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William Armstrong: Magician of the North [Kindle Edition]

Henrietta Heald
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Book Description

William George Armstrong was a visionary inventor, scientist and businessman who bestrode the 19th-century world like a colossus, bringing global renown to his Elswick works at Newcastle upon Tyne, which employed 25,000 people in the manufacture of hydraulic cranes, ships and armaments. He created Cragside in Northumberland, and planted in its grounds seven million trees; his guests at Cragside included the Shah of Persia, the King of Siam, the Prime Minister of China and two future British kings. Magician of the North is much more than the life of one man, however. It is the story of Britain at the height of empire, riding the crest of industrial and technological success. The Queen and the Prince Consort played a vital role in fostering the scientific ferment, but so did characters such as Michael Faraday, Charles Darwin and Thomas Huxley.


Product Description

Review

Armstrong deserves to be recognised as one of the titans of the 19th century… this book should do much to readdress the balance. --Country Life

...a fascinating new book about him demonstrates that he is just as relevant now as he was in Victorian times. --BBC North

William Armstrong was an engineering genius and perceptive scientist but his part in Britain's 19th-century history has been shamefully neglected. So hooray for Henrietta Heald, who gives us a thoroughly researched, finely written and helpfully illustrated biography. (And let me add that her publishers, Northumbria Press, are to be congratulated on the peerless quality of this hard-cover edition.) Heald skilfully relates Armstrong's story as an entertaining and gripping account of a grammar school boy who grew up in a book-filled home and ended up as the builder and owner of Cragside, which remains one of the most famous great houses of England. In an England of scheming, snobbery and jealousy, it was not an easy journey. Her book is essential reading for anyone interested in the the power and greatness of Victorian England for which Armstrong's contribution was as great as that of the railway engineers such as Stephenson and Brunel. And do not assume that Henrietta would let us down on the technicalities of Armstrong's inventions; she merely makes them explicit enough for people such as me to understand. --Len Deighton

...a fascinating new book about him demonstrates that he is just as relevant now as he was in Victorian times. --BBC North

William Armstrong was an engineering genius and perceptive scientist but his part in Britain's 19th-century history has been shamefully neglected. So hooray for Henrietta Heald, who gives us a thoroughly researched, finely written and helpfully illustrated biography. (And let me add that her publishers, Northumbria Press, are to be congratulated on the peerless quality of this hard-cover edition.) Heald skilfully relates Armstrong's story as an entertaining and gripping account of a grammar school boy who grew up in a book-filled home and ended up as the builder and owner of Cragside, which remains one of the most famous great houses of England. In an England of scheming, snobbery and jealousy, it was not an easy journey. Her book is essential reading for anyone interested in the the power and greatness of Victorian England for which Armstrong's contribution was as great as that of the railway engineers such as Stephenson and Brunel. And do not assume that Henrietta would let us down on the technicalities of Armstrong's inventions; she merely makes them explicit enough for people such as me to understand. --Len Deighton

About the Author

Henrietta Heald has edited books on British history and travel, interior design and architecture, and whose best sellers include the monumental Chronicle of Britain. She has contributed to many publications, including the Spectator and The Times.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 4796 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: McNidder and Grace (1 Mar. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00796E10I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #159,090 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Henrietta Heald is the author of the William Armstrong, Magician of the North, shortlisted for the H. W. Fisher Best First Biography Prize and the 2012 Portico Prize for non-fiction. The book is now available in hardback and paperback and as an e-book.

A graduate of Durham University, Henrietta had a long and successful career in book publishing before taking up the pen herself. She was chief editor of the historical encyclopedia Chronicle of Britain and Ireland and has edited and project-managed books on architecture, interiors and the British countryside, including Illustrated Guide to Britain's Coast and Country Walks and Scenic Drives, both published by Reader's Digest. Among her publishing triumphs was the first British edition of The Periodic Table by Primo Levi.

Henrietta lives in Islington, north London, with her husband, Adam Curtis, but spends much of her time in northeast England, visiting Armstrong's old haunts. She is now writing a book about the family of Charles Parsons - one of Armstrong's apprentices, who invented of the steam turbine - and in particular his daughter, Rachel, a pioneering feminist who campaigned in the 1920s for women's employment rights. Rachel met a violent death in 1956 at her Newmarket racing stable at the hands of a stableboy.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From The Tyne to The Peerage 10 Feb. 2011
By AlanMusicMan TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
I serendipitously discovered Cragside, Sir William's house, via the Open University back in the 1980s.

In the late 1980s, OU programmes used to play on BBC2 in a two hour block during Saturday mornings. Having accidentally discovered that some of these programmes could be really interesting, even to a casual viewer, I took to recording them each week so that I might have something interesting to watch when I got home from work in the week (yes, prime-time TV was pretty patchy then, too!).

