Armstrong, Sir William George, Baron Armstrong of Cragside 1810-1900, inventor and organiser of industry, was born on 26 Nov. 1810 at No. 9—formerly No. 6—Pleasant Row, Shieldfield, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
William Armstrong 1778-1857, his father, was the son of a yeoman of Wreay, a village five miles south of Carlisle. Towards the close of the eighteenth century he came to Newcastle, commencing his career in that city as clerk in the office of Losh, Lubbrin, & Co., corn merchants. He was soon taken into partnership, and when his seniors subsequently retired he became the sole representative of the firm, which was thenceforth styled Armstrong & Co., merchants, Cowgate. By his enterprise and ability he considerably extended the business. He highly appreciated the advantages of education, and devoted himself with earnestness and perseverance to study during his leisure. He was especially fond of mathematics, on which subject he contributed to the Lady's and Gentleman's Diaries, and collected a large library. In 1798 Armstrong joined the Literary and Philosophical Society, which was then five years old. He was a warm supporter and took an active part for some time in its management. He was also one of the original founders of the local Natural History Society. When it was proposed to establish a chamber of commerce in the town he gave material aid, and helped the scheme to a successful issue. Soon after the passing of the Municipal Reform Act in 1835 he was returned by Jesmond ward to the town council, on the eve of his sixtieth year, as a reformer. At the next election, in November 1839, he was defeated, but in 1842 Armstrong resumed his seat without opposition. During his first period of councillorship he took much interest in the management of the river Tyne, and he was the author of two pamphlets on the subject. In December 1843, when Alderman John Ridley, chairman of the river committee, died, he was unanimously appointed to the office, the duties of which he fulfilled throughout the inquiries and the stormy debates which culminated in the establishment of the River Tyne commission. On 3 Jan. 1849 Armstrong was elected alderman by a unanimous vote. He failed to secure election as mayor when he was first nominated to that office a few months later, but he was chosen mayor in the following year. He generally acted with the progressive party in the city council. Although he had begun life as an independent politician, with somewhat reactionary tendencies, his sympathies broadened as he grew older, and towards the close he became a whig of the Grey school, although he was always a cautious reformer. In 1824 he argued that a canal between Newcastle and Carlisle would serve inland commerce better than a railway. Again, in 1845, when it was proposed that the city council should memorialise parliament to open the ports for the free admission of grain, he spoke strongly in favour of the corn laws. He attended to his public duties till within a few weeks of his death, which took place on 2 June 1857, in the eightieth year of his age. He had desired that the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle should select from his library such scientific works as it did not already possess. This wish was so liberally interpreted by his son that in 1858 as many as 1,284 mathematical works and local tracts, most of them of great value, were added to the society's library, which thus obtained a more complete mathematical department than any other provincial institution in the kingdom (Dr. Spence Watson, Hist. of the Literary and Philosophical Soc. of Newcastle-upon-Tyne).
The elder Armstrong married Ann, eldest daughter of William Potter of Walbottle House, a highly cultured woman. By her he had two children, a son and a daughter. The son was the future Lord Armstrong. The daughter Ann married on 17 Aug. 1826 (Sir) William Henry Watson [qv.], subsequently a baron of the exchequer; she died at Hastings on 1 June 1828, leaving an only child, John William Watson, of Adderstone Hall, Belford, whose son became her brother's heir.
William George Armstrong was a delicate child. Left to follow the natural bent of his mind, he never failed to amuse himself with mechanical combinations. When only five or six he showed considerable ingenuity in constructing childish imitations of machines which had attracted his attention. With a few discarded spinning wheels and common household articles he played at pumping water, grinding corn, and doing other useful work. He set his machinery in motion by strings attached to weights hung over the handrail of the staircase, so as to descend freely from the top to the bottom of the house. In the fine summer days he often visited the shop of a joiner, John Fordy, in the employment of his maternal grandfather, William Potter; there he spent many happy hours learning the use of tools, making fittings for his engines, and copying the joiner's work.
After attending private schools, first in his native city, and afterwards at Whickham, Northumberland, his health sufficiently improved to enable him, in 1826, the year of his sister's marriage, to enter the grammar school at Bishop Auckland. There he remained for two years as a boarder with the head-master, the Rev. R. Thompson. During this period he paid a visit to the engineering works in that town of William Ramshaw, who, impressed with the intelligent interest the youth took in the machines, invited him to his house. He thus made the acquaintance of Ramshaw's daughter Margaret, whom he afterwards married.
