back to article What made a super high-tech home in Victorian England? Hydroelectric witchery, for starters

Imagine an ageing magnate in his private retreat, and you might picture English industrialist William – first Baron – Armstrong in the luxurious wood-panelled library of his Northumberland pile: Cragside. Sitting at his desk, Armstrong gazes out at acres of private forest. An onyx-and-marble-surround fireplace to his right, in …

  1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

    Interesting

    Should be an interesting place to visit with my sons when I am in the neighbourhood. Might take a while though as I live in another country.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: Interesting

      It is, and not too far from Alnwick Castle (for harry potter fans)

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Interesting

        And Bamburgh Castle for history fans.

        1. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge

          Re: Interesting

          Which is also linked to the Armstrong family.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Interesting

          >And Bamburgh Castle for history fans.

          There's a fantastic chippy in Seahouses, great fish and chips but damned if can remember it's name. Munched them of the dockside while waiting for the boat trip to the Farnes.

          1. SA_Mathieson

            Re: Interesting

            Seahouses has a range of chippies, but I reckon Lewis's, 22 Main Street, is hard to beat: https://www.seahouses.org/where-to-eat/

            1. Missing Semicolon
              Happy

              Re: Interesting

              Seahouses has (or at least, had when I visited) the "Farne Gift Shop". A mixture of handicraft kit, outdoor clothing, toys, tourist tat and Pound shop. Well worth a mooch!

          2. Alpc

            Re: Interesting

            I wonder if the chippy still does haggis and chips?

            Fond memories as I used to live in the area. For reasons unknown, my parents never took my brother and myself to Cragside. A pity.

            Lovely article!

      2. richardcox13

        Re: Interesting

        (for harry potter Blackadder fans)

        FIFY

        1. Korev Silver badge
          Windows

          Re: Interesting

          A very cunning plan...

          Near enough Baldrick -->

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Interesting

          "(for harry potter Blackadder fans)"

          You need to carry on a bit further North and West, past Coldstream to find the river Blackadder.

      3. BebopWeBop Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Interesting

        And the Bagpipe museum in Morpeth for some fans

      4. dajames Silver badge

        Re: Interesting

        ... and not very very far from Beamish museum (for the industrial archaeologists among you) just the other side of Newcastle.

        (OK, it's 40 miles or so, I wouldn't try to do them both in a day ... so take two days!)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interesting

      I'd recommend visiting when the rhododendrons are in bloom at Cragside (stunning; I know that wasn't the focus of this article, but I'm still a bit surprised I didn't see a mention), and the seabirds are nesting on the Farne Islands (via boat trip out from Seahouses, an unforgettable experience).

      1. Alpc

        Re: Interesting

        Ah the Farne Islands! Worth a visit but avoid it when the Terns have chicks - the blighters attack all and sundry with their sharp beaks. I remember one guy with a bleeding forehead after a Tern assault.

    3. Benchops
      Headmaster

      Interesting yes, but what IS Hydroelectic?

      Some kind of water-based voting system?

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Interesting yes, but what IS Hydroelectic?

        Obviously a typo for hydroeclectic, "of or pertaining to a collection of different sorts of waters".

  2. xyz

    amazing...

    Getting ready for brexit so early!

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: amazing...

      In the 1880s, Not giving the UK an excuse to Enter any European countries was uppermost in many continental politicians minds.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: amazing...

        Nah, Britain was quite nice and fluffy by that point. If Johnny-Continental cut up rough then Britian wouldn't do anything so expensive ungentlemanly as to invade - but simply nick a few of their colonies and impose a naval blockade, until they jolly well stopped.

        British foreign policy was aimed at making sure no European alliance got too strong in comparison to any of the others - while doing as little as possible. So that Britain could float down the river in splendid isolation occasionally sticking out a paddle to steer (to misquote Lord Salisbury ten years later).

        1. macjules Silver badge

          Re: amazing...

          No we weren't. The danger then that the line of your noble ancient European dynasty would be contaminated by yet another of Queen Victoria's children or, by then, grandchildren marrying into your family. For many World War I was viewed as essentially a family squabble over who got left what, or didn't left what they wanted, in Queen Victoria's will ... played out at a horrendous level.

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: amazing...

            That would be a rather odd view of history. Settling a war with a royal marriage had gone out of fashion a hundred years before. The politicians had started becoming the main movers of European history in the 18th Century - a process that was accelerated by the Napolenoic wars and especially the revolutions of 1848.