One of the series I hoovered up in this way were the programmes that went with a course called "Arts Foundation (A102)" - all about the appreciation of art & architecture. One of the episodes I captured (and I still have it, transferred to DVD in all its VHS wobbliness!) was about the contents, the creation and the background of William Armstrong's magnificent creation on the Northumberland moorland, Cragside. Fascinated by this isolated, yet highly advanced and quirky house, I watched it over and over again.

It wasn't long before I dragged the family up north on a visit to see Cragside (a National Trust property for several decades now) for real. Ever since then, we have visited periodically: Visits which refresh the soul and reaffirm the belief that man can shape nature in a sympathetic and mutually beneficial way. It's easy to see why Armstrong was able to entertain royalty of all nations at the estate - it was and is, a wonder of the world.

Being a massive fan of Cragside of course leads one to a certain curiosity about its creator. - but I was frustrated that (even in the Cragside gift shop) there was only one very slim volume summarising William Armstrong's life and achievements.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
As other reviewers have said, Armstrong's key part in Victorian England is ludicrously neglected.
So a huge thanks to Henrietta Heald for the research and writing of it.

Unfortunately if it was a biography amongst many of someone more famous, it would not rate so very highly.

The best bits are: a) All the detail about the people who surrounded Armstrong's life. b) A good feel for the man is obtained. c) How often he met so many of the other contemporary "greats" not just of engineering, but also of pure science.
The poor parts are: a) The writing style, very much a first book. Chronology gets very confusing at times.
b) The variable but mostly extremely sparse details of the engineering.

This lack of information about his achievements is a great shame for anyone not otherwise aware of these things. If (perfectly reasonably) Henrietta Heald does not know/understand such details, I am sure there would have been several members of Durham or Newcastle University science or engineering depts who would have written a page or two descriptions of the technology involved, perhaps as appendixes ?. The book as a whole would be the better for it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars William Armstrong 2 Dec. 2010
By JR
Format:Hardcover
Draws you into the world of engineering, politics and arms sales of the time

A must for any researcher but also a very good read to understand the drivers and pitfalls for self made captains of industry during this period of fast expansion of engineering.

Successful engineers of this era were only a small group but have set a precedent for success in big business up to the present day

Congratulations to Henrietta Heald
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable man 2 Dec. 2010
Format:Hardcover
This is a well researched and very readable account of a remarkable man who was a pivotal figure in the industrial revolution. Given Armstrong's contributions to fields as diverse as hydraulics, shipbuilding, locomotives, guns, architecture and electric light it is extraordinary that he is not more well known. Fascinating!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Ruby
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Bought as a gift for my husband to read on holiday he found it very interesting with lots of information.We had to go back for another visit to Cragside,It also rekindled his interest in Vickers Armstrongs factories along Scotswood Road which he remembered from his childhood. William Armstrong was a very clever man ahead of his time Would highly recommend this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating account of genius 16 May 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Henrietta Heald's account of William Armstrong's life is beautifully-written and magisterial in managing to encompass the events and thinking of the time. Armstrong has not had the recognition he deserves. He was a visionary genius. Henrietta Heald does him proud!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars disappointed 21 Mar. 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book is very well researched but it is very heavy reading . There is a lot of detail which you have to plough through. I got lost trying to filter out his engineering achievments. Would not reccommend. Print is very small. Plates were disappointing.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BEST YET 2 Dec. 2010
Format:Hardcover
Although I am only a third the way through this biography I can say without reservation that it is the best 'life of Armstrong' I have delved into to date. At present the only other histories in print of this great man I am aware of are 'Arms and the Man' and 'Emporer of Industry' both small booklets. The more substantial works 'WG Armstrong' and 'The Great Gunmaker' are only available on the used market at inflated prices. If you just want one history of this other great Son of Newcastle this is it, it is in my view the best.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great thanks
Published 28 days ago by Kathy Stoffer
5.0 out of 5 stars Magician of the north
Excellent book. Read it before I go up to Northumberland on camping holiday. We are planning to visit both crag side and Bamburgh castle
Published 1 month ago by Mr Keith L Adams
5.0 out of 5 stars William Armstrong
Fascinating read. Full of information and a remarkable read.
Published 2 months ago by Michael Law
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great read
Published 2 months ago by Lorena A.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fabulous book
Published 3 months ago by MR C.HERSEY
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
excellent book
Published 3 months ago by A W Henderson
3.0 out of 5 stars A detailed biography of a forgotten engineer.
Armstrong was a very important figure in the history of engineering who does seem to have been forgotten. This book covers his life and achievements in considerable detail. Read more
Published 3 months ago by bookpigeon
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing yet little known industrial pioneer
I have visited Cragside and Bamborough Castle and wanted to get an in depth view on an amazing but little known pioneer who contributed so much to the industrial revolution and the... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mike Bluer
5.0 out of 5 stars so had a great affinity for this man
I have always been interested in industrial history: this book is a must for anyone with similar interests. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Mr. A. Birdwood
5.0 out of 5 stars A great man
A brilliant book about a brilliant man. As is stated in the book, W. Armstrong should have been as highly regarded as Nelson and Churchill.
Published 16 months ago by martin l symonds
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