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Cragside: Touch history with the National Trust
Cragside. Photo: NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel
Cragside was the first home to be lit by hydroelctricity

For the first time, the National Trust are removing the 'do not touch' signs.

They'll be inviting visitors to take a hands-on approach by touching, and even smelling, the history at their properties.

At Cragside in Northumberland guests will be able to hit balls on the famous billiard table as the smell of roast beef fills the property.

The National Trust say it will be like the Armstrong family have only just left the house.

Cragside was built in 1864 by the inventor Lord Armstrong.

Revolutionary for its time - it was the first house to be lit by hydroelectricity and was packed with innovative gadgets - it even had a lift.

Blacked out

Katherine Williamson, the house steward, thinks allowing visitors to get a real feel of what life in the house was like is a great idea.

She said: "[National Trust] houses have been quite restricted up till now - it's almost bringing the houses back to life as they would have been in their original time."

The main place visitors to Cragside will be able to get up close to is the billiard room.

Katherine Williamson playing billiards at Cragside Hall
Guests will be able to pot a ball on famous billiard table

It's been blacked out and dressed as if it is the evening with glasses and decanters out.

But the best part is that guests will actually be able to pot balls on the billiard table.

Katherine accepts there is a danger of artefacts getting damaged if people are allowed to touch them:

"There is that side of it - we have very valuable items that visitors won't be allowed to handle," she said.

Genuine articles

At Cragside, visitors won't be given access to the original cues and balls and other precious items will be safely stored away.

But will people be disappointed not to have access to the genuine articles?

Katherine said: "I myself, when I go to other properties, like to see originals - but this is something that the National Trust have had to weigh up - to get visitor enjoyment up whilst keeping the high standards of conservation we've always had.

It'll be like the cook's just left the kitchen
Katherine Williamson, house steward

"But we will try to - if we move original objects in Cragside - display them elsewhere and also have an explanation that what you're handling isn't an original but you can see it elsewhere and why this has been done."

The new experience the National Trust is hoping to offer is not just about allowing guests to touch things.

Katherine explained: "There'll be much more atmosphere I hope in the house.

"We're looking at having smells - we've got machines that generate the smell of roast beef and we're getting fake food made for us. It'll be like the cook's just left the kitchen."

Prices for admission to Cragside vary. For more information click here.

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