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Complicated Family Tree

March 25, 2014


The first Lord Armstrong married Margaret Ramshaw (both above), the daughter of a Bishop Auckland engineer, in 1835. They had no children of their own so in the 1890s Armstrong had something of a conundrum when deciding who would inherit his estate.

Anne Armstrong

Anne Armstrong

Armstrong’s sister Anne died in her twenties, but before then had produced a son – John William Watson. In the 1890s Watson was elderly, already had Adderstone Hall near Belford in North Northumberland and was comfortably off. He had no interest in taking on Armstrong’s estate at his time of life. Instead he suggested it go to his son, William Henry Fitzpatrick Watson.

John William Watson

John William Watson

Armstrong decided that’s just what he’d do, and so the chosen heir came to Cragside along with his young family to live and learn the ropes of running the estate and businesses. There was one small proviso though, if he was to inherit the fortune, he also had to take on the name – he became Watson-Armstrong.

the 'second' Lord

the ‘second’ Lord

As he wasn’t a direct descendent of the first Lord Armstrong, the one thing he could not inherit was the title. However he was himself ennobled in 1903 as the 1st Baron Armstrong of Bamburgh and Cragside. We often refer to Watson-Armstrong as “the second Lord”, which is not strictly true. He is in fact the first Lord of the second creation (creation of the title). This is the real reason that people can find the family tree complicated. That and the fact they were all called William!

Of course then you have the fact that Watson-Armstrong had three wives (…not all at once!) But that does add some further confusion for visitors when they try to get their heads around it.

Watson-Armstrong married his first wife Winifreda in 1889. They had two children together, William and Winifred (or Winny as we know her). Winny died at just 17 years old and Winifreda died less than two years later in 1914 of a chest complaint. They had been married for 25 years.

With his first wife Winifreda and their children on the left, with second wife Beatrice top right and with theird wife Kathleen bottom right.

With his first wife Winifreda and their children on the left, with second wife Beatrice top right and with third wife Kathleen bottom right.

His second wife was Beatrice Cowx, whom he married in 1916. She had been his children’s governess (a sort of nanny and teacher in one). She died in 1934 having been married to him for 18 years. He then married his secretary, Kathleen England in 1935, however he died in 1941 ending their 6 year marriage. Kathleen went on to marry the owner of a Newcastle furniture store.


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