Castle Drogo, Devon

One of the last great homes to be built in England, this unique, 20th century 'mock' castle with its flat granite walls appearing featureless and rather daunting, springs into view above the wild beauty of Dartmoor. Fired by the discovery of his ancestral history, Julius Drewe was adamant that he wanted not just a grand home, but a castle to adequately portray his line of descent from Drogo, a Norman baron. By sheer coincidence, one of Drewe's cousins was rector of Drewsteignton (the parish named after Drogo de Teigne in the 12th century), and the first plot of land was purchased from him in 1910 in readiness for Drewe's eccentric plans.

Having been aware of Sir Edwin Lutyens' recent remodelling of Lindisfarne Castle, Drewe secured the services of this outstanding architect to design his own dream castle. Lutyens, better known for his inspired memorials, and elaborate restoration of stately homes, accepted this strange commission but remained unconvinced about Drewe's ideas for a modern 'medieval' castle. Despite any earlier misgivings, Lutyens became inspired with this challenge and, during his long journeys to India, where he was supervising the building of the Viceroy's house, he would spend hours mulling over the plans for Castle Drogo. After many amendments to the original design, the house was finally completed in 1931, the same year that Julius Drewe died.

As founder of the Home and Colonial Stores, Julius Drewe had made his fortune early and retired from the business in 1889 while still a young man. The following year he married and, by 1900, the family had moved into Wadhurst Hall, inheriting an abundance of fine tapestries and exotic Spanish furniture, which they took with them to Castle Drogo. Internally the house depicts a similar austerity to that of its external fašade, but it is the medieval simplicity combined with a touch of Edwardian elegance that makes it all the more dramatically pleasing. Rooms are arranged on five different levels, rather than on specific floors and the overall effect is one of continuity and spaciousness in an irregular-shaped building.

Few of the walls, apart from the main living areas where wood panelling was introduced, are decorated with anything more than a lick of distemper, but the graceful lines created by vaulted ceilings, rounded arches and vast windows provide an adequate and uncluttered vista. A room in Castle Drogo has been set aside as a shrine to the Drewe's eldest son, Major Adrian Drewe, killed in action at the age of 26, and whose death had a lasting impact on his parents.

This extraordinary and fascinating house was gifted to the National Trust in 1974, the first 20th century house to come into the Trust's possession, a decision that was taken on the grounds of the quality of building as much as for its surrounding environment.

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