William Armstrong was born in Newcastle upon Tyne on the 26th November 1810. He was educated at a number of private schools throughout the North East and once he reached the age of sixteen, Armstrong was sent to Bishop Auckland Grammar School. Whilst at Bishop Auckland, he paid frequent visits to William Ramshaw’s engineering works where he met Ramshaw’s daughter, Margaret, whom he married in 1835. Once married, they moved to a house in Jesmond Dene situated on the eastern edge of Newcastle. Armstrong showed a thorough interest in engineering whilst living in Jesmond Dene, a space in which many of his iconic inventions were first thought of.
Whilst living in Jesmond, the Dene became his own personal garden and he moulded the land he had bought for his own purposes and enjoyment. He actively shaped the landscape and established the Dene as its own natural estate. In 1863, Armstrong bought land in Rothbury, a place he was particularly fond of and visited frequently his whole life. He supervised the clearing of the land and the building of a house on the edge of a rock, and this was to become his weekend home, Cragside. In 1883, Armstrong and his family made the decision to extend Cragside and live there permanently, and so he gifted the Dene along with the banqueting house to the city of Newcastle.
This project attempts to uncover and bring to life Armstrong’s relationship with one of Newcastle’s most cherished public spaces. Covering the Dene’s history from the people who inhabited it, to Armstrong’s wider influence, the exhibition will demonstrate how one of the city’s most prolific inventors changed and created the landscape we are all familiar with today.