What it takes to build a castle

Featured image: Knocker and lock at the entrance to Castle Drogo.

Cogitation 16 Friday 20 April 2018   To build a castle, whether of sand or of granite, takes imagination.

To build a sandcastle takes a child’s unleashed imagination. sandy beach, water, a shovel, and a bucket.

To build a castle of granite takes an adult’s persistent imagination, a rocky spur above a valley, money, and an architect ready to do extensive revisions at the owners insistence.

This week we got a glimpse of the role imagination played in building, and now conserving, Castle Drogo in County Devon.

The entrance foyer of  the family chapel at Castle Drogo.
Memorial to Castle Drogo-related people who lost their lives in WW I; figures mounted in a wall in the family chapel.
One of three stained glass windows in the family chapel. This one depicts the scene of the angel at the Garden Tomb, where Jesus spent three days, announcing, “HE IS RISEN. HE IS NOT HERE.”

Julius Drewe had plenty of drive, money, and imagination to acquire land and build a castle in the years 1911-1930. Castle Drogo is considered to be the last castle built in England. It towers over the Teign Gorge, near Drewsteignton, in Dartmoor National Park.

Encouraged by a genealogist who suggested Drewe came from medieval Norman ancestry, the wealthy business founder returned to this Drogo ancestral land in Devon to build his country home and castle. The supposed medieval ancestry connection was with the family Drogo de Teigne.

Drewe hired leading architect Edwin Lutyens to design castle and gardens, a move that pitted the owner’s imagination, drive, and money in a see-saw tension with the architect’s professional eye.

Drewe lived 1856-1931. In 1974 the family transferred the 3-story Castle Drogo and 450 acres of land to The National Trust. The building, to me, appears worthy of the 14 million Pounds Sterling The National Trust will have invested in an eight-year conservation project, to be finished by the end of 2018.

Drogo, in a 20th century way, is a castle, the real thing, product of one person’s dreams, reduced somewhat from the grand original plan, yet a fitting build in a grand location, shaped by a leading architect and garden designers of the day, as by Julius Drewe.

What neither Drewe nor Lutyens quite grasped, though, was that the new early 20th century flat roofing materials would spring a leak almost from the get-go.  Installing a leak-proof roof is one part of the massive conservation project.

Conservation of the grand complex of buildings and gardens, assimilated into a rugged moorland landscape, really is an investment that will catch people’s imaginations for years to come.

Exterior cladding for the rejuvenation work of Drogo Castle.
We took a hard hat guided tour to see the restoration work, that includes re-mortaring the granite building blocks and refitting all the windows.

Castle Drogo formal gardens

Noel and Lynne Brereton took Marty and me to visit Drogo Castle. Framed by a yew hedge leading to the croquet lawn.

A wisteria canopy and yew hedge frame one of the many entrances to the formal Castle Drogo gardens.


The terraced gardens lead down to a a forested area.

Inside Castle Drogo

Chandelier in the drawing room.
Drawing room.
Drawing room.
A glass pendant represents the drip, drip, drip from a leaky roof ever since Castle Drogo opened in 1930. The leak is finally to be fixed with new materials by the end of 2018. The complex generates all its own electricity from the Teign River.
Julius Drewe drew on the latest technology in overseeing the building of his country home and castle. The stack of papers represent letters, memos, and invoices.
Some of the books in the castle library.

Imagine a little. Imagine a lot. Some imaginings may have the life-span of a sandcastle, or of a granite castle. Either one can have enough lasting-power to inspire generations. Imagine that!


Brief recap of the week

We walked a section of St Michael’s Way, here through a field with not even a nod from this steadily munching horse.
Sure sign of spring, a flowering cherry tree, in Morab subtropical garden in Penzance.
View through gorse across Mount’s Bay on a walk from Penzance to Mousehole (Mowzel) and back. Fine crab sandwich.
All-seeing gulls rest on the rail station chimney at St Erth.
I imagine children who grew up in Castle Drogo realized dreams of their own, just as do children who create sandcastles. May every child’s, and adult’s, imagination flourish.

3 thoughts on “What it takes to build a castle

    1. Thanks, Phyllis. Imagination works wonders. It takes me back to fun times in the sandbox my parents created for us siblings and for the one day a year we got to go to the beach at Grand Bend. Really wonderful memories.


  1. A beautiful day here in Goshen. Working in the garden without even a jacket. Getting ready to drop the seeds of anticipated beauty. Wish Dorsa & I could join you exploring the castle. The travel-log you provide is what I needed early this morning. Thanks


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