Cragside set to shine again

The screw being put in place at Cragside
The screw being put in place at Cragside

National Trust property Cragside welcomed the arrival of an Archimedes screw paving the way to re-light Cragside House by hydroelectricity, just as Lord Armstrong did back in 1878.

The 17-metre-long galvanised turbine, weighing several tonnes was carefully craned into position and took over three hours.

The turbine was delivered from Germany and was placed at the southern end of Tumbleton lake, allowing the flow of water from the lake to the Debdon Burn to turn the screw. Once all the work is completed, there will be an official launch event later in the year.

This modern hydro system will produce enough energy to light the house, and enable Cragside to re-tell the story for which it is famous.

Cragside house, built in 1863, was first powered by hydroelectricity in 1878 when Lord Armstrong used water from the lakes on his estate to generate electricity through a turbine.

His friend Joseph Swan provided the lightbulbs to light the house.

Andrew Sawyer, conservation officer at Cragside, said: “It will be a very visual demonstration of the way hydropower works, an almost sculptural sight in the landscape. Lord Armstrong was an exceptional man with an ingenious mind and the prospect of bringing his vision for Cragside into the 21st century is a dream come true.

“Hydroelectricity is the world’s most widely used form of renewable energy, so we are looking forward to sharing this very special part of its heritage.”

The turbine will turn water from Tumbleton lake, the lowest of the five lakes on the Cragside estate, at an angle that allows water to pass between the lake and the burn below.

As water passes through the spiral blades it causes the screw to turn, thereby harnessing the energy of falling water. The energy is then converted into electricity using a generator. The technology is well proven with over 100 installations in Europe and was chosen by the National Trust for its many advantageous features.

Andrew added: “The Archimedean screw is technology that is easy to install and maintain due to the simple mechanics, and because it works at low speed, it’s possible for fish to pass through the turbine unharmed.

“The best thing about the screw is that it’s visible and we hope this will add to people’s understanding of why Cragside is so special. Visitors will be able to view the technology from the lake side.”

In what is also a timely story, Cragside will play host to a new Joseph Swan exhibition titled ‘Sir Joseph Swan – a shining light of his time’ which opens to the public on Tuesday, May 27. The exhibition marks the centenary of Swan’s death and celebrates his remarkable contribution to technology, his partnership with Armstrong and of course, his famous incandescent light bulb.

The exhibition is in partnership with Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability at University.