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We have won a prize, and are runners up in the Collections Award! Very exciting.

Cragend Farm Custodian Award 2023.

If you are interested in seeing our application on why our Collection and heritage site won this award then please read on:

Award winning Cragend Farm ‘museum’ collection is an eclectic mix of agricultural equipment, historical and engineering artefacts, that have been ‘unearthed’ and discovered whilst renovating the site. 

2023 Custodian Award Historic Houses in association with Dreweatts

The Grade II* listing gives gravitas to this agricultural environment.

This unique Model Farm was designed by Lord Armstrong of Cragside to specifically showcase his amazing new technical engineering inventions. He was able to demonstrate how harnessing natural resources could power machinery previously only powered by men, horses and then coal using steam engines. 

It is much more than the sum of its parts. Only 0.01% of all buildigs in England are listed with only  6%  of those being Grade II*.

The farm had been completely cleared prior to its sale in 2011 and not even a pitchfork survived above ground. However, many interesting items have come to light, such as metal milk churns, heavy horseshoes, and bottles from the local c19th water dispensary in Rothbury.  As we continue to renovate and interest builds from metal detectorists we are now unearthing even more.

The Cragend Farm Collection

The unique Victorian engineering history has been embellished with items found, giant spanners and pulleys for the Silo, the weight plate for the weighbridge, and a washpot with coal still in the hearth!

Early pieces reflect the region well, such as musket shot and round shot from the Border Wars (14th-16th century).

Our larger pieces in the collection consist of two turbines, an hydraulic hoist c1883-1886 (similar system to that found in the bascules of Tower Bridge, London also a project made by Armstrong 1889-94) and an early  H.Pooley & Son  of Liverpool weighbridge c1870 (later Avery scales).

The Collection also includes:

Old items of glassware and metal such as buckles and belts, an original Walls ice-cream tin, and OXO liquid stock bottle and Bullseye humbug tin, silver knives and forks.

Artefacts such as a hedge trimmer stamped and made at Ford Forge in North Northumberland c1800. There are threepenny bits, half pennies and farthings from William III (1689-1702) Victoria and George VI, when a penny would have been an important part of an agricultural labourers wage, that build a marvellous picture of life at Cragend Farm over the centuries as well as a range of antique money and keys, all items much mourned if lost.

A glass neck brooch.

Gun cartridges marked Armstrong.

Lead toy soldier dating early 19th century.

Pitch forks

Chain and wooden planks and brackets.

Farm Graffiti on Silo stairs and interior walls of Granary

Photographs from 1912 onwards.

Maps from 1300 onwards.

Stone Mullioned window in The Machine Room.

Technical drawing of The Silo and Hydraulic Hoist.

Copies of Order book entries from Gilbert Gilkes of Kendal and order notes to Lord Armstrong.

Patent from King Edward III (credit Northumberland Estates).

Thaler of St George with Jesus in Galilee on reverse c1300-1700

This is all enhanced with more maps, documents, newspaper articles and photographs building a marvellous picture of life at Cragend Farm over the centuries and embellished with stories that bring real people from the past into life with their signatures on the wall graffiti, poems, and tales of farming ways.

The collection continues to grow as we constantly find new items and this means we will be able to eventually curate them into sections that are relevant to their research:

Pre-Armstrong: Ice Age, Iron Age Medieval, Tudor etc

Armstrong: 1863-1900

Post-Armstrong: World War I & II, agriculture and climate change.

The “Cragend Farm collection” has been announced as Runner Up in the Collections Award and  2023 Custodian Prize Historic Houses in association with Dreweatts and shortlisted as an Award Winner because it is unusual; it has value is to the site and its history, making the tours we run a visual and tactile experience, where people can touch the items and 'feel' the passing centuries.  The pieces within the collection create stories, more fully understood within the site as you walk amongst the walls of the buildings and imagine life in a particular century on this farm.

The Collection research archive that accompanies the tours depicts the farm over the centuries and gives an explanation of how the farm developed.  It is well received as a major part of our tours. The collection has been carefully curated to explain the varied course of the farm and, should we be considered to win this award, as a time capsule to engineering and agricultural life throughout the centuries.

Digital information is accessible on the Tours but not on digital platforms as we do not have permissions as yet for that to be done and the reason the award would help us progress, is that it may help us raise the funds to do this and make it accessible to digital viewers. Although happy to do so, we have remitted payment to National Library of Scotland, Tyne and Wear Archives, Northumberland Estates Archives,, British Newspaper Archives,  Government Wills, etc to collect this information and they require further renumeration to publish the information publicly. 

We have a youtube channel where we post relevant videos of interest for those wanting to see a virtual tour ( or who are unable to manage to stairs in the Silo)  and the surveying we created using Minecraft as a tool to explore the Silo pipework and internal spaces which are a great tool for those unable to access it.

Entrepreneurial and social diversification have taken the farm to a place of higher worth both historically and fundamentally. As an asset, the ‘Collection’ confirms its place in history; its importance in the farming community through the ages, and the search for how to harness natural resources for power for the future; with its links to Lord Armstrong of Cragside and his engineering prowess, this can be seen first-hand in helping the Victorian agricultural labourer to be more efficient. 

