for entertaining business visitors and occasionally his workers too. In 1869-70 a separate entrance to the gardens was made on Jesmond Dene Road, and a gatehouse in late Tudor style was built there to the designs of Norman Shaw (then working at Cragside). 

Jesmond Dene: an early engraving of the banqueting house and, above, Norman Shaw's gate lodge.

In 1883, having moved to Cragside, Armstrong gave the valley to Newcastle Corporation as a public park, which was opened the following year by the Prince of Wales as part of a three-day visit to the north-east during which he stayed at Cragside. 

Jesmond Dean: the landscaping of the valley after it became a public park.
During his lifetime and for some time afterwards, Lord Armstrong was revered in his home city for the employment he brought and for his philanthropic initiatives, and Jesmond Dene continues to be a popular park. Time has been less kind to the buildings within the landscape, however: Lord Armstrong's house, Jesmond Dean, was demolished in about 1930 and the Banqueting Hall was unroofed in the 1970s, although the Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust currently has hopes of restoring it.

Descent: William George Armstrong (1810-1900), 1st Baron Armstrong... demolished c.1930.

Cragside, Rothbury, Northumberland

Cragside began as a relatively modest hunting lodge and occasional residence built for Lord Armstrong in 1864, on what was then a remote estate. After the arrival of the railway at Rothbury, however, it became feasible for Armstrong to live at Cragside and commute into Newcastle to supervise his business interests, and the house was gradually developed into a full-time residence. The architect for this transformation was Richard Norman Shaw, who is said to have sketched out his plans in one day, although the whole scheme required three phases of work in 1870-72, 1872-77 and 1883-85 for full realisation.  

Cragside: the original small house, photographed in 1866 before Norman Shaw began to enlarge it.

Shaw's design incorporated the existing house (although one is hardly aware of it now externally) but responded to the dramatic setting with a dashingly Picturesque Tudor-inspired design of stone and semi-timbering. It is a large but not enormous house, but because of its constricted site and staged development it rambles in an engaging way. The entrance side, largely the creation of the second phase of work in 1872-77, has stone walls crowned on one side by semi-timbered gables and on the other side carried up into a tower. 

Cragside: the entrance front.

The ground floor of the tower range is pierced by an archway leading into a courtyard now surrounded by rather pedestrian later wings of the 1890s, which are thought to have been designed by Lord Armstrong himself but could perhaps be the work of C.J. Ferguson, his architect at Bamburgh, or Frederick William Waller of Gloucester. To the right of the tower, the drawing room wing of 1883-85 projects at second-floor level, built on the sandstone crag which enfolds the house on this side. Behind it is the billiard room added in 1895 by Waller (whose unexpected appearance in Northumberland is explained by his enjoying a particular reputation for designing billiard rooms and by a personal connection through his sister-in-law, the artist Mary Lemon Waller, who worked for Lord Armstrong several times from 1882 onwards), and above this again is a strange detached chimneystack fed by subterranean flues.  The towering main front, which looks out across the Debden Burn, is again a complicated design with lots of movement and further half-timbering. The north side of the house, shaded by trees, is quieter and the gabled gateway of 1874 was originally more or less detached.

Cragside: the west front from the gardens. Image: Saxman

The main entrance into the house takes one into the old part of the house, where the rooms, including Lord Armstrong's study and the Japanese Room, are relatively small. A narrow majolica-tiled passage leads to the library and dining room on the north front, which are part of Shaw's additions of 1870-72, and introduce the larger scale of his work. 

William Morris figure of Autumn
from the dining room inglenook
The library has striking William Morris glass in the top lights of the windows, and the dining room has a big inglenook fireplace with much carving and further stained glass. Also of the 1870-72 phase are the big kitchen (extended in 1885) and the basement below the library, which was necessitated by the ground levels but which is utilised to provide a Turkish Bath suite.

Cragside: the main staircase. Image: Trip Advisor
From the entrance hall, a surprisingly modest staircase leads up to the first floor, where the boudoir and the white and yellow bedrooms belong to the original house, and the morning room, bamboo room and red bedroom to the additions of 1870-72. Further steps lead up from the staircase landing to the first floor rooms behind the entrance front. This space was originally created as Lord Armstrong's personal museum, and gave access to his observatory in the tower, but in the final campaign of work in 1883-85 it was converted into a gallery, leading through the tower to be vast new drawing room beyond. 

Cragside: the gallery created in 1883-85 to provide access to the new drawing room beyond. Image: Kevin Peterson.

The drawing room is dominated by an astonishing Italian marble chimneypiece designed by W.R. Lethaby and carved by Farmer & Brindley in a Mannerist style which echoes early 17th century work at Hatfield and Hardwick. Beyond the drawing room is Waller's billiard room, somewhat anticlimactic after the pomp of the drawing room, but a well-preserved example of this quintessentially Victorian country house requirement.

