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From Past to Present

Perched high above the River Teign, Castle Drogo is a remarkable blend of medieval design and modern engineering. Words by Rosie Cattrell, images by ©National Trust.

Castle Drogo, situated on the fringes of Dartmoor National Park in Devon, England, stands as a testament to the Edwardian era’s architectural grandeur and the vision of its creator, Sir Edwin Lutyens. Completed in 1930, this imposing fortress-like structure is the last castle to have been built in England and is renowned for its commanding presence amidst the rugged beauty of the Dartmoor landscape.

Lutyens, a master architect of his time, incorporated both traditional and innovative techniques in its construction. The castle’s exterior boasts a striking granite façade, evoking a sense of strength and permanence, while its interiors showcase a fusion of medieval-inspired décor and early 20th-century luxury. Stepping through the castle’s imposing gates, visitors are transported back in time to an era of opulence and refinement. The Great Hall, with its intricately carved oak panelling and majestic fireplace, exudes an atmosphere of medieval splendour, while the Drawing Room offers a glimpse into the lavish lifestyle enjoyed by the castle’s inhabitants.

Commissioned by Julius Drewe, a wealthy businessman and founder of the Home and Colonial Stores, the castle was intended to be a family home that would reflect Drewe’s status and aspirations. However, its construction proved to be a monumental undertaking, fraught with challenges ranging from logistical issues to financial constraints. Situated on a granite outcrop high on Dartmoor, it was exposed to strong wind and rain from the start. Flaws in the original construction mean that significant amounts of water penetrated the roof, windows and pointing. In fact, Castle Drogo leaked before it was finishes.

After 100 years of water ingress, leaks and damage a restoration project was urgently needed to bring the castle back to life. The restoration of Castle Drogo stands as a monumental endeavour by the National Trust to preserve one of England’s most iconic architectural treasures. Beginning in 2013 and continuing for five years, this ambitious project aimed to address the structural issues plaguing the castle, ensuring its survival for generations to come.

At the heart of the restoration effort was a comprehensive assessment of the castle’s condition. Years of exposure to the elements had taken their toll, with water ingress causing extensive damage to the granite structure. Cracks had formed in the walls, and the roof was in dire need of repair. To combat these challenges, a team of skilled craftsmen and conservation experts was assembled, drawing on both centuries-old techniques and modern innovations.

One of the most significant aspects of the restoration was the replacement of Castle Drogo’s entire roof. The new roof, meticulously crafted to match the original in both appearance and function, provided much-needed protection from the elements while preserving the castle’s architectural integrity. In addition to addressing structural issues, the restoration project also sought to enhance the visitor experience at Castle Drogo. New displays and exhibits were introduced, offering insights into the history and significance of the castle, while improved accessibility measures were implemented to ensure that all visitors could fully appreciate its wonders.

The completion of the restoration of Castle Drogo in 2018, marked a triumph of dedication, skill, and perseverance. Today, visitors to the castle have a newfound appreciation for this architectural icon. As a symbol of both past and present, it stands as a reminder of the enduring legacy of those who dared to dream and strive for greatness.


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