The synchronicity with the work we all do today to play a part in becoming more fuel efficient is its continuing legacy 

Innovations to place importance on the stories being told here are based on a sensory tour of the site where you can feel the history; story boards set up to offer a deeper understanding of each story, and backed up by digital and tactile reference to stories that play out as they are told. Also valued by our visitors is the brochure with a detailed structural map of the listed building and a summary of the whole site to help visitors reflect on their visit at a later date, as well as colour photographs of the site and its machinery.

New challenges are being approached head on with positive moves to continue to improve and embellish the site and make access more feasible in areas that are difficult. The collection has made this an easier proposition with the research and archive work bringing to life the parts of the site that are complex and a virtual tour of inaccessible places for less abled visitors.

New opportunities have arisen as further detail is revealed year on year and the possibility of recognition amongst the wider community of Listed Sites of Historic Importance, with our Collection reflecting our passion for the heritage.

Reimagining how we curate to reflect the historic importance of the Collection and the site is a priority with new informational making future projects more exciting. We use the research to create visual installations 

Presentation of the Collection has been very basic in the past and as the Site gains recognition we are able to create new ways to present the Collection to our visitors. We have recently spent time and money on new tools for the tours such as lighting, demonstration drive belts, framed maps and story boards to display the information, brochures and cards.

Diversification into holiday accommodation and tree planting projects has enhanced the rejuvination of this once derelict farm which now has blooming hedgerows, rare breeds wandering its pastures and bees producing honey in the woods. The Collection reflects all of this in a bygone time and the 21st Century Cragend is a work in progress of how to challenge the history. The natural resources of the water is also a work in progress as we try to harness the water we have on sight to re-engage with its history.


The collection brings so many people together.  From the person who has set up an Cragend Farm family tree of all the people who lived here.

The visitor who introduced the idea that the technical drawings where in The Discovery Museum Tyne & Wear Archives.

The metal detector visitors who find such amazing items in our fields that add to the tapestry of our history.

There is additional work that Northumberland Estates Archives have done based on the intriguing of this farm pre dating Armstrong.

A multitude of very keen engineers who have visited.

There is new interest from the National Trust Curator and Engineers Team at Cragside now we are starting to learn more about the site.

Foreign guests from Australia whose ancestors had lived here in the 18th century.

Local people who come to the tour and add to the stories written on our walls of farm graffiti.

Jonathan Minn visited Cragside in 1985 in order to review their engineering on site and with a view to them purchasing Cragend Farm. When they did not follow up on his recommendation based his reports, he was integral in getting the Hydraulic Silo listed in 1987. The irony is that the main turbine in The Turbine Room is dated 1884 and pre-dates the Silo and is the main water source for it, and was never listed due to Minns never gaining access to it.

With relevance to addressing climate change, Cragend Farm and its collection reflects on how conservation of heritage can pass vital points relevant namely:

  • Integrity - we recognise the urgency of the crisis; follow the science; and

will be open, honest, positive and optimistic in our response

  • Innovation - we will focus on what can and is being done and will

actively explore new ideas

  • Inclusion - everyone has a role to play in addressing climate change and

we will encourage all visitors to contribute

Bullet points

  • Collaboration: Northumberland Estates, NT Cragside, Henrietta Heald, Peter McKenzie etc
  • Recognition: The results of any research is logged and shared.
  • Response: We moved here to build a new home but along the way we have uncovered so much more that has enhanced and enriched the status of the farm and by responding to its history it has enriched many others.
  • Reimaging: Reimagining how we curate to reflect the historic importance of the Collection and the site is a priority with new informational making future projects more exciting. We use the research to create visual installations.

As a family home it is noticeable that the collection fits in an around our daily lives. The exterior walls of the building have their own story with the interior lime washed walls also telling a tale of times gone by. The story continues with our renovations that fit within these ancient walls. Many of the items are on view day-today. We are happy to show interested visitors around the site and the Collection on request.

What skills are needed to respond to challenges?

Some key problem-solving skills include:

  • Active listening – visitors giving ideas and offering assistance
  • Analysis - looking into each area in depth
  • Research - taking an idea and using evidence to collate information.
  • Creativity – using materials to create sensory experience
  • Communication – word of mouth information has proved invaluable
  • Dependability - Cragend Farm Collection is created using reliable information and real evidence.
  • Decision making has been taken on thoughtful deliberate information
  • Team-building - the Collection has the great effect of drawing the tour members together at the end to discuss the research and the findings with comments that arise from the ‘wow factor’ of many of the items. It has also brought together Bamburgh Castle, Alnwick Castle, and Cragside who have all helped in some way to piece together this jigsaw. 

The Collections Award: Recognising, Responding, Reimagining:

It honours the creators, owners, curators, researchers, and conservators who preserve, augment, restore and interpret these beautiful and significant objects, enabling the public to understand and enjoy them and the stories that they tell. 

Cragend Farm

2023 Custodian Prize Historic Houses in association with Dreweatts


About the author

Lou is the owner of Cragend Farm with her husband Shaun, and deals with everything from Holiday Accommodation inquiries to egg collection from the chickens; she is the social media and web design finger-tapper.

Find Out More About Cragend

Cragend Farm has a interesting and diverse history, from technical innovations to historic buildings. Tied in closely to the neighbouring Cragside Estate home of Victorian inventor and industrialist Lord Armstrong.