Cragside: drawing room. Image: Trip Advisor.

Lord Armstrong was a passionate inventor, and his house exhibits various innovations which display his ingenuity in the use of water-power, including an hydraulically operated spit and dumb waiter in the kitchen. Cragside was also the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectric power, provided by plant which he designed in 1881 to make use of the natural resources of the estate.

Norman Shaw's design for the main front of the house.
This Victorian lithograph gives some impression of the bleakness of the original setting.
The house was originally set in a dramatic position but in a very bare and bleak landscape, and only the application of a vast team of Victorian gardeners has produced the present softened and planted scene. The gardens seem to have been the joint creation of Lord Armstrong and his wife, who had a passion for plants. The process of transformation was eloquently described by T. Raffles Davison in The British Architect in 1881:
Imagine a great hill covered from bottom to crest with huge grey boulder stones, and half-way up, cut out of a steppe on the hill side, the site and placing of a building of the most picturesque kind imaginable. Then having chosen the site and placed the house, call forth your gardeners by the hundreds, and bid them make amongst and around those crags and boulders winding walks, every one formed of steps of the natural grey stone. Then bring your evergreens and rare heather by the tens of thousands, plant them over and about the place till there is hardly a spot of bare soil left; then with the rarest and commonest ferns plant every crevice among the boulders. Form two artificial lakes in the valley near the house, so that you can defy suspicion of the manufacture. Make a carriage approach from opposite ends of the valley, so easy and pleasant that it might be transplanted from Hyde Park; and beside these, let there be rolling along the hill, at two heights above, carriage drivers that for views and healthful breezes shall be immaculate. Along the valley let there be a brooklet teeming with fish, and covered and bordered with trees and rocks forming a veritable glen: span the stream by rustic and iron bridges, which form the centres of a score of perfect pictures.
The iron bridge referred to was made at Armstrong's Elswick Works in the 1870s, and does indeed provide the centrepiece for many views of and from the house.
Cragside: the view from the house into the gardens, with the 1870s iron bridge.

In 1977 the house at Cragside was accepted by the Government in part-settlement of death duties, and was transferred to The National Trust, with a substantial endowment from the 3rd Lord Armstrong. There followed a long process of restoration, and in 1991 the formal gardens, glasshouses and parkland were also acquired and reunited with the rest of the estate.

Descent: William George Armstrong (1810-1900), 1st Baron Armstrong; to great-nephew, William Henry Fitzpatrick Watson-Armstrong (1863-1941), 1st Baron Armstrong of Bamburgh & Cragside; to son, William John Montagu Watson-Armstrong (1892-1972), 2nd Baron Armstrong of Bamburgh & Cragside; to son, William Henry Cecil John Robin Watson-Armstrong (1919-87), 3rd Baron Armstrong of Bamburgh & Cragside, who gave to the Government in lieu of tax; allocated to The National Trust, 1977.

Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland

Bamburgh Castle from the seaward side
Bamburgh Castle from the landward side, with the keep in the middle and the Victorian castle beyond

The castle stands on a long and narrow coastal outcrop of rock, just south of Lindisfarne. The site, which is naturally defensive, has in fact been continuously occupied since prehistoric times, when there is believed to have been a hillfort here. In the Saxon period it was an important fort and royal palace.
Bamburgh Castle: plan from Ordnance Survey 25" map,
showing the site before the 1890s restoration.
The present buildings consist of a 12th century keep and three baileys (the West, East and Inner Wards), with the main buildings around the inner ward having been extensively restored and altered in the 18th and 19th centuries, although they have medieval origins

The keep stands between the east and inner wards, and is the main survivor of the Norman castle, although some of the castle walls also have masonry of the same period. There are accounts for work here in 1164, but the amounts spent suggest that they were for alterations, not new building, and it was perhaps first built a little earlier, when the area was under Scottish rule; there are similarities of plan and design to Carlisle Castle, which dates from the 1150s. The keep has a high moulded plinth, with square turrets at the corners and buttresses further strengthening the walls, but the main entrance is unusually at ground-floor level, showing the confidence the builders felt in the impregnability of their site and walls. Inside, the basement and first-floor armoury preserve their vaulting, and the armoury has an apsidal end, suggesting it may have begun life as the chapel.

