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Cragside, the home of William Armstrong, was the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity, and the first to be lit using Joseph Swan’s lightbulbs in 1880. Armstrong was known as a technological pioneer and innovator, and his house contains many interesting electrical features. But in the late nineteenth century, electricity was a strange and mysterious force which few understood but many believed could be dangerous. It was not obvious that everyone would want it in their house. What, then, led Armstrong to experiment with electricity in his house? And how did this fit into the national story of domestic electrification developing at this time around the country? In addressing these questions, Professor Graeme Gooday and Dr. Michael Kay, historians at the University of Leeds, will sketch out the hopes and fears surrounding electrification in the Victorian period, and highlight the importance of Cragside within this broader historical narrative. As both Armstrong and Swan presented their work at the Lit & Phil in the nineteenth century, this is a great opportunity to hear a fascinating story in the venue which saw it unfold.
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