Project update

It is quite amazing to think that over half the year has gone already, and work at Drogo is progressing well. The view from the top of the viewing tower has changed dramatically over the last few months and you can really appreciate what the builders have been up to.

Recently the builders have been;
- Repointing of the south and east wings is well advanced.


-Bauder membrane is being laid on the roof starting with vertical sections.

 IMG_4599( view of the roof)

-The East window (the tallest window in the castle) has all the glass back in, we are however waiting for the builders to complete the sealing of these windows.

What’s next?

-Stonework reinstatement will increase during July. This has already started on the east wing.

- More scaffolding is being erected so that the builders can remove the remainder of the parapet.

-The work is continuing to the programme we expect with the south wing being finished for Christmas.

If you would like to know more our project manager leads Hard Hat tours on the building site. Please look at the Castle Drogo website for more details.


A missing piece in the jigsaw? The First World War and the Castle Drogo garden

In an encounter in Parliament in 1917 with the anti-war campaigning poet Siegfried Sassoon, Winston Churchill put forward the idea that “War is the normal occupation of man”. Following a scornful look from Sassoon, Churchill amended his words adding “…War and Gardening”.

The human occupations in this quote encapsulate the classic dichotomy of war and peace, but are there ever moments in time when these two extremes collide?

Throughout this year the nation is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the First World War.  After a tip off from our very own Clive Smith I have discovered  evidence that suggests  Drogo’s garden may have some very surprising connections with the ‘Great War’ that have up until now been overlooked.

The unprecedented number of casualties of the First World War produced an entirely new attitude towards the commemoration of war dead. Previously individual commemoration was often on an ad hoc basis and was almost exclusively limited to commissioned officers. The scale of the 1914-18 war required mobilization of a significant percentage of the population, either as volunteers or through conscription. Due to the horror of trench warfare and the scale and cost of human sacrifice, an expectation had arisen that individual soldiers would be commemorated, whatever their rank. The war office in London was also aware that dignified treatment of the bodies of the fallen would contribute to the morale of those still fighting. 

On May 21st 1917 the Imperial War Graves Commission was created to care for the graves of all those that had died in active service, from all dominions of the British Empire. Lutyens was keen to be involved right from the start although the effect of seeing the battlefields first hand and the scale of the makeshift cemeteries had a considerable effect on him. Some extracts of what he wrote in his letters show this: “What humanity can endure and suffer is beyond belief… a ribbon of isolated graves like a milky way across miles of country where men were tucked in where they fell…. For miles these graves occur from single pairs to close packed areas of thousands on every sort of site and in every sort of position, the bodies laid to face the enemy… tomorrow we go again to the battlefields-to a scene of obliterated villages, scared soil and destroyed tanks etc.”

A committee under Frederic Kenyon, Director of the British Museum, presented a report to the Commission in November 1918 detailing how it envisioned the development of the cemeteries. Two key elements were that bodies should not be repatriated and that uniform memorials should be used to avoid class distinctions. Beyond the logistical nightmare of returning home so many corpses, it was felt that repatriation would conflict with the feeling of brotherhood that had developed between serving ranks.

The scale of the war cemetery construction was immense and this ‘architecture of death’ came to form a major part of Lutyens’ work. Gavin Stamp in the foreword of the book ‘Lutyens and the great War’ hints at the irony surrounding Lutyens successful career… “The terrible war that brought an end to the complacent civilisation which sustained Lutyens’ practice also gave him the opportunity to rise to the highest levels of creativity”. In the aftermath of the war Lutyens was to spend more than a decade designing civic war memorials, war cemeteries, village memorials, institutional memorials and individual tombs.

Lutyens received his knighthood not on the back of the myriad of domestic commissions but in recognition for his work in New Delhi and the war cemeteries.

After his death the full realisation of the debt of gratitude owed by The Imperial War Graves Commission to Lutyens and the small group of architects became apparent. It was recognised that they were fortunate to find a man in Lutyens who could rise to the height of the task that faced them in 1918; that of dedicating the genius of British architecture to the memory of a million men who died in the supreme struggle for liberty.

Stamp suggests that Lutyens’ genius lay in his fertile three dimensional imagination and the ability to continually transform classical forms into something modern whilst retaining a depth of sensitivity to the site and landscape.

 By the time Julius Drewe turned his attention to creating a garden at Castle Drogo in the mid 1920’s, his architect Edwin Lutyens carried not only the confidence of a successful man at the top of his career but also the maturity and depth of understanding available only to those who live through extraordinary and difficult  times.