Samuel & Nathaniel Buck's view of the castle in 1716 shows the extent of later restoration

The rest of the castle has Norman origins but now dates largely from later rebuildings. The medieval fabric was in ruins when it was bought by Lord Crewe, Bishop of Durham, in 1704. Lord Crewe left his estates for charitable purposes and in 1757 his Trustee, Dr. Sharp (who demonstrated his Gothick credentials at his vicarage in Hartburn), began restoring the castle to house a remarkable series of charitable bodies, including schools, an infirmary, accommodation for shipwrecked sailors, a free lending library, a granary which sold flour to the poor at intervention prices, a lifeboat station and a safety beacon.
Bamburgh Castle: view by S.H. Grimm c.1790. Image: BL
The buildings along the south side of the inner ward were rebuilt to house these activities, and a windmill was built at the west end of the castle for grinding corn for the granary operation. But alongside these practical steps, large parts of the curtain walls were rebuilt and given pasteboard battlements, including the long section forming the south side of the west ward, and the keep was tricked out with fanciful turrets.

By the late 19th century, the castle's charitable functions were deemed no longer necessary, and the Crewe trustees sold the building to Lord Armstrong, for whom the Carlisle architect, C.J. Ferguson, created a series of grand baronial interiors over a decade from 1894. The state rooms and apartments along the south side of the inner ward stood on the site of the original great hall, kitchens and captain's lodgings, and a few medieval features are preserved amid the acres of new sandstone and brown panelling. Lord Armstrong intended the castle to house a convalescent home in his wife's memory, but it was not finished before his death and later owners used it as a secondary seat. 

Bamburgh Castle: the vast baronial spaces created by C.J. Ferguson, 1894-1904. This view of 2011 looks from the King's Hall into the Cross Hall. Image:  Ian Fulton.
The style is a free early Tudor and some individual spaces, such as the King's Hall, with its false hammerbeam roof, or the Cross Hall, with its stone overmantel and bay windows overlooking the village are undoubtedly impressive. Overall, however, I have a sneaking sympathy for Avray Tipping's judgement that the restoration represented the 'acme of expenditure with a nadir of intelligent achievement', and perhaps because the purpose of the restoration was changed half-way through building, or because Ferguson was a more pedestrian architect than Shaw, the interiors lack coherence and disappoint after those of Cragside.

Descent: sold 1704 to Nathaniel Crewe (1633-1721), 3rd Baron Crewe, Bishop of Durham; to Lord Crewe's Charity, which sold 1894 to William George Armstrong (1810-1900), 1st Baron Armstrong; to great-nephew, William Henry Fitzpatrick Watson-Armstrong (1863-1941), 1st Baron Armstrong of Bamburgh & Cragside; to son, William John Montagu Watson-Armstrong (1892-1972), 2nd Baron Armstrong of Bamburgh & Cragside; to son, William Henry Cecil John Robin Watson-Armstrong (1919-87), 3rd Baron Armstrong of Bamburgh & Cragside; to adopted son, Francis W.P. Watson-Armstrong (b. c.1966).

Adderstone Hall, Northumberland

Adderstone Hall, from the sale particulars of 1961. Image: Alison Elliott

The Adderstone estate near Bamburgh in Northumberland belonged from medieval times to the Forster family. A tower, possibly a pele tower or bastle, was recorded at Adderstone in 1415 and a century later it belonged to Sir Thomas Forster, who fought at the Battle of Flodden (1513). The tower was incorporated into a mansion in the late 16th or early 17th century, perhaps for Sir Matthew Forster, the early 17th century owner. Even the site of the old tower (thought to have stood near the present Hall) is now lost, and no visual record has been found of either the tower or its successor. The early 18th century house, which may have been quite modest, was replaced in 1819 by the present Greek Revival building of five by three bays with a large porte-cochère and a lower service wing to one side, designed by William Burn and built by John Howison (d. 1862), who also built Milburn Hall. The client was Thomas Forster, who seems to have repurchased the estate after it was sold by order of Chancery in 1789, and to have gained possession after the death of William Watson in 1814. Inside, the house has a full-height top-lit domed central hall, with balconies on either side with scrolled iron balustrades, and an open-well cantilevered staircase. The drawing room has a white marble fireplace with wreaths and a Greek key design.
Descent: Sir Matthew Forster (fl. 1637); to grandson, Col. Thomas Forster (d. 1673); to son, Thomas Forster (d. 1725); to second son, John Forster (1688-1745); to son, Thomas Forster (1743-63); to cousin, John William Bacon-Forster (d. 1767); after whose death sold by order of the Court of Chancery, 1789 to Thomas Forster (fl. 1819-38), who built the new house in 1819; sold 1849 to Dr. George Wilson of Alnwick; to daughter, Mrs. Willetts (fl. 1893), who sold, apparently after 1893, to John William Watson (1827-1909); to widow, Margaret Godman Watson (d. 1922); to daughter, Susan Dorothea FitzPatrick Watson (1873-1961), wife of William Noel Villiers (1864-1950); sold after her death.... The property was let in the early 19th century to William Watson (1757-1814), and later to Fairfax Fernley, 1853-68 and Stephen Sanderson, c.1870-79.