Meanwhile, upon leaving school, Armstrong became an articled clerk in the office of Armorer Donkin, a solicitor of standing in Newcastle. He applied himself with characteristic earnestness to the study of law, and, having duly served his clerkship, he completed his preparation for the legal profession in London under the guidance of his brother-in-law, W. H. Watson, at that time a special pleader of Lincoln's Inn. He returned to Newcastle in 1833, and became a partner in the legal firm to which he had been articled, the style being altered to Messrs. Donkin, Stable, & Armstrong. Their business was a flourishing one, and the interests of many important families, estates, and companies were entrusted to their charge. In 1834 Armstrong married Miss Margaret Ramshaw. Three years his senior, she was a lady of great force of character, who sympathised with her husband's labours, and loyally aided him in philanthropic work.
In later years Armstrong named as his recreations planting, building, electrical and scientific research; but in early life he was an enthusiastic fisherman. This pastime afforded opportunities for his inventive genius. He contrived a new bait-basket, and his tackle was continually being improved. Haunting the Coquet from morning to night, he became so skilful that he was known in the district as the Kingfisher. While after trout in Dentdale (Yorkshire, 1835), his attention was attracted to an overshot water-wheel, supplying power for some marble works. He observed that only about one twentieth of the energy of the stream was utilised, and from that time his thoughts were engrossed by the possibilities of water-worked machines as motors.
After his return to Newcastle to devote himself to law, scarcely a day passed without his visiting Watson's High Bridge engineering works. On 29 Dec. 1838 he published in the Mechanics' Magazine the outcome of his observations, in an article on the application of a column of water as a motive power for driving machinery. In the autumn of 1839, with Watson's help, he made an improved hydraulic wheel, with discs fixed on the periphery, arranged to enter successively a tube of corresponding section bent into the arc of a circle. A full account of Armstrong's water-pressure wheel is contained in the Mechanics' Magazine for 18 April 1840. But although his rotatory motor was recognised to be sound in principle—a new and most ingenious means of applying a neglected, cheap, and almost boundless source of power—it was not an industrial success. With characteristic judgment Armstrong sought a more attractive solution of his great problem.
In the autumn of the same year (1840) one William Patterson was employed on a fixed high-pressure steam-engine at Cramlington Colliery. When he put one hand on the safety valve, while the other was exposed to a jet of steam from a chink in the boiler, he experienced a shock. Many persons investigated the phenomenon, but Armstrong first arrived at correct conclusions, which were published in papers on the electricity of effluent steam (Phil. Mag. 1841-3). He applied his results to the construction of a hydro-electric machine, which consisted essentially of an insulated boiler, from which steam at high pressure escaped through specially designed nozzles. This formed the most powerful means of generating electricity then known, and it is still used for the production of electricity of high tension. In 1844 our talented young townsman gave two very interesting lectures on hydro-electricity, and it is recorded that the perspicuity of his language, his ingenious and effectual illustrations, and his happy manner of explaining — the subject could scarcely be excelled (Lit. and Phil. Soc. Report). The small hydro-electric machine used for these experiments was subsequently presented by Lord Armstrong to the Durham College of Science at Newcastle.