            Only the Tsar was fully in control of government by WWI - and the Russians were considered to be out of date, or even backward. Kaiser Bill was one of the reasons the war happened, but he also wussed out at the last minute and tried to avoid, then limit, German mobilisation in order to avoid fighting on two fronts. Had he been fully in charge, he might even have stopped the war - although equally he might have changed his mind again.

            France was a republic, and the British royal family had influence, but little actual power. Edward VII did quite a bit of the spadework for the entente with France - but that was as a diplomatic schmoozer, not the architect of the policy. He was sent to do it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Gratuitous Pratchett reference

        We own all your helmets,

        We own all your shoes,

        We own all your generals,

        Touch us and you'll lose!

        Morporkia, Morporkia....

        (Cue second verse of tuneful mumbling)

        1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

          Re: Gratuitous Pratchett reference

          Quite.

          Armstrong, however, did rather even-handedly supply arms to both sides in the American Civil War.

          A good capitalist approach to arms dealing (after all we had been at war with 'the colonies' s few years back....)

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FIFY

    Thomas Edison STOLE Swan's work and showed his equivalent a year later......

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: FIFY

      So the generator was DC? What voltage?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: FIFY

        and how many Kilowatts?

        1. aregross

          Re: FIFY

          I was thinking the same thing, obviously DC otherwise Tesla would've been involved (hehe).

          Kilowatts? I would think only a few watts if couldn't light more than 9 bulbs.

          Thank You for a great article!

          1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

            Re: FIFY

            @aregross - "I would think only a few watts if couldn't light more than 9 bulbs."

            I'd guess that the bulbs were 60W or 100W, common domestic sizes when the officer was writing, so the total power would be about 0.5 - 1kW.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: FIFY

              "[...] so the total power would be about 0.5 - 1kW."

              That sounds about right for a 6bhp engine. In the 1960s - our radio club's HF "field day" 240vac generator used an Austin 7 engine mounted on a trolley. That would probably have been the later model of 10bhp. It supplied power for a KW2000A transceiver.

  4. Wellyboot Silver badge

    Acceptable?

    >>>controversial arms dealer (it was acceptable in the 1880s – Ed)<<<

    It was a patriotic duty to provide the greatest empire on Earth with the tools to show jonny foreigner we're not to be messed with! As our chaps are far better than theirs we can sell jonny the same tools because we'll win on a level playing field - hurrah!

    That thought process went a bit titsup in 1914

    (Total Inability To Survive Unforseen Prussians)

    1. deive

      Re: Acceptable?

      Yeah, a thought process totally relegated to the past...

      https://www.rt.com/uk/424392-may-husbands-capital-group/

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Acceptable?

        Yeah, a thought process totally unrelated to the article...

        Fixed that for you.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Acceptable?

        >Yeah, a thought process totally relegated to the past...https://www.rt.com/uk/424392-may-husbands-capital-group/

        Ah Russia Today, that bastion of truth with all the authenticity of a Grimm's fairytale.

        Ever read Clive James's "Unreliable Memoirs" ?

        I wonder if Alex Salmond will review it on his show there.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Bastion of Truth?

          Sadly, bastions of truth are up there with pie in the sky in the rather rare stakes.

          The best way I've found of getting some credible version of what the F is going on is to plough through accounts from diametrically opposed sources and interpolate. Even sources I find 90% vomit inducing sometimes come up with clear truth.

          Better than most, with what seems to me an honest take on US law enforcement, you can do worse than look at Donut Operator on Youtube, who dares to use the dangerous phrase "Critical Thinking". He also has a fine moustache.

    2. FlossyThePig

      Re: Acceptable?

      That thought process went a bit titsup in 1914

      (Total Inability To Survive Unforseen Prussians)

      It was those pesky Prussians who did the same to Napoleon 100 years earlier.

      1. whileI'mhere

        Re: Acceptable?

        Didn't "those pesky Prussians" also have something to do with that other Bonaparte - Boney M?

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Acceptable?

      I think it should be pointed out that we weren't really arming Johnny-Prussian in 1914. Although there were a few embarassing things that it turned out only they supplied (when they suddenly stopped), such as khaki dye for uniforms. Admittedly almost everybody else who had dreadnoughts seems to have got them from us, such as Austria-Hungary (so good they named it twice).