Armstrong (later Watson-Armstrong) family, Barons Armstrong

William Armstrong 1778-1857
Image: National Trust
Armstrong, William (1778-1857). Son of a shoemaker, born at Stanwix (Cumbld), 1778 and brought up on the Losh family estate at Wreay (Cumbld). In the mid 1790s he moved to Newcastle to work as a clerk in the counting house of Losh, Lubbren & Co., merchants; when they went bankrupt in 1803 he set up in business as a corn merchant on his own account, rising to be a leading member of the Newcastle social and cultural elite. He was a member of Newcastle Corporation, 1835-39 and 1842-57 (Alderman, 1849-57 and Mayor 1850) and a Tyne Commissioner, 1850-57. He married, 25 November 1801 at St John, Newcastle, Anne (1780-1848), daughter of William Potter of Walbottle Hall (Northbld) and had issue:
(1) Anne Armstrong (1802-28); married, 17 August 1826, William Henry Watson (later Sir William) (1796-1860) (q.v.); died 1 June 1828;
(2) Sir William George Armstrong (1810-1900), 1st Baron Armstrong of Cragside (q.v.).
He lived at Shieldfield near Pandon Dene and from the 1820s at The Minories (or South Jesmond House), Jesmond Dene.
He died 2 June 1857; administration of his goods was granted in June 1857 (effects under £5,000). His wife died 9 June 1848.

Sir William George Armstrong,
1st Baron Armstrong
Armstrong, Sir William George (1810-1900), 1st Baron Armstrong of Cragside. Son of William Armstrong (1778-1857) of Newcastle-on-Tyne, born 26 November 1810. Educated at Whickham School, Bishop Auckland, and at the behest of his father in the offices of his brother-in-law, William Henry Watson in The Temple, 1828-33. An articled clerk and later partner with his father's friend, Armorer Donkin, solicitor of Newcastle, 1833-47. Despite his father's insistence on his undertaking a legal training and career, his passion was for engineering and mechanics, and from the 1830s he was regularly experimenting and publishing in the fields of hydraulics and electricity; in 1846 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. The shift in his career from the law into industry was accomplished in the mid 1840s, when he became Company Secretary of the Whittle Dene Water Company, which was formed to construct reservoirs west of Newcastle to provide a new clean water supply to the city. His colleagues in this venture - his uncle, Addison Potter; the shipowner, George Cruddas; and the wine merchant, Richard Lambert - also joined him in forming the Newcastle Cranage Co., which was set up to apply Armstrong's invention of an hydraulic crane to speeding up the loading and unloading of vessels in the port of Newcastle. Finally, in 1846, he formed W.G. Armstrong & Co. to manufacture the cranes, and established a small works on a site at Elswick, which quickly expanded greatly as the firm's business grew and extended into the manufacture of hydraulic pumps and engines. During the Crimean War he developed lighter and more accurate rifled field guns to replace the heavy cannon then still commonly in use, and in 1859 he was appointed CB and knighted for his services to the country in this regard. At the same time, he was appointed Engineer of Rifled Ordnance at Woolwich, with a remit to modernise the Ordnance factories at Woolwich for production of the new guns; in the meantime he established (with Government capital of £85,000) an ordnance factory at Elswick to meet the immediate demand. After public criticism of his monopoly supplier position and differences of opinion with conservative elements in the army, he resigned his position at Woolwich in 1863, merged the two Elswick factories into one company, and successfully sought export orders for the Armstrong gun. The hydraulics business also grew, with the expansion of the railways and port facilities, and the extension of products to include hydraulic lifts and swing bridges, all manufactured at Elswick. For some time, Armstrong had been interested in naval guns, and in 1868 his firm entered into partnership with the naval shipbuilders, Charles Mitchell & Co. of Walker-on-Tyne to build armed vessels for the navies of the world. The two firms merged in 1882 and Armstrong constructed a new deep-water dockyard at Elswick to which naval production could be moved, and also introduced the cruiser as a new type of lighter, high-speed naval vessel which was soon being produced for navies around the world, from Japan to Chile. Armstrong remained Chairman of the company until his death, but his active involvement was scaled back from 1863 onwards and especially from 1871, when he led unsuccessful employer resistance to a damaging strike in favour of a 54-hour working week, which damaged his personal reputation and that of his firm. His gradual withdrawal gave more time for other interests: building and gardening at Cragside and later Bamburgh Castle, travel (he visited Egypt in 1872), philanthropic work and a string of honorary offices. Although politics were not a large part of his life, his opposition to Irish Home Rule led him to stand as a Liberal Unionist candidate for Newcastle in 1886. He was defeated but was raised to the peerage as Baron Armstrong of Cragside, 6 July 1887.  He served as High Sheriff of Northumberland, 1883. He was President of the British Association in 1863 and 1883, President of the Institute of Civil Engineers, 1882 and three times President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. He was awarded honorary degrees by the Universities of Cambridge (LL.D) and Oxford (DCL), and also held many foreign orders, including the Japanese order of the Sacred Treasure of the Rising Sun. He was a collector of contemporary art, and owned works by Millais, Wilkie, J.M.W. Turner, Rossetti, Lord Leighton and many others. He published A visit to Egypt, 1873; Electric movement in air and water, 1897, and many pamphlets and journal articles on scientific subjects. He married, 1 May 1835, Margaret (c.1807-93), only daughter of William Ramshaw of Bishop Auckland (Durham), but had no issue.
He and his wife built Jesmond Dene after their marriage in 1835 and laid out the grounds, which they eventually presented as a public park to the City of Newcastle in 1883. They built Cragside between 1864 and 1895, and again laid out the estate and gardens. After his wife's death Lord Armstrong also bought and restored Bamburgh Castle.  
He died 27 December 1900 (when his barony became extinct) and was buried at Rothbury; his will was proved 16 February 1901 (estate £1,400,682). His wife died 2 September 1893 and was also buried at Rothbury.