The uses and application of water at the time chiefly absorbed his attention, and he studied the subject in all its bearings with characteristic public spirit. As the population increased the Tyne became undrinkable, and the supply of pure water inadequate. In 1845 proposals were brought forward to form an accumulation reservoir at Whittle Dean, and to bring the water by 24-inch pipes, then the largest in the world, to Newcastle. Armstrong's was the master mind which directed the movement (History of the Water Supply of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1851). Messrs. Donkin, Stable, & Armstrong were the solicitors to the company, and at the first general meeting of shareholders, 28 July 1845, Armstrong was appointed secretary. The directors' report presented to the second annual meeting, 25 Feb. 1847, announced his resignation with an expression of regret. About this time, in conjunction with Thomas Hawksley [qv.], he invented a self-acting valve, which is still extensively used by water companies, to close the pipe automatically when the velocity of the water passing through it exceeds a certain limit, so as to check the loss of water in case of a leak occurring beyond the valve. Armstrong's interest in the Whittle Dean Water Company continued throughout his life. On the death of Mr. A. L. Potter in 1855 he was elected chairman. He held this office till 1867, and it was largely owing to his able direction that it developed into the important Newcastle and Gateshead Water Company.Ø3Ø39).#uQD3'"'HyQåi3ãty~ÅN2BÙãí,!!Perseverance generally prevails was Armstrong's favourite motto. For many years he considered the best way of employing water power before he arrived at the conclusion that water would be more useful as a means of distributing than of obtaining energy. On this principle he planned a crane, every motion of which was derived from hydraulic power. In 1845 he delivered three lectures to the Literary and Philosophical Society; the first and last treated respectively of the spheroidal state of liquids and the characteristics of electricity. The second (3 Dec.) was on the employment of a column of water as a motive power for propelling machinery. It was illustrated by experiments: a beautiful model, representing a portion of the quay of this town, with a crane upon it, adapted to work by the action of the water in the street pipes, was placed upon the floor. The model worked perfectly, but Armstrong stated that he did not advocate the immediate adoption of his plan, because any plan, however useful, might be injured if forced prematurely forward before the age was ready to receive it. Nevertheless, on 14 Jan. 1846 he obtained permission from the corporation to erect an hydraulic crane at the head of the quay. This was so great a success in loading and discharging ships that on the following 9 Nov. he asked to be allowed to erect four others, at the same time making valuable suggestions for facilitating the handling of the merchandise of the port. Armstrong took out his first patent—for apparatus for lifting, lowering, and hauling—on 31 July 1846.
Armstrong's scientific attainments were now widely recognised, and on 7 May 1846 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society as a gentleman well known as an earnest investigator of physical science, especially with reference to the electricity of steam and the hydro-electric machine. Among those who attested his qualifications were Faraday, Grove, and Wheatstone. Much interest was also manifested in his cranes, and many inquiries were made about them. The first orders were dealt with in the High Bridge works of Mr. Watson, but special arrangements were desirable. Thereupon four substantial citizens, Messrs. Donkin, Potter, Cruddas, and Lambert, offered the money necessary to found special works for their manufacture. It was thus that the great engineering works at Elswick-on-Tyne first came into being. The deed of partnership is dated as from 1 Jan. 1847. Armstrong, who was the moving spirit, was appointed manager of the concern. He thereupon retired from the legal profession to devote himself to the more congenial pursuits of an engineer.
The engineering works originally consisted of offices, four workshops, two houses for foremen, and stables, standing on about 5— acres on the left bank of the Tyne, a little way above Newcastle. Work was commenced on 1 Oct. 1847, and the first Elswick paysheet for wages due on 15 Oct. amounted to 9l. 17s. 10d. (Northern Counties Mag. October 1900). During the earlier years the business chiefly consisted in the manufacture of Armstrong's newly devised hydraulic machinery. The first order for the new firm (15 May 1848) was for cranes for the Liverpool docks, but from the commencement Elswick produced a great variety of hydraulic machines. A diagonal two-cylinder double-acting engine was made for the press printing the Newcastle Chronicle, while mining machinery for the lead mines at Allenheads and winding engines for the South Hetton Coal Company were among their earliest productions. Armstrong's second patent for a water-pressure engine bears date 11 May 1848. But in spite of Armstrong's able management the Elswick engineering works did not at first make very satisfactory progress. Orders did not come in very rapidly, and there was naturally some difficulty at starting in estimating the cost of production. The tide of prosperity did not flow towards Elswick conspicuously till 1850. In March 1852 three hundred and fifty men were employed, and their fortnightly wages amounted to 870l. Thenceforth the development was steady.