      So it wasn't so much the arms dealers, as the governments buying so many that caused that. Plus a horrible miscalculation on what modern war would be like. And a German (and Austro-Hungarian) political leadership who were both hilariously incompetent and dangerously belligerant. With dishonourable mentions to the pisspoor diplomacy of Grey for Britain and the Russians.

      On the other hand, Britain did rather insist on its right to arm the South in the US Civil War - because just because they were fighting to retain slavery was no reason not to take their money obviously...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Acceptable?

        I believe that according to Christopher Clark one driver of WW1 was actually the French banks,who loaned lots of money to the Russians and Serbs to buy arms (made in France), and then when they couldn't afford the repayments suggested that a nice little war might loot enough of Austro-Hungary to pay the instalments.

        But, armaments makers and the politicians they buy with the proceeds do seem to be the main cause of modern wars. The key driver is that you have to sell arms to foreigners to get the balance of payments right.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Acceptable?

          I believe that according to Christopher Clark one driver of WW1 was actually the French banks,who loaned lots of money to the Russians and Serbs to buy arms (made in France), and then when they couldn't afford the repayments suggested that a nice little war might loot enough of Austro-Hungary to pay the instalments.

          That doesn't tally with the history of WWI as I learned it. Though I admit my knowledge is 20 years out of date, so new sources may have been discovered.

          But it wasn't Serbia and Russia pushing for war. It was Austria-Hungary and Germany. I believe the Serb nationalists who killed Archy Duke did have links to the Serbian army - but it wasn't an authorised/planned operation, and Russia were certainly not in a position to give immediate support.

          Also the Russian army simply didn't have any plans for war with Austria-Hungary that didn't also involve fighting Germany as well. As the Tsar found out when he ordered a partial mobilisation (only the units on the Austria-Hungary border) and it turned out they couldn't do it after 3 days of trying and had to fully mobilise.

          That military planning inflexibility was part of the cause of the war. The Kaiser found the same thing when he tried to change his mobilisation to only being on the Eastern border and avoid threatening France.

          My understanding was that Austria-Hungary were being reckless, because Germany had given them guarantees of support. And that the German military were pushing for action because Russian military reforms and rearmament meant that they expected the Russian military to be much more effective by about 1916.

          The Schlieffen plan had already been updated to move forces from the French border to the Russian, because the Russian army were more effective and faster mobilising than they had been ten years before. And the German military were horrified by the idea of a two front war, hence wanting to knock France out quickly - which is why they only had 8 corps (16 divisions) in Poland to stop the Russian army and 7 armies (over 100 divisions) on the French border. And why the plan demanded the invasion of Belgium - despite the risk that would bring Britain into the war - as it was the only way to get room for a knock-out blow on France.

    4. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Acceptable?

      or Total Inability To Survive Unforseen Princips

  5. Spiracle

    300m-tall?

    Despite being the most impressive thing in Grimsby I'm fairly sure that the accumulator tower isn't twice the height of the Humber Bridge.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: 300m-tall?

      300 ft tall - If you could pump water up 300m you wouldn't need accumulator towers!

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: 300m-tall?

        Ob Brexit lie - now we are leaving Europe our dock towers will only be 1/3 as high !

  6. Ol'Peculier

    And about an hours drive south is Allendale, where you can visit the small and brilliant Sci Fi museum, complete with the controversial Dalek shed...

    http://www.museumofclassicsci-fi.com/home/4589856996

  7. Detective Emil
    Childcatcher

    More Armstrongery

    In Newcastle, a bit further south, you'll find the Discovery Museum, which is well worth a visit. It's free (although you'll have to pay if you want to get married in the shadow of Armstrong's Turbina).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: More Armstrongery

      The Discovery Museum is indeed well worth a look. Actually the ship there is the Turbinia, and was built by Parsons rather than Armstrong.

      There's also a good sized sectioned steam turbine generating set, again by Parsons, who along with Armstrong was one of quite a few industrial pioneers based in the north-east.

      Possibly more than anywhere else on earth, Tyneside was the cradle of early engineering and the industrial revolution, with railways originally being called Tyneside Roads.

      However, the contrast with the region's present day fortunes is quite sobering .

      1. ToddRundgrensUtopia

        Re: More Armstrongery

        Wasn't the first railway on Teeside, (Stockton-Darlington), rather than Tyneside. Geordie beer is shite too

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: More Armstrongery

          "Wasn't the first railway on Teeside, (Stockton-Darlington), rather than Tyneside."

