William Armstrong, living in 19 Century was the first engineer, inventor, scientist, to be made a peer. He built the first house lit by hydro-electricity, Cragside in Northumberland, his firm manufactured the machinery that lifted Tower Bridge, the guns and ships of war that helped defend this country, and much else besides. He was Newcastle’s great benefactor in so many ways, not least in education and training. This is what his biographer Henrietta Heald writes in his biography entitled “William Armstrong, Magician of the North”:
“He opposed the manipulation and regulation of labour in the quest for a more equal society, believing that individual ambition should be given a free rein within the law. ‘Struggle for superiority is the mainspring for progress. It is an instinct deeply rooted in our nature. … To what a dead level of mediocrity would our country sink if struggle for superiority were stamped out amongst us, and how completely would we fall back in the race of nations.’”.
Perhaps that is why he has been airbrushed out of the fame to which he should most certainly be entitled, a man who lived in the real world not just in the world he wanted it to be.
Or perhaps it was because he was a “boss”, an engineer, an armaments manufacturer, and he came from the North!