All the hydraulic apparatus erected by Armstrong up to 1849 was worked by water from reservoirs, but in that year he was commissioned to construct cranes at places on the Humber and Tees, where the pressure in the town mains was insufficient. To avoid the cost of building a high reservoir, he employed an air-vessel. This was a cast-iron chamber, closed at the top, and the air was compressed by water being pumped into it. The working was not altogether satisfactory. In the following year (1850) he was engaged in the construction of the Ferry station of the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway at New Holland, and decided to apply hydraulic pressure for the cranes. — There was no possibility of obtaining pressure by a head of water, for not only was the surface absolutely flat, but the ground, which consisted of silt, afforded no foundation. — He was led to the idea of a new substitute for an elevated reservoir. This consisted of a large cast-iron cylinder, fitted with a loaded plunger to give pressure to the water injected by the engine. This contrivance he called an accumulator. — In no previous instance had a pressure exceeding 90 pounds on the square inch been used, but it was now decided to adopt a pressure of 600 pounds (Sir W. G. Armstrong, Inst. of Civil Engineers, 1876-7, vol. i. pt. iv.). The storage capacity of the accumulator is not so great as that of a reservoir, but, on the other hand, the higher pressures employed enable the distributing pipes to be made of smaller dimensions than would otherwise be possible, and the pressures are more uniform. By this invention hydraulic machinery was rendered available in almost every situation. Being very convenient where power is required at intervals and for short periods, it has come into extensive use for working cranes, hoists, and lifts, opening and shutting dock gates, docking and launching ships, moving capstans, turn-tables, and the like. In many cases it has caused important economies both as regards time and money, especially at harbours and railway stations, where large amounts of traffic have to be dealt with. In the navy its applications are so numerous that it has been said without it a modern warship would be an impossibility. Such adaptations were the result of unwearied perseverance and unfailing resource.
In 1850 Armstrong divided with Mr. W. D. Burlinson a prize given by the Glamorganshire Canal Company, on the merits of his crane and accumulator, for the best machine to transfer coal from barges to ships. In the same year he received the Telford medal from the Institution of Civil Engineers.
Armstrong continued for many years to improve his hydraulic machinery, and to develop countless applications which attracted considerable attention. A third patent which dealt with the subject was taken out on 22 April 1856. The ingenuity and utility of his inventions in this connection brought him almost universal recognition. In 1862 Cambridge University voted him an honorary Doctor of Law degree; in 1870 Oxford made him a Doctor of Civil Laws; and in May 1878 the Society of Arts awarded to him the Albert medal because of his distinction as an engineer and as a scientific man, and because by the development of the transmission of power hydraulically, due to his constant efforts extending over many years, the manufactures of this country have been greatly aided, and mechanical power beneficially substituted for most laborious and injurious labour.
But these inventions far from exhausted Armstrong's genius, and in middle life he applied his mind to improvements in the manufacture of the machinery of war, which brought him an equally wide and deserved reputation. It was just after the outbreak of the Crimean war in 1854 that Armstrong received at Elswick his first commission from the war office; this was to design submarine mines for the purpose of blowing up Russian ships that had been sunk in the harbour of Sebastopol. Armstrong's mines proved very successful, but, as the war progressed, he turned his attention more especially to artillery. It is said that an incident in the battle of Inkerman (5 Nov. 1854) led him to devote his energies to the improvement of ordnance. In the following month he submitted to Sir James Graham a communication suggesting the expediency of enlarging the ordinary rifle to the standard of a field-gun, and using elongated projectiles of lead (Industrial Resources of Tyne, Wear, and Tees, 1863). This was followed by an interview with the Duke of Newcastle, then secretary of state for war, who authorised him to make half a dozen guns according to his views.
Armstrong has himself described in detail the evolution of the gun which was soon to be widely known by his name. First, he considered exhaustively all possible materials, and selected shear steel and wrought iron. Then he proved experimentally that the ordinary method of making guns, by forging the metal into the form and boring a hole down it, was unsatisfactory. He adopted a construction more correct in principle, but more difficult of execution. The strength of a metal cylinder does not increase in the ratio of its thickness. A cylinder offers the greatest resistance to bursting when the exterior layers are in a state of tension, gradually increasing inwards past the neutral point till the internal layers are in a state of compression. Therefore an internal cylinder of steel was enclosed in a jacket made by twisting a wrought-iron bar, and welding the turns into a cylinder of internal diameter slightly smaller than the steel lining. The jacket was expanded by heat and slipped over the core, and contracting in cooling produced the desired distribution of tension. Other rings as necessary were in turn shrunk on this cylinder.
At the same time mechanical arrangements were contrived to counteract recoil, and to facilitate the pointing of the gun. Furthermore, and this was a device of the utmost importance, the gun was made to load at its back end. Armstrong invented both the screw and the wedge methods of closing the breech. In the former case a powerful screw pressed a breech-piece, carrying the vent, so as to close the tube. Then the rifling was effected by eight spiral grooves cut in the bore terminating at the slightly expanded loading chamber, the most suitable form and dimensions for which were reached after careful investigations. Lastly, with unwearied labour and infinite resource, he determined the best shape, dimensions, and charge for the bullet. The elongated form with an ogival head which he designed for the projectile has never been improved upon.