          Yes, but built by the Geordie George Stevenson. Speaking of which, engineering geeks visiting the area might also like to visit the George Stephenson Railway Museum in New York, North Tyneside to see Killingworth Billy, the 3rd oldest surviving steam engine (older than Rocket!), and a trip over to Wylam where he was born

          Geordie beer is shite too

          Piss off! (And anyway, Newcastle Brown is now brewed by John Smiths in Tadcaster, Yorkshire so naturally the quality has dropped sharply.)

        2. Dabooka Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: More Armstrongery

          I'll not rise to the dig at our ale, but if you're referring to Newcastle Brown (as indicated above) it isn't brewed on Tyneside any longer nor indeed has it been for a considerable amount of time. Mind it was always a little bit grim even in its heyday, although better than Double Maxim 'what they made down the road'.

          There are several very good breweries in and around Newcastle that continue to produce delicious beers, so I suggest you try some of those instead, quite a few of them are walking distance from the city centre and can contribute to a great beer crawl.

  8. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    It's a marvelous place

    And I really need to start taking my kids to the same places my dad took me as a child (Cragside, electric mountain, other hydro electric dams, various nuclear power stations in various states of working order... That kind of thing.)

    lf only the wife wasn't so fond of cities instead.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: It's a marvelous place

      Green Acres is the place to be... fine living in the big country!

    2. Flywheel Silver badge

      Re: It's a marvelous place

      Actually, Dungeness is quite an experience. There's the power station, a pebbly beach, a bohemian artist community and a pub/bar which served "locally caught fish" the last time I was there. They tend to only open for lunch.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's a marvelous place

        "[...] pub/bar which served "locally caught fish" the last time I was there."

        Nurtured in the warm water outfall of the nuclear power station?

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: It's a marvelous place

          Self-cooking.

          1. Chris G Silver badge

            Re: It's a marvelous place

            With three eyes and assorted extra parts.

            1. Korev Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: It's a marvelous place

              I loved the leg of salmon I had there...

              1. TRT Silver badge

                Re: It's a marvelous place

                It was the cod's bollocks!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's a marvelous plaice

        TFTFY

  9. Ali Dodd

    Probably my favourite house

    in the world. It's wonderful and the gardens are stunning..

    1. The Mole

      Re: Probably my favourite house

      I'd second it is definitely worth a visit, they've also got some really well presented science exhibits that were a delight to see. The NT have done a real good job at blending both a historic house that is great in its own right, with a really interesting story about history and science.

  10. hmv Bronze badge

    Wild Sweeping Beech?

    Whilst beech trees can certainly be impressive, I'm not sure many wild and sweeping beeches are resplendent enough to qualify for a castle overlooking it.

  11. Dunstan Vavasour

    Bamburgh Castle

    A bit further north you'll find Bamburgh Castle, which Lord Armstrong acquired and which remains in the family. There is further Armstrong memorabilia there. It is also a great example of industrial wealth being used to safeguard our heritage.

  12. ukgnome

    Any article that mentions the Great Grimsby Dock Tower is always going to be worth a read.

    Whilst I miss my old home town I also don't.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      I can understand that, having spent lots of time with family there before the older generation fell prey to old age and its ills (I have worse memories of Scartho Road than of any other hospital in the country).

      Grimsby can be readily missed, in a way that unfortunately the Luftwaffe didn't.

  13. Tim99 Silver badge
    Happy

    For a good day out

    NT scones are important too. Disclaimer, Mrs Tim99 and I are life members.

  14. gbru2606

    Managed to make it there as much of the NE countryside was closed with the national Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak. The horizon was just a series of evenly spaced out smoke-trails from the pyres of burning livestock. 2001 I think. It felt positively futuristic and idealistic compared to the morbid dystopian reality going on outside the grounds. It was rumored at the time that the F&M outbreak was just a ruse to eradicate Mad Cow Disease from the National Herd, and that the MOD had been calling lumber merchants about wood stocks in advance of the outbreak. I don't believe any proof ever emerged. Irish special forces were employed along the border with NI after an outbreak in Country Louth, to snipe wild animals such as deer that could carry the disease across, with their national herd counting for a much more significant proportion of their GDP. We were all walking across disinfectant mats at railways and airports for most of the year.