Watson and Watson-Armstrong families of Adderstone Hall and later of Cragside and Bamburgh Castle

Watson, William (1723-1808) of Adderstone Hall. Son of Joseph Watson (1702-78) of Kyloe (Northbld), born 1723. Corn merchant, and a large Government contractor during the wars with France; in 1783 the Admiralty paid him to erect Waren Mill near Budle to ensure supplies of wheat for the navy. He married, c.1755, Jane Chatto (c.1717-84) of Kelso (Berwicks) and had issue (possibly among others):
(1) William Watson (1757-1814) (q.v.);
(2) Capt. John Watson (1759-98) (q.v.).
He leased Adderstone Hall, but at the time of his death was living in Berwick-upon-Tweed.
His will was proved at Durham, 5 September 1808. His wife died in 1784, aged 67 and was buried at Kyloe (Northbld).

William Watson, 1757-1814.
Image: National Trust
Watson, William (1757-1814) of Adderstone Hall. Elder son of William Watson (1723-1808) and his wife Jane Chatto, born 1757. Corn merchant and Government contractor. He married, 1 January 1782 at Belford (Northbld), Dorothy (1760-1822), daughter of Clement Yelloly of Ditchen (Northbld), and had issue:
(1) William Watson (1782-1864), baptised 14 April 1782; merchant; married, 22 April 1815, Elizabeth, youngest daughter and co-heir of William Howard of St. Osyth (Essex) and had issue six sons and three daughters; what may be his portrait is at Cragside; died 16 November 1864; will proved 12 December 1864 (effects under £200);
(2) Clement Watson (1784-85); died in infancy, 7 March 1785;
(3) John Yelloly Watson (1785-1844); an officer in the army; what may be his portrait is at Cragside; settled in Ireland after 1815; died at Forgeny (Longford), 1844;
(4) Chatto Watson (b. & d. 1786); died in infancy, 26 December 1786;
(5) Clement Chatto Watson (1788-1814); wine and brandy merchant; bankrupted in 1810; died 24 July 1814;
(6) Adam Yelloly Watson (1792-93); died in infancy, 17 March 1793;
(7) Joseph Yelloly Watson (1794-1817); joined East India Company as a clerk, 1812; died at St. Helena, 1817.
He leased Adderstone Hall, probably until his death, although at the time of his death he was living in Berwick-upon-Tweed.
He died 4 August 1814.

Watson, Capt. John (1759-98). Younger son of William Watson of Adderstone Hall and his wife Jane Chatto, born 1759. He was an officer in the 76th Regiment (Capt., 1793), which was based in India in support of the East India Company throughout his service. He married, 13 August 1795, Dorothy Henrietta (1760-1850), daughter of Henry Grey of Shoreston House, Bamburgh (Northbld) and had issue:
(1) Sir William Henry Watson, kt. (1796-1860) (q.v.).
He died 8 October 1798 at Nottingham. His widow died in Kensington (Middx), Apr-Jun 1850, aged 90.

