Jesmond Dene set to host Lord Armstrong Exhibition

William Armstrong (licensed under Creative Commons

William Armstrong (licensed under Creative Commons)

An exhibition dedicated to 19th century industrialist William Armstrong is to begin next week. The project, which is jointly co-ordinated by students from Newcastle and Durham University, is taking place in Jesmond Dene from July 18th until August 5th.

In the Victorian era, William Armstrong was a leading figure in Tyneside industry, founding the Armstrong Whitworth manufacturing empire. Born in Newcastle in 1810, he was educated in Newcastle and Bishop Auckland, before going on to build the likes of Newcastle’s Swing Bridge and the hydraulic mechanism which operates London’s Tower Bridge. The Lord became Britain’s largest industrialist and founded Armstrong College, which later became Newcastle University.

The project’s main focus is on Lord Armstrong’s connection to Jesmond Dene in particular, the park given as a gift from him and his wife to the people of Newcastle in the 1860s.

Put together by nine postgraduate students and led by three PhD students studying various humanities subjects at two of the North East’s leading universities, the exhibition has enabled the students to carry out archival research on Lord Armstrong and his connections not only to the Dene, but to Newcastle’s landscape as a whole.

Grace Harvey, currently studying for a Masters in English Literature at Newcastle University, is involved with the event and told JesmondLocal: “The objective of the project is rooted in research surrounding Lord Armstrong and Jesmond Dene, but extends to considerations of his wider influence in the city and its suburban green spaces.”

Named ‘Changing Landscapes: Lord Armstrong, Jesmond Dene and the Victorian North East’, the exhibition is part of a larger project which focuses on the importance of public-engagement projects in the North East and building relationships with universities and museums.

Project co-ordinator Nicole Bush, a PhD researcher from Durham University, stated: “I think these collaborative projects are important events for students of any level to take part in as they encourage communication and build partnerships between local organisations and universities.”

Last month, two workshops took place whereby staff from higher education institutions and local organisations, including the Laing Gallery and Beamish Museum, were brought together in preparation for the project.

The display is being funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) grant, as well as Durham University’s Graduate School and Newcastle University’s School of English, and will involve textual and interactive features such as ‘Victorian domesticity and cookery’ and ‘Himalayan garden design in Jesmond Dene’. Victorian recipes and pressed flowers from Cragside, Northumberland – Lord Armstrong’s last residence – will also be available to take away from the event.

The exhibition will be taking place at Jesmond Dene’s Visitor’s Centre from July 18th, and is free to attend.