  15. SVV Silver badge

    sadly, electric dinner gongs never really caught on

    Au contraire! I can highly reccomend the IoT smart gong, which your butler can control from a smartphone app, rather than having to instruct one of the staff to go and sound it.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: sadly, electric dinner gongs never really caught on

      Do you buy smartphones for your servants? Installing one of the Amazon bracelets on them is enough to control them remotely... hope they're waterproof, when they need to wash the dishes.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: sadly, electric dinner gongs never really caught on

      IoT, in 19th C style should be "Internet of Thingamyjigs" perhaps?

      Simply engage one's difference engine and peruse the answers to all the questions one might possibly wish to know on Ask Jeeves...

  16. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    Archimedes

    I'm puzzled about the Archimedes screw. The picture caption says "Taking water uphill with an Archimedes screw", which is what you'd expect it to be used for. Later on the text says "When working, the screw powers the LED lights in the house's showrooms".

    So it both raises water and generates power?

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Archimedes

      I noticed that too, I wonder if perhaps the Archimedes screw raises water to provide a head to run a turbine or waterwheel to generate the electricity. I can't see that turning an Archimedes screw with water pressure would be very successful.

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Archimedes

        I think it's a weight thing rather than a pressure or flow thing. The big advantage of a screw is that it is completely safe for fish, who can pass through it either way without harm.

        just the first example I turned up.

        M.

      2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Archimedes

        Yes, you can use a screw in the opposite configuration to extract power, we have one just outside town:

        http://whitbyeskenergy.org.uk/background/the-turbine/

      3. Alister Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Archimedes

        Well there you go, I'd never come across those before.

        Everyday is a school day.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Archimedes

          One has one at one's castle too: https://www.engineerlive.com/content/hydroelectric-project-castle

    2. Korev Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Archimedes

      Why did they name it after an old British computer?

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Archimedes

        Because the ZX Spectrum screw or the Commodore 64 screw doesn't quite have the same ring to it?

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Archimedes

      "So it both raises water and generates power?"

      No, it's only used to generate power as the water flows down. It's never used to raise water, which was the original purpose of an Archimedes screw.

      https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/hydropower-returns-to-cragside

  17. ChrisC
    Thumb Up

    As a science loving child of the North-East with NT card carrying parents, it was always a good day when Cragside was chosen as our day out destination, so reading this brought back a flood of happy childhood memories. The passing reference to Bamburgh Castle also reminded me that, as a member of the 19th Newcastle scout group (Lord Armstrong's Own), we were treated to a guided tour of the castle one year.

    Also of note to anyone wanting to visit Armstrong-related sites is Jesmond Dene and the adjacent Armstrong Bridge in the Jesmond/Heaton suburbs of Newcastle - the Dene was landscaped by the Armstrongs as their private gardens and later donated to the city, and the bridge is a rather fine example of early ironwork. Meanwhile, in the heart of the city down on the river you'll find another of Armstrong's creations, the Swing Bridge. Not quite as internationally renowned as Tower Bridge, but it holds a special place in the hearts of locals.

    1. Shez

      I believe the swing bridge is still powered using the original equipment installed by Armstrong's company, although it's much rarer for it to swing these days.

  18. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    turning the lamp off would mean lifting an electrified vase

    Two thoughts:

    the vase would be the return side of the circuit, so there may well be zero potential between the floor you're standing on and the vase you're lifting.

    a gentleman does not extinguish his own lamps, the butler would extinguish the lamp, and any decent butler would be wearing (nonconductive) gloves.

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: turning the lamp off would mean lifting an electrified vase

      More likely - though I don't know for sure - the system was probably ground-isolated. A reason mains is dangerous is that the "neutral" is earthed, at least at the transformer and in some systems at multiple locations between there and your house. Therefore it's possible for your body to short out the "live" to earth and create a return path. If the conductor is not earthed, there's no return path unless you happen to hold both conductors at the same time.

      We had a similar discussion regarding shaver sockets recently.

      Free Mercury though, with current flowing through probably causing it to heat up?

      M.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: turning the lamp off would mean lifting an electrified vase

        >Free Mercury though, with current flowing through probably causing it to heat up?

        A pool of mercury with a wire in it is a very low resistance source. it's also a good heat conductor so you aren't going to heat it up noticeably.