In both their eyes you see the kind of maturity that is only bought at a price. I was surprised to hear that Julius Drewe’s grave in Drewsteignton church yard was also designed by Lutyens and perhaps this reflects the depth of the personal relationship and mutual respect the two must have built up.  

Thanks to Jonathan Lovie’s research we knew that Lutyens had adopted a classical and modern approach to the garden here at Drogo but I have been bowled over to discover strong similarities between Drogo’s garden and many of his war cemetery designs. Up until now this has been a missing piece in the jigsaw. It seems that Stamps suggestion that Lutyens was the master of composing endless variations on a theme is also true for Drogo. 

La Targette British cemetery. The two shelter houses and general layout are remarkably similar to the lower formal garden. The graves are planted with floribunda roses and perennials as suggested by Gertrude Jekyll to recreate a small part of England.



Villers-Brettoneax cemetery, again the same basic layout as Drogo’s garden. I have often thought the garden here at Drogo had the layout of a castle. Many of these war cemeteries also have the look of a military camp about them. 

La Neuville British Cemetery Somme (below). The raised entrance terrace is very reminiscent of the terrace surrounding Drogo’s Rose Garden.

 la neuville

Serreroad Cemetery; again a strikingly similar plan to Drogo’s formal garden complete with corner shelters, hedges and shelter belts. 

The many shelter buildings reminiscent of the Pavilion rooms at Drogo were designed to give visitors a place for quiet contemplation and prayer. Because of the cost involved they were restricted to the larger cemeteries.



To conclude this short piece, I have found it fascinating to discover that at Drogo the influences of a world war are so clearly visible in the design of the garden. Perhaps it is fitting that Lutyens should create a garden here that carries with it the memories of the fallen, thinking of Adrian, Julius’ eldest son and the castle builders who never returned from the trenches. With our focus on the anniversary of the outbreak of war, the echoes of a bygone age can still have a powerful impact in the present; I have been moved just from looking briefly at images of the war cemeteries. The challenges of war and peace are still just as fundamental to our existence as they were to that generation. In the garden here at Drogo we discover clues to suggest that our current peace and prosperity were bought at a high price. 

John Rippin, Head Gardener


Sir Edwin Lutyens – the Devon connection

When Martin Lutyens last attended the castle to address staff and volunteers, he was asked if it was true that his great uncle had designed a small house near Haytor to accommodate the Drewe family whilst Drogo was being built. He replied that he had never heard of such a scheme. However, as a member of the audience, I was prompted to reflect on how many projects Sir Edwin had been involved in with a Devonshire connection. My researches were most interesting.

The great man’s first professional foray into the county seems to have been in 1909 to meet the Duke of Bedford at Tavistock. At the time, ‘garden cities’ were all the rage and the Duke was keen to explore the possibility of developing part of the Endsleigh estate into a garden city along the lines of Bourneville or Port Sunlight. The project petered out and one wonders if the beginning of the demise of the tin mining industry might have been a contributory reason. Lutyens, who was at his peak and much in demand, was soon occupied elsewhere in similar design work at Hampstead Garden Suburb. However, his visit to Tavistock was not entirely wasted since, whilst there, he was asked to design a house for a Major Gallie. The result, Little Court, is one of Sir Edwin’s smaller country house offerings and is today privately owned. Its location on the edge of the moor and its date of origin might well have been what triggered a rumour which in turn prompted the question to Martin Lutyens.

Soon after, the Castle Drogo project commenced, which ensured a 20 year plus connection with the county for Sir Edwin and the Drewe family.

In 1921, he was commissioned by Alfred Mildmay to add an extension to his country house at Mothercombe, near Plymstock. This was one of several extensions with which he was involved at the time in different parts of the country, including Penheale in Cornwall, and which were undertaken when he was at his busiest with work on war memorials and cemeteries, not to mention New Delhi.

Sir Edwin’s final work in Devon was in 1936 when he was commissioned by Torquay Corporation to build the Drum Inn at Cockington, Torquay. The town had recently purchased the Cockington estate from private owners and were anxious to exploit its tourist potential, hence the perceived need for a pub. It survives in its original state and thrives as a tourist destination and a wedding venue.

After the conclusion of World War 1, war memorials, which are again much to the forefront of our thoughts as we approach the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of hostilities, were in great demand. Lutyens was commissioned to design many; 49 in the UK, including Exeter, 9 overseas and at least 8 private memorials for favoured friends and clients. Additionally, he was asked by the Imperial War Graves Commission ( now renamed the Commonwealth War Graves Commission) to be one of three supervisory architects to oversee the building and laying out of the many hundreds of cemeteries and memorials to the missing in Europe. He was principal architect for 136 , including the Dartmoor Cemetery, the Devonshire