Search  Updates  View Map   | Castles   Houses  Misc  People  Religious  | Links   About   Home


Castle Drogo - Exeter, Devon (NT)

The monumental Castle Drogo was designed by the great English architect Edwin Lutyens for Julius Drewe, the founder of the Home and Colonial Stores. He had made his fortune and retired to Wadhurst Hall in Sussex in 1899. After researching his ancestry, he assumed a relationship with the Norman baron, Drogo de Teign and the land at Drewsteignton in Devon became his chosen site for a grand castle. Lutyens' original plans show the ambition  the commission inspired; it would have been three times the size of the present castle, but practical building problems and the shortage of workforce caused by the First World War meant that a smaller castle than was originally intended was built. Lutyens didn't give up his grand design easily however, and at one stage built a full-size timber and tarpaulin mock-up of his proposed Barbican, a four storey gate tower. Photographs of the construction and plans of the castle are displayed in the subterranean Gun Room next to the Chapel.

Castle Drogo

Castle Drogo is built of granite and resembles a medieval castle with Tudor embellishments. It is stark and unornamented on the outside, with mullioned and transomed windows lighting the higher status family rooms, smaller, deep cut windows for the servants rooms. The walls are battered, inclined to increase the sense of height, and without external guttering and down-pipes. At the entrance, a working portcullis is operated from a winch in one of the turrets.

Inside, the granite continues, providing a grand Entrance Hall and a baronial feel to many of the rooms. The Library and Billiard Room is an unusual, L-shaped room, divided by a huge granite arch, which caused much worry during construction in 1914-5. The tapestries here were brought, like much of the furniture, from Wadhurst. The Corridor connecting the Entrance Hall, Main Stairs and Drawing Room is a superbly designed sequence of arches, with a shallow dome and leading into the Main Staircase, reminiscent of the Norman stone staircases up to the Great Halls in tower keeps - like Castle Rising in Norfolk. The stairs are lit by a huge window, whose many lights are divided by stone mullions and transoms in decreasing proportion towards the top. The Drawing room is spacious and light, with windows on three sides. The Dining Room, reached by descending the Main Staircase, is by contrast low and fairly dark. Here is another of the compromises Lutyens had to make. The original plan called for a Great Hall, like a medieval or Elizabethan building, and the Dining Room would have been through two stories. However, the room as built is originally decorated with a plasterwork ceiling, dark paneled walls and a plain, granite frieze where one might have expected carved or painted decoration.

Castle Drogo Chapel

The Service Corridor was seldom entered by the family, but Lutyens has followed a consistent design, the granite well-finished and the ceiling alternately arched and vaulted. Along this corridor are displayed children's toys from the family and various items relating to Lutyens, including drawings and models of other houses. The Service Rooms continue the 'castle' theme, with oak cupboards, teak sinks and the round beech wood kitchen table all designed by the architect. The Scullery has stone pillars supporting a vaulted ceiling, with the light from lunettes above.

His other 'castle' at Lindisfarne in Northumberland has many of the features found in Drogo, such as the bare stonework, the use of unadorned arches to divide spaces, varied floor levels and his own brand of medieval architecture informed by the Arts and Craft movement as well as Mackintosh's distinctive style.

The Chapel is situated in an undercroft where the Great Hall would have been on the south side. Julius Drewe had taught at the Sunday School in the chapel at Wadhurst, and many of the chapel's furnishings were brought here to Castle Drogo. Memories of the First World War are prevalent in the chapel, a very atmospheric and simply decorated place.

The formal gardens at Castle Drogo were partly designed by Lutyens, with the entrance drive designed by his friend Gertrude Jekyll. In the 1950's, Basil Drewe and his wife planted rhododendrons, tree magnolias, camellias, cherries and maples on the sloping land west of the stables. The resulting blossom can be observed from the terrace walk above. To the south, in a sheltered valley, was the kitchen garden, but it no longer survives. Originally there were six gardeners under the head gardener, but now, under the ownership of the National Trust, the gardens are maintained by only two.


Back to the Home Page of the UK Heritage collection.

This information has been researched and published here by:

Jonathan & Clare
Microart 1998-2004