Watson, Sir William Henry (1796-1860), kt. Only son of Capt. John Watson (1759-98) and his wife Dorothy Henrietta, daughter of Henry Grey of Shoreston House (Northbld), born 1 July 1796. Educated at the Royal Military College, Marlow, and served in the 1st Royal Dragoons (Ensign, 1811; Lt., 1812) 1811-14 and later in the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons, 1814-16; he fought in the Peninsular War campaigns and was at the Battle of Waterloo, 1815 and at the entry of the allied armies into Paris. After the cessation of hostilities with France he retired on half-pay in 1816 and retrained for the law at Lincolns Inn (admitted 1817; called to bar, 1832; QC 1841; Bencher, 1843). He worked as a special pleader in London until he was called to the bar and thereafter was a barrister on the Northern Circuit; he was appointed to the bench as a Baron of the Exchequer, 1856 and knighted, 28 November 1856. He was distinguished as an advocate by honesty and earnestness rather than eloquence, but was a sound lawyer and the author of two (for a time) standard professional works, A treatise on arbitration and award, 1825 (3rd edn. 1846) and A treatise on the law relating to the office and duty of sheriff, 1827 (2nd edn., 1848). A Liberal in politics, he was MP for Kinsale, 1841-47 and later for Hull, 1854-56; he also stood unsuccessfully for Newcastle in 1852. He married 1st, 17 August 1826, Anne (1802-28), daughter of William Armstrong (q.v.) of Newcastle and sister of 1st Baron Armstrong (q.v.), and 2nd, 5 August 1831, Mary (1806-78), daughter of Anthony Capron (later Hollist) of Midhurst (Sussex), and had issue:
(1.1) John William Watson (1827-1909) (q.v.);
(2.1) Col. William Henry Watson (1834-99) of Minsted, Stedham (Sussex), born 26 May and baptised 25 June 1834; Colonel in the Royal Artillery; married, 25 August 1866, Amy Maria Philippa (1844-1929), daughter of Nathaniel Weekes of Guillards Oak, Midhurst (Sussex) and had issue; died in London, 28 December 1899; will proved 28 March 1900 (estate £58,808).
He died suddenly of apoplexy, 13 March 1860, while addressing the Grand Jury at Welshpool (Montgomerys) and was buried there, 17 March 1860; administration of his goods was granted 7 April 1860 (effects under £50,000). His first wife died 1 June 1828. His widow died 12/13 December 1878; her will was proved 3 January 1879 (effects under £30,000).

John William Watson
Image: National Trust
Watson, John William (1827-1909) of Adderstone Hall. Elder son of Sir William Henry Watson (1796-1869) and his first wife, Anne, daughter of William Armstrong of Newcastle-on-Tyne, born 23 May and baptised at All Saints, Newcastle-on-Tyne, 4 September 1827. Educated at Eton, Trinity College, Cambridge (matriculated 1845; BA 1849) and Lincolns Inn (admitted 1849). He followed his father in being a Special Pleader. JP for Northumberland, 1896. He married, 5 May 1859, Margaret Godman (1833-1922), eldest surviving daughter of Patrick Pearse FitzPatrick of FitzLeet House, Bognor (Sussex) and had issue:
(1) William Henry Armstrong FitzPatrick Watson (later Watson-Armstrong) (1863-1941), 1st Baron Armstrong of Bamburgh & Cragside (q.v.);
(2) Margaret Henrietta FitzPatrick Watson (1864-65), born 5 December 1864; died in infancy, 16 January 1865;
(3) Mary Edwina FitzPatrick Watson (1869-71), born 21 April 1869; died in infancy, 15 January 1871;
(4) Susan Dorothea FitzPatrick Watson (1873-1961); married, 7 December 1903, William Noel Villiers (1864-1950), third son of Rev. Charles Villiers, rector of Croft (Yorks NR); inherited Adderstone Hall in 1922; died without issue, 15 March 1961; will proved 10 August 1961 (estate £86,523).
He purchased Adderstone Hall probably about 1894. At his death, it passed to his widow for life, and then to his surviving daughter. It was sold after her death in 1961 for the benefit of her nephews and nieces.
He died 30 January 1909; his will was proved 2 March 1909 (estate £60,872). His widow died 18 August 1922; her will was proved 19 October 1922 (estate £26,374).