        Mercury at room temperature has bugger-all (ISO unit) vapour pressure and its health risks are wildly over blown (organic mercury compounds on the other hand are real fsckers)

    2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: turning the lamp off would mean lifting an electrified vase

      "This was a time before health and safety laws." Heh.

      Arc lamps have another property: they generate scads of UV. Which is not particularly good for eyes and skin.

      However, props to Armstrong for being an "Early Adopter", and for knowing how to live the good life. You just can't get good help anymore, and perhaps, overall, that's a good thing. But it's fun to pretend, just for a while. And good to preserve some relics of the old way of life.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IIRC British neurologist Oliver Sacks - in his autobiography "Uncle Tungsten" - mentions that his relative had a lucrative patent on tungsten filaments for incandescent light bulbs.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: H&S not

      and not a GFI to be found anywhere...

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: H&S not

      In the early 20th Century there was a brief craze for Radium toothpaste. Because who wouldn't want a glowing white teeth? Ah, the good old days.

      linky after a quick search

  21. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Thanks for the reminder

    I've been meaning to visit for years but never quite got around to it.

  22. ButlerInstitute

    The Armstrong Disappearing Gun

    For anyone on the other side of the world there is another of Armstrong's products near Dunedin in New Zealand. In response to an 1886 scare about an invasion by the Russians they installed a "disappearing gun" at Taiaroa Head, at the end of the Otago Peninsula (there are a few others that are since lost). It is held just underground with a set of gas springs that will push it up in order to fire. The recoil will then push it back into its hidden position.

    One for the Geek's Guide to New Zealand, maybe....

    See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disappearing_gun.

    This is the one I've visited. I note from the wikipedia article that there are others in various locations, some in working order - the one at Taiaroa Head isn't.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: The Armstrong Disappearing Gun

      Why is anyone surprised that a bunch of disappearing guns have been lost?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Nerds only toil for the sake of creation?

    “But Armstrong was no nerd, toiling for the sake of creation: his inventions were intended to simply make Cragside work better and ..”

    A nerd is by definition someone who wants to make things work better and there would be quite a few hanging round here.

  24. Winkypop Silver badge

    Cragside, worth multiple visits

    With Family in the area I have visited the house a number of times. Recommended! Can get very busy. Rhododendron time is special.

    Tip: At £19 per adult it’s pricey. If you are an Aussie National Trust member you get free entry under reciprocal rights. Minimum membership time applies.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Cragside, worth multiple visits

      "Tip: At £19 per adult it’s pricey. If you are an Aussie National Trust member you get free entry under reciprocal rights. Minimum membership time applies."

      Ditto for National Trust Scotland members and other too.

      (I'll also mention, for anyone local enough to be on a day trip or staying self catering, there is an excellent, award winning butchers in Rothbury. Apart from the usual selection of meats being good quality, thay can also sell you zebra steaks, wild boar, ostrich, reindeer etc. (I still can't get my wife to try that last though. Probably because I insist on calling them Bambi Burgers - all the more for meeeeeee!))

    2. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: Cragside, worth multiple visits

      Quite a lot of similar organisations have reciprocal arrangements. English Heritage has one with Cadw (the Welsh equivalent) so you can get into each others' castles at free or reduced rates. The Museums Association has an interesting one where employees of MA member institutions (as well as individual members) get in free to other MA member institutions, though this only applies to the employee themselves and not to family. Also many museums are free entry anyway these days :-)

      M.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Happy

        Re: Cragside, worth multiple visits

        Quite a lot of similar organisations have reciprocal arrangements. English Heritage has one with Cadw (the Welsh equivalent) so you can get into each others' castles at free or reduced rates.

        Does this explain how Edward I managed it?

        Walks up to portculllis. "Yep, there's 1,000 of us and we're all English Heritage members, so should get in free. We'll have the afternoon tea later though... What? Those 2,000 scruffy guys over there with the bows? Oh they're our butlers."

  25. steviebuk Silver badge

    Dwarf Fortress

    Every time I see an Archimedes screw, my first thought is Dwarf Fortress.

  26. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    Wot, no Escape?

    Disappointed the article didn't mention the place was shown on the premier UK television documentary Escape to the Country, which (along with crime documentary Midsomer Murders) is how most people in the US learn anything about the UK. (Obviously the Harry Potter media extravaganza is no help, since it is an utter fiction.)

    Escape did a bit on Seahouses, too, as mentioned in the first comments thread.

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