Cragside House

The Magic of Lord Armstrong’s Laboratory

Mdesign were appointed creative partners by the National Trust in 2016 for ‘The Magic of Lord Armstrong’s Laboratory’ at Cragside House, Northumberland. This is a permanent installation in the original Laboratory built by Lord Armstrong in the 1890’s. Using archive publications of the experiments conducted over 120 years ago several of the experiments and some of the apparatus have been presented as interactive reconstructions. The presentation of the reconstruction draws on the parallel evolution of Victorian Magic and Science. During the 1800’s there was a deep fascination with science and also magic. Many inventors and scientists were being called magicians and many magicians were using science to produce ever impossible illusions. Both the performance of the latest sensational illusion and demonstrations of the most recent developments in science were presented to the Victorian public with theatre and showmanship. We have used early illusion techniques such as peppers ghost, bottled heads, and infinity mirrors along with a large dose of modern technology to present the experiments.

The reconstructions are narrated and presented by two virtual science aficionados, Mr Britton and Mr Moore.
“Just wanted to write a quick note to say how amazing the Cragside electricity laboratory is…
Absolutely loved it – totally bonkers and weird but wonderful and creative and funny and odd. We all loved it – kids and adults alike”


The Spark Cabinet .
At the centre of the room sits the Spark Cabinet containing 4 elements of the reconstructed experiments. The cabinet is surrounded by supporting collection items. text and illustrations from Lord Armstrong’s publications and models.

The Leyden Jars, Britton and Moore introduce the experiments.

Supporting text and illustrations from the archive.

The Wine Glass Experiment

The wine Glass Experiment
   The Wine Glass Experiment, demonstrated by Mr Moore. this uses Real objects peppers ghost projection and a back screen to create a 3 dimensional reconstruction.

Green glass insulators from the Cragside collection
Mdesign worked closely with the Curator and Conservator at the National Trust to identify objects from the Cragside collection which would help tell the story  of Lord Armstrong’s experiments. Many of the items selected by mdesing have never been out on display before. As well as devising the interactive reconstruction of experiments the scope of the project was to provide a complete designed for the room including, wall finishes, lighting, objects and displays.

The mad twiddely thing from the Cragside collection
The spark experiment
Perspex insulation cabinet legs
  ‘Victorian Glass’ insulator legs, a reference to Lord Armstrong’s Steam generator.

Spark Cabinet & model display
The Infinate Wimshurst Machine, A reconstructed static generator making electrical charge for the experiments. The infinite dimensions of the machine are a reference to Lord Armstrong’s original 3 foot diameter, 16 plate generator.
Infinite Winshurst Machine  
Inside the Infinite Wimshurst