A castle redisplayed

The Drawing room at Castle Drogo with sofas in the middle of the room.

As you approach Castle Drogo it’s obvious that things aren’t quite normal. As you walk down the drive hundreds of granite blocks taken down from the parapet sparkle in the sunlight, pink and yellow markers showing which wall they belong to.

The castle

The castle, encased in scaffolding is in fact only 100 years old, built as an ancestral family home for Julius Drewe, the founder of ‘The Home and Colonial Stores’ who retired a millionaire, aged just 33.

Designed by one of the greatest architects of the day, Edwin Lutyens, the genius behind the Viceroy’s Palace in New Delhi and the Cenotaph, Drogo is utterly unique.

Unfortunately Castle Drogo’s flat roof failed early on in its construction and has leaked ever since, by 2012 its steel infrastructure was under severe threat. We are now over half way through the project to make the castle watertight and are now about to embark on the last phase of building work continuing until 2018.

While the changes to the exterior of the castle are hard to miss, the inside has also had a makeover for 2017. Installations are telling the untold stories of Castle Drogo, the family that lived here and displaying the collection in different ways.

A vision realised

Mr Drewe was an ambitious man, he wanted to create an imposing ancestral home situated on a granite outcrop overlooking Dartmoor. Castle Drogo certainly achieved this, and is a striking building, made entirely of granite complete with portcullis and arrow slits. It overlooks the deep Teign gorge and the view stretches to Haytor.

Though the castle looks medieval, it was actually only finished in 1930, and the contrast between the building methods of then and now is also something that is explored in the installations. 100 years ago stonemasons would’ve cut stone by hand, on scaffolding of wood and rope lashed together, a far cry from our modern tools and JCBs.

MDesign an art and design group have created installations in 3 rooms telling the story of the building project from 1911 until the present day.

A room by the artist MDesign explaining how the castle was built between 1910-1930.
A room with lots of architectural plans in and a type writer telling the story of the original building work.

They have also created a giant drip to represent the first ingress of water that Mr Drewe found in the castle. It is thought that the castle has been leaking since 1914, before completion, as the asphalt on the flat roof cracked very early on in the build letting water pour through the roof.

In the Drawing room the collection has been displayed in a brand new way telling the story of the 5 Drewe children and how their lives changed over time. The 3 sons, Adrian, Basil and Cedric all fought in the First World War and photographs and medals tell the story of what happened to them.

The castle is open by guided tour every weekend throughout November and December (until Sunday 17 December). The guided tour will talk about the Drewe family, architecture and history of the building.