1st Baron Armstrong
of Bamburgh & Cragside
Watson (later Watson-Armstrong), William Henry Fitzpatrick (1863-1941), 1st Baron Armstrong of Bamburgh & Cragside. Son of John William Watson (1827-1909) of Adderstone Hall (Northbld) and his wife Margaret Godman, daughter of Patrick Pearse FitzPatrick of FitzLeet House, Bognor (Sussex), born 3 May 1863 and baptised at St Gabriel's, Warwick Square, London. Educated at Eton, 1877-82 and Trinity College, Cambridge (admitted 1882; BA 1885; MA). Served in the Northumberland Hussars Yeomanry (Major, 1902). CC, JP and DL for Northumberland and JP for Newcastle-on-Tyne; High Sheriff of Northumberland, 1899; a Tyne Commissioner. In 1900 he made a donation of £100,000 for the rebuilding of the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle-on-Tyne. Awarded Hon. DCL, Durham University; Hon. Freeman of Newcastle-on-Tyne, 1901; Grand Cordon of the Order of Medjidie. He assumed the additional surname of Armstrong by royal licence, 1889, and was created Baron Armstrong of Bamburgh and Cragside, 4 August 1903. On his great-uncle's death he joined board of Armstrong-Whitworth, as the family firm was then called, but his co-directors were so concerned about his unsuitability for business that he was forced off the board in 1908 'for the good of the firm'. He was practised upon by many fraudsters and unscrupulous business men, and lost a fortune in unwise speculations, as a result of which there were substantial land and asset sales to meet his debts (including the Farne Islands, sold in 1924, which became a nature reserve). He married 1st, 15 June 1889, Winifreda Jane (1860-1914), eldest daughter of Sir John Miller Adye GCB; 2nd, 31 August 1916, his children's former governess, Beatrice Elizabeth (1863-1934), daughter of Jonathan Cowx of Tudhoe; and 3rd, 7 October 1935 at Rothbury, (Lucy) Kathleen (1898-1970), daughter of Rev. Charles Thorpe England, and had issue:
(1.1) William John Montagu Watson-Armstrong (1892-1972), 2nd Baron Armstrong (q.v.);
(1.2) Winifreda Margaret Watson-Armstrong (1894-1912), born 27 September 1894; died suddenly of meningitis, 20 March 1912.
He inherited Cragside from the 1st Lord Armstrong of Cragside in 1900.
He died 16 October 1941; his will was proved 8 July and 8 October 1942 (estate £216,845). His first wife died 5 December 1914; his second wife died 4 November 1934 and was buried at Rothbury; his widow married 2nd, 18 February 1947, Lorne Campbell-Robson (1881-1976) and died in 1970.

Watson-Armstrong, William John Montagu (1892-1972), 2nd Baron Armstrong of Bamburgh & Cragside. Only son of William Henry Armstrong FitzPatrick Watson-Armstrong (1863-1941), 1st Baron Armstrong of Bamburgh & Cragside, and his first wife, Winifreda Jane, daughter of Sir John Miller Adye GCB, born 10 October 1892. Educated at Trinity College, Cambridge (admitted 1911; BA 1914; MA). Served in 7th Battn., Northumberland Fusiliers in WW1 (Capt.), 1914-17 and was severely wounded and mentioned in despatches in 1915. In 1918 he stood unsuccessfully for Parliament as a Conservative candidate for Berwick-on-Tweed. He later lived in Canada, where he was Consul for Siam, 1924-42 and Consul for the Netherlands in British Columbia and the Yukon, 1942-46. He married, 27 October 1917 at Bushey (Herts), Zaida Cecile (1896-1978), eldest daughter of Cecil Drummond-Wolff of the Thatched Cottage, Bushey Park (Middx) and had issue:
(1) William Henry Cecil John Robin Watson-Armstrong (1919-87), 3rd Baron Armstrong (q.v.).
He inherited Cragside from his father in 1941. After his death his widow lived at 37 Shrewsbury House, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea (Middx).
He died 6 July 1972; administration with will annexed was granted 26 January 1973 (estate £28,210). His widow died 16 February 1978; her will was proved 18 May 1978 (estate £47,031).

Watson-Armstrong, William Henry Cecil John Robin (1919-87), 3rd Baron Armstrong of Bamburgh & Cragside. Son of William John Montagu Watson-Armstrong (1892-1972), 2nd Baron Armstrong of Bamburgh & Cragside and his wife Zaida Cecile, daughter of Cecil Drummond-Wolff, born 6 March 1919. Educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. He married, 16 August 1947, Maria-Theresa (1915-99), daughter of Gen. Fabrizio Enea Chiodelli-Manzoni and former wife of Baron Jean Marie Ghislain Alphonse Jules du Four, but had no issue. The couple adopted two children:
(A1) Francis W.P. Watson-Armstrong (b. c.1966) of Greenhill Farm, Bamburgh; educated at Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester (Dip. Ag.); arable farmer; married, 1988 (div.), Sarah, daughter of Dr. B. Gray of Twyning (Glos), and had issue one son and two daughters; now living;
(A2) Isabella J.T. Watson-Armstrong; married, 1988, William John Riddell, son of Thomas J. Riddell of Belford (Northbld).
He inherited Bamburgh Castle and Cragside from his father in 1972, but transferred Cragside to the Government in lieu of death duties in 1977, and made a substantial grant to the National Trust as an endowment for its maintenance. At his death, the remaining estates were left to his adopted children, who sold further land at Cragside to the National Trust.
He died 1 October 1987, when the barony of Armstrong of Bamburgh and Cragside became extinct; his will was proved 21 June 1988 (estate £4,421,587). His widow died 15 March 1999; her will was proved 1 December 1999.