Armstrong's first 3-pounder, built in accordance with these principles, was completed in July 1855. It was derided by the artillery officers as a popgun. Thereupon Armstrong made a 6-pounder on the same principles, and he continued a series of experiments with it for a considerable time before submitting it to the war office. The earliest of his long series of patents, eleven in number, touching ordnance and projectiles, was dated 11 Feb. 1857; the second followed on 22 July 1857. At first the military authorities looked coldly upon Armstrong's new gun, but its merit was too great to be put aside. On 16 Nov. 1858 the committee on rifled cannon, appointed by General Peel, reported in favour of Armstrong's invention on every point.
Armstrong then behaved with patriotic generosity. He gave the nation his valuable patents as a free gift, and placed his talents at its command. In 1859 he accepted the appointment of engineer of rifled ordnance at Woolwich, and his great services to the state were acknowledged by his creation as knight bachelor and civil companion of the Bath (23 Feb. 1859).
On 25 Jan. 1859 the Elswick Ordnance Company was formed. The partners were Messrs. George Cruddas, Lambert, and the manager, George Rendel. Armstrong had no pecuniary interest in this new company, although its buildings were close to the Elswick engineering works. The Elswick Ordnance Company was established solely to make Armstrong guns for the British government under Armstrong's supervision. Accordingly over three thousand guns were manufactured by the new company between 1859 and 1863. At the latter date the British armament was the finest in existence. But there was then a reaction in favour of the superior simplicity of muzzle-loading guns. The breech-loading mechanism required accurate fittings and careful use. Breech-loaders are unfit weapons for imperfectly instructed gunners, and out of place when exposed to weather or drifting sand. Armstrong recognised the invincibility of official obtuseness and prejudice, and gave up his official appointment during 1863, when the government greatly reduced the orders they placed with the Elswick Ordnance Company, and practically returned to muzzle-loaders. To that form of ordnance the authorities so obstinately adhered for the next fifteen years that England not only lost her supremacy in respect to her artillery but fell dangerously behind the rest of the world.Ö3Ö3EmaQR3$,Òy$)ôÚ8MC>
Owing to the withdrawal of government support in 1863, the Elswick Ordnance Company passed through a serious crisis, but Armstrong was equal to the situation. The ordnance company and its works were incorporated with Armstrong's engineering company and its works. Blast furnaces were added, and the ordnance company, being released from the obligation to make guns exclusively for the British government, was largely employed by foreign governments. Great benefit resulted to the financial position of the combined ordnance and engineering company.
Meanwhile Armstrong improved his breech-action, and carefully investigated the best method of rifling, and the most advantageous calibre of the bore and structure of the cylinder, so as to obtain the greatest accuracy in shooting and the longest range with the minimum weight. At an early period of his gunnery researches he had recognised the desirability of building up guns with thin metal bands instead of large hoops, but circumstances interposed a long delay before he carried out that principle in practice. The plan may have been first suggested to him by Captain Blakeney's proposal, published as early as 1855, to substitute wire wound at high tension round the core for hoops or jackets. The same idea had occurred independently to Brunel, who gave Armstrong a commission for a gun made on this principle. The order could not be executed, because it was found that Longridge had taken out a patent for this method of construction, though he had never carried it into execution. After the patent had expired Armstrong redirected his attention to the subject. In 1877 he made preliminary trials with small wired cylinders, and in 1879 he commenced a 6-inch breech-loading gun of this construction, which was finished in the beginning of 1880. Results obtained with this gun were so satisfactory that at last even the British ordnance authorities acknowledged the folly of continuing to manufacture unwieldy muzzle-loaders; and before the year was out, by Armstrong's persistent pressure, they were persuaded once more to adopt breech-loading guns with polygroove rifling.
