Jesmond Dene was gifted to the City of Newcastle upon Tyne by Victorian industrialist Lord Armstrong.
In a new biography, author Henrietta Heald tackles the thorny subject of William Armstrong. He might have bequested his valley garden to the people of Tyneside but his riches came from the arms trade. Armstrong’s company sold guns to whomever would buy them (including to both sides in the American Civil War).
Henrietta Heald’s book is a fascinating study of one of the 19th Century’s most powerful figures. Lord Armstrong entertained guests from around the world in Jesmond Dene.
William Armstrong: Magician of the North is a study of what made the man tick. Naturally, Jesmond Dene is mentioned copiously throughout the book.
The book is out in time for the bicentenary of Lord Armstrong’s birth. Special events will be commemorating the anniversary in November. And not just events: there’s a beer, too. Armstrong Ale has been produced by Wylam Brewery. The design on the front of the bottle is a reproduction of a spark photographed by Lord Armstrong. The beer is on sale at Cragside and Bamburgh Castle and can be sampled at some of the bicentenary celebration events.
Cragside, the first house to be lit by hydroelectricity, was built by Lord and Lady Armstrong. Bamburgh castle was a ruin before being renovated by Lord and Lady Armstrong. They lavished £1m on the restoration: Lord Armstrong was one of the richest men of the time.