History of Northumberland, vol. 1, Bamburgh parish, 1893, pp. 219-27; J. Grundy, G. McCombie, P. Ryder, H. Welfare and Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Northumberland, 2nd edn., 1992, pp. 154-57, 244-46; B. Cleary, Bamburgh Castle - the finest castle in England, 2005; H. Heald, William Armstrong: magician of the North, 2012; ODNB entry on W.G. Armstrong, 1st Baron Armstrong.

Location of archives

Armstrong family, Barons Armstrong: deeds, 1707-1872 [Tyne & Wear Archives, DF.A]; Cragside and Bamburgh estate papers, 20th cent. [Northumberland Archives, 02302]
Armstrong, Sir William George (1810-1900), 1st Baron Armstrong:  correspondence and papers, 1819-1913 [Tyne & Wear Archives, DF.A]
Armstrong, William John Montagu (1892-1972), 2nd Baron Armstrong:  journals, 1915-24 [Northumberland Archives, 09361]

Coat of arms

Watson of Adderstone: Argent, a fesse raguly between two crosses bottony in chief and a martlet in base, all gules.
Armstrong, Baron Armstrong of Cragside: Gules a tilting spear in fess or headed argent between two dexter arms embowed in armour fesswise proper, hands of the last.
Armstrong, Barons Armstrong of Bamburgh & Cragside: Quarterly, 1st & 4th, gules a tilting spear in fess or headed argent between two dexter arms embowed in armour fesswise proper, hands of the last; 2nd & 3rd, argent, a fesse raguly between two crosses bottony in chief and a martlet in base all gules.

Can you help?

Here are a few notes about information and images which would help to improve the account above. If you can help with any of these or with other additions or corrections, please use the contact form in the sidebar to get in touch.

  • Can anyone supply a better photograph of the Armstrong house at Jesmond Dean, or of Adderstone Hall?
  • Can anyone provide an ownership history for Jesmond Dean after Lord Armstrong moved to Cragside? Was the house sold in Lord Armstrong's lifetime or after his death?

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was published 26 August 2015 and updated 23 October and 4 December 2015, 26 March 2017 and 1 May 2019. I am most grateful to Alison Elliott for additional information about the Watson family and Adderstone Hall, and to Justin Meath Baker for information about Waller's connection with Cragside.


  1. Hi Nick, I am so pleased to have happened upon this blog as I am a direct descendant of this Watson family, William Watson 1757-1814 being my 5ggrandfather. It has been like reading a synopsis of my own research. I am interested in where you got the information of the tentative identification of the Watson sons' portraits at Cragside? Alison

    1. Alison,

      From memory, one of these attributions is suggested on the National Trust's collections website, and the others are from an Internet source, but they seem plausible as almost certainly the family would have had portraits of these people, and the ages, style of dress/uniform etc correspond,

  2. An anonymous correspondent writes: Re baron Armstrong of Cragside.You appear to have used a multiplier of c1000 to state worth in today's terms - surely should be 100 Pages 1 "£1.3b today" and page 2 gift to RVI.

    I have replied: My figures for comparative value come from the website For any individual cross-temporal comparison of wealth there are several ways of calculating a result. A simple measure that assesses the RPI inflation impact would as you say produce a figure roughly 100x the original value since 1900. But I have preferred the 'economic power' value which seems a more relevant translation of Armstrong's fabulous wealth.

  3. its me again - i dont know how to sign as anything else.
    the problem which your value creates is the unbeleivable diminution of the estate in only 10-15 years.That spend seems impossible no matter how inept he watson-armstrong was

    1. I am afraid I don't understand your point. What are you comparing the £1.4m probate valuation of Lord Armstrong's estate with?

  4. Jesmond DEAN House.Lady Armstrong lived there till her death in 1893.The house was sold after Lord A's death.I have a photo.How do I attach it

    1. You can't attach a photo to a comment here, but if you send me a message using the contact form in the sidebar I will send you my email address and you can attach a photo to a regular email.

    2. You can't attach a photo to a comment here, but if you send me a message using the contact form in the sidebar I will send you my email address and you can attach a photo to a regular email.


Please leave a comment if you have any additional information or corrections to offer, or if you are able to help with additional images of the people or buildings in this post.