Armstrong's strenuous work at his hydraulic machines and his celebrated guns by no means exhausted his energies or interests. At the same time he found opportunity to give thoughtful consideration to problems of the highest importance to every practical engineer in connection with the economical use of fuel. In 1855 Armstrong, with two other engineers, was entrusted with the award of the 500l. premium offered by the Northumberland Steam Collieries Association for the best method of preventing smoke in the combustion of Hartley coal in marine boilers. Three reports (1857 and 1858) were founded on a long series of elaborate experiments. His attention having been thus attracted to the wasteful use of our natural fuel, he took advantage of his election to the presidency of the British Association, when it met at Newcastle in 1863, to discuss at length, in his presidential address, the probable duration of our coal supply. He pointed out how ‘wastefully and extravagantly in all its applications’ to steam-engines, or metallurgical operations, or domestic purposes, coal was being burnt. He calculated that in doing a given amount of work with a steam-engine only one-thirtieth of the energy of the coal is utilised. Assuming a moderate rate of increase in coal production, he came to the conclusion that before two centuries have passed ‘England will have ceased to be a coal-producing country on an extensive scale.’
There followed a royal commission to inquire into the duration of British coalfields (1866), of which Sir W. G. Armstrong was a member, and before which he also appeared as a witness. His evidence was among the most valuable information collected by it. He twice returned to the subject, once in his presidential address to the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers in 1873, and again in his presidential address to the mechanical section of the British Association at York in 1883. At York he considered whether the ‘monstrous waste’ of the steam-engine might not be avoided by electrical methods of obtaining power. In 1863 he had pointed out that ‘whether we use heat or electricity as the motive power, we must equally depend upon chemical affinity as the source of supply. ¼ But where are we to obtain materials so economical for this purpose as the coal we derive from the earth and the oxygen we obtain from the air?’ But in 1883 the advance of electrical science suggests to him that a thermo-electric engine might ‘not only be used as an auxiliary, but in complete substitution for the steam-engine,’ because it might be used to utilise ‘the direct heating action of the sun's rays.’ He calculated that ‘the solar heat, operating upon an area of one acre in the tropics, would, if fully utilised, exert the amazing power of 4,000 horses acting for nearly nine hours every day.’ He foresaw that, ‘whenever the time comes for utilising the power of great waterfalls, the transmission of power by electricity will become a system of vast importance’¾a prophecy which has been fulfilled in a notable manner in subsequent contrivances for the utilisation of natural sources of energy at Geneva, Niagara, and elsewhere.
Meanwhile the great Elswick works were rapidly growing alike in the engineering and ordnance branches. To these departments a third¾that of shipbuilding¾was finally added. In 1868 the Elswick firm began to build ships in the Walker yard of Messrs. Mitchell & Swan.
From a very early date Armstrong had devoted much attention to problems in connection with the mounting and working of guns on ships, and kindred matters of design. He was a steadfast believer in guns as against armour. He had himself worked at the improvement of armour plating. He had produced steel of high tensile strength and great toughness by tempering it in an oil bath. For some years before the introduction of high explosives he had taken special interest in the design and construction of the cruiser type, which was indeed to a considerable extent originated by him. The Elswick firm built several vessels of this class at the Walker yard, leading up to the Esmeralda, constructed for Chili in 1882, which may be described as the first modern protected cruiser. Armstrong strongly advocated the construction of a large number of vessels of this class of moderate size. He believed that they would be most effective protectors of commerce, and that several acting together might even be more than a match for an ironclad. He enumerated their chief features as including ‘great speed and nimbleness of movement combined with great offensive power ¼ little or no side armour, but otherwise constructed to minimise the effects of projectiles.’ On the introduction of high explosives Armstrong modified his views to the extent of recommending that even cruisers should be protected by side armour.
In 1882, the shipbuilding firm of Messrs. Mitchell & Swan joined forces with Armstrong's company, and the united firms became Sir W. G. Armstrong, Mitchell, & Co., Limited. In 1883 a new ship-yard was established at Elswick, where, under the management of Mr. White, now Sir William White, chief constructor to the admiralty, and subsequently of Mr. P. Watts, a fleet of splendid warships was built. The development of the ordnance department of the great concern went on at the same time without interruption. In 1885 a branch factory was opened at Pozzuoli on the bay of Naples to make guns for the Italian government. In 1897 Sir Joseph Whitworth's works at Openshaw, near Manchester, for the manufacture of the Whitworth guns, were incorporated, and the title of the combined concerns was changed to Sir W. G. Armstrong, Whitworth, & Company, Limited [see Whitworth, Sir Joseph]. At the date of Armstrong's death in 1900, the company owned, at Elswick alone, two hundred and thirty acres, and ‘a recent paysheet shows 36,802l. paid in a single week’ to twenty-five thousand and twenty-eight workmen (N. C. Mag. November 1900). Born of Armstrong's genius, the Elswick works and their offshoots were almost to the end of his life largely indebted to his suggestions. But the enormous growth of the enterprise was perhaps chiefly due to his judicious selection of able colleagues, and to the wise liberality by which he stimulated and encouraged them to do their best. More modern developments were mainly initiated by his partner, Sir Andrew Noble.
Armstrong's varied activities brought him great wealth, which he always put to enlightened uses. In 1863 he purchased some land on the east of Rothbury, and among the beetling crags of a rugged chine he built a stately home, ‘Cragside.’ He laid out roads upon its rocky slopes, he trained streams and dug out lakes. He sowed flowers, planted rare shrubs, and covered the ground with millions of noble trees, till the bleak hillside was transformed into a magnificent park, and the barren wilderness was clothed with beauty. At Cragside, too, he dispensed a princely hospitality, and numerous men of distinction were among his guests.
In 1872 Armstrong visited Egypt to advise a method of obviating the interruption to the Nile traffic caused by the cataracts. His interesting lectures to the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle, describing his journey and the antiquities on the river-bank, were published in 1874.
In later life Armstrong's happiest hours, when not employed in planting or building, were devoted to electrical research in his laboratory at Cragside. He expressed the opinion that, if he had given to electricity the time spent upon hydraulics, the results would have been even more remunerative.
Among his early experiments with his hydro-electric machine he had shown that a cotton filament in two adjacent glasses travels towards the positive electrode in one, while an encircling tube of water moves towards the negative electrode in the other. This was the starting-point of his subsequent researches into the nature of the electric discharge. About 1892 he repeated the experiment in a modified form, using a Ruhmkorff induction coil giving an 18-inch spark, and he suggested that the phenomenon indicated the co-existence of two opposite currents in the movements of electricity, the negative being surrounded by the positive, like a core within a tube. In 1897 Armstrong published a beautifully illustrated volume on ‘Electric Movement in Air and Water,’ in which he discussed the most remarkable series of figures ever obtained by electric discharge over photographic plates. In these later investigations he employed a Wimshurst machine with sixteen plates, each 34 inches in diameter. In the following November he invited Dr. H. Stroud, of the Durham College of Science, to continue his experiments. In a supplement to his book (1899) Armstrong developed a method of studying the phenomena of sudden electric discharge based upon the formation of Lichtenburg figures. The results confirm the accuracy of the interpretation as to positive and negative distribution in his earlier work, and also extend the study of electric discharge in new directions.
Throughout his life Armstrong was a notable benefactor of his native city. There is hardly any meritorious institution in Newcastle or the neighbourhood, educational or charitable, which was not largely indebted to his assistance. He was a member of council of the Durham College of Science (1878-1900). He laid the foundation stone of the present buildings (1887), and he was a generous subscriber to its funds. He used his genius for landscape gardening to beautify Jesmond Dene, and then presented it to the town with some ninety-three acres, part of which is included in the Armstrong Park. In July 1886 Armstrong was induced to offer himself as a liberal unionist candidate for the representation of Newcastle in parliament, but, chiefly owing to labour troubles, was not returned. Two months afterwards he was presented with the freedom of the city, and in June 1887 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Armstrong in consideration of his varied and eminent public services. He represented Rothbury on the Northumberland county council, 1889-92. He purchased Bamborough Castle in 1894, intending to devote a portion of it to the purposes of a convalescent home. He commenced nobly conceived restorations, but he did not live to see the completion of his designs.
Armstrong's great services to scientific invention were rewarded by many distinctions apart from those already mentioned, and numerous foreign decorations. He was created D.C.L. Durham (1882), Master of Engineering, Dublin (1892), and he received the Bessemer medal, 1891. He was an original member of the Iron and Steel Institute; president of the Mechanical Engineers, 1861, 1862, 1869; of the North of England Mining and Mechanical Engineers, 1872-3, 1873-4, 1874-5; of the Institute of Civil Engineers, 1882; of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle, 1860-1900; of the Natural History Society of Northumberland, Durham, and Newcastle, 1890-1900.
Armstrong died at Cragside on 27 Dec. 1900. On the last day of the nineteenth century his remains were laid beside those of his wife (who died on 2 Sept. 1893) in the extension of Rothbury churchyard, which overlooks the river Coquet. By his death Newcastle lost her greatest citizen, who conferred upon the city not only glory but most substantial benefits. Armstrong's name will always stand high among the most illustrious men of the nineteenth century, who have rendered it memorable for the advance in scientific knowledge and in the adaptation of natural forces to the service of mankind.
Armstrong had no issue, and his heir was his grand-nephew, William Henry Armstrong FitzPatrick Watson, son of John William Watson (the son of Armstrong's only sister), by his wife, Margaret Godman, daughter of Patrick Person FitzPatrick, esq., of FitzLeat House, Bognor. Armstrong's grand-nephew, in 1889, on his marriage with Winifreda Jane, eldest daughter of General Sir John Adye [q.v.], assumed the name and arms of Armstrong in addition to those of Watson, by the wish of his great-uncle, and in 1903 he was created Baron Armstrong of Bamburgh and Cragside.
Armstrong pursued all his researches with grip, tenacity, and concentration, with remarkable courage, zeal, and energy under the most perplexing circumstances. Frequently even disappointments and failures furnished the key to ultimate success. His colleague, Sir A. Noble, has spoken of his ‘extraordinary intuition as to how a result would work out. He would very often make a guess at a result, while I, after much labour and calculation, would reach the same conclusion.’ He was a vigorous writer, and his expositions of his views were clear and forcible; but his busy life left little opportunity for literary work, although he was the author of a large number of addresses, papers, and pamphlets. These treat chiefly of engineering and scientific subjects; three are contained in ‘The Industrial Resources of the Tyne, Wear, and Tees,’ 1863, of which he was joint editor. His most important work was his magnificently illustrated ‘Electric Movement in Air and Water,’ 1897, and the supplement, 1899. Among his papers the chief are: 1838 and 1840, ‘On the Application of a Column of Water as a Motive Power for driving Machinery’ (Mechanics' Magazine); 1841-3, several papers ‘On the Electricity of Effluent Steam’ (Philosophical Magazine); 1850, ‘On the Application of Water Pressure as a Motive Power’ (Proceedings of Institute of Civil Engineers, vol. ix.); 1853, ‘On Concussion of Pump Valves’ (ib. vol. xii.); 1857-8, ‘On the Use of Steam Coals of the Hartley District in Marine Boilers;’ 1858, ‘Water-pressure Machinery’ (Proceedings of Institute of Mechanical Engineers); 1863, ‘The Coal Supply’ (British Association, Newcastle); 1863, ‘A Three-powered Hydraulic Engine;’ 1863, ‘The Construction of Wrought-iron Rifled Field Guns;’ 1869, ‘Artillery’ (Mechanical Engineers); 1873, ‘The Coal Supply’ (North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers); 1877, ‘History of Modern Developments of Water-pressure Machinery’ (Proceedings of Institute of Civil Engineers, vol. 1.); 1882, ‘National Defences’ (ibid.); 1883, ‘Utilisation of Natural Forces’ (British Association, York); 1883, ‘Social Matters’ (Northern Union of Mechanics' Institutes). To the ‘Nineteenth Century’ he contributed three papers: ‘The Vague Cry for Technical Education’ (1888); ‘The Cry for Useless Knowledge’ (1888); and ‘The New Naval Programme’ (1889). He contributed to the ‘Proceedings of the Royal Society’ ‘An Induction Machine,’ 1892, and ‘Novel Effects of Electric Discharge,’ 1893.
The chief portraits of Armstrong are: (1) by Mr. G. F. Watts, R.A., at Cragside; (2) full-length by Mrs. L. Waller, in the Council Chamber, Newcastle Town Hall (this was paid for by public subscription); (3) by Mr. J. C. Horsley, at Elswick Works; (4) head and shoulders, by Mrs. L. Waller, at Cragside, of which copies exist in the Jubilee Hall, Rothbury, and the Literary and Philosophical Society and the Institute of Civil Engineers, London; (5) miniature of W. G. Armstrong, aged 18; (6) miniature by Taylor (these miniatures both at Cragside); (7) bust by A. Munro, at Cragside, of which a replica by the artist is in the Literary and Philosophical Library.
A Life of Lord Armstrong is included in ‘Heroes of Industry,’ by E. R. Jones, 1886, and in ‘Great Thinkers and Workers,’ by R. Cochrane, 1888. A short memoir was written by Mr. Watson Armstrong in Cassier's Mag. March 1896.
Contributor: H. P. G. [Henry Palin Gurney]