Drogo Castle’s the very last castle to be built in England, built between 1911 and 1930. Julius Drewe certainly had taste, the positioning was superb, and he employed two of the eminent people of their day, Edwin Lutyens as the architect and Gertrude Jeckyll was also drafted in to help with the garden scheme.
There’s a large element of sadness to the story of Drogo Castle however. The founder of the Home and Colonial stores had a vision for his castle, and what exists today would have been much larger and imposing. Building started in 1911 and the castle was completed in 1930, but was a third of the size of the construction originally designed by Lutyens. What happened was that Julius Drewe’s son died at the infamous Battle of Passchendaele, and as later mentioned by his daughter, “the joy of life went out of my father”.
Myself and wife (not forgetting Alfie and Jack – our terriers) happened to be walking the glorious path along the river Teign from Fingle Bridge upstream on one of those beautiful early May days when the intensity of syrupy greens in the riverside woodland is breathtaking.
About a mile upstream we came across the hydro-electric generation station that was installed for Drogo Castle when it was built. And luckily it was open, so, one of the kind National Trust volunteers was on hand to show me around the interior.
Incidentally, this walk is sublime if you haven’t already tried it, and if in the summer you wish to take a walk, not in direct sunlight, but in dappled shade, this is great, particularly if your dog enjoys a dip in the water also. As you approach the hydro-electric station, there’s a great view that leads your eye up from the station to Drogo Castle itself, perched up on the ridge. As an organisation, National Trust is at the forefront of preserving our heritage, currently Drogo Castle has been undergoing major work to repair rain damage and stop the water ingress – can’t wait to see it finished result to this fine building and monument to Julius Drewe.
To return to the alternative energy theme of this Proud to be Green chapter, it’s fantastic to consider that from outset of the occupancy of the castle, renewable energy has been in use here. But I suppose that in the early 20th century, getting an electric supply to Drogo Castle would have been a major problem, so the river was a much easier solution. Such a pity there aren’t many more rivers across the country that could be utilised in this way.