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Object in Focus: Nooth’s Apparatus

September 15, 2013

This month our Object in Focus will be the Nooth’s Apparatus which is an odd-looking glass tower on display in the Red Dressing Room.

Cragside's Nooth's Apparatus

Cragside’s Nooth’s Apparatus

In the 17th Century Joseph Priestley (best known for discovering oxygen) was living next to a brewery and found himself fascinated by the bubbles of carbon dioxide he saw rising in the beer. It gave him the idea of artificially carbonating water, as carbonated water was deemed to be curative and good for the health.

He designed a clever apparatus which used chalk reacting with sulphuric acid to produce a gas which could be dissolved in water. His apparatus used a pig’s bladder and 2 glass vessels. Funnily enough, people weren’t too keen on drinking water from a pig’s bladder; there was a suggestion it tasted “Urinous”. That suggestion, however, was made by John Nooth.

Nooth had come up with what he thought was a better design, and Joseph Priestley eventually agreed. His design is exactly what we have here at Cragside. Nooth’s design dates from circa 1775. It’s said that almost every country house in the country had one at that time but it was superseded by a design by Jacob Schweppe in 1800 (yep, the same Schweppe whose name is still found on just about every bottle of pop sold today!), so how it came to be at Cragside 100 years on we’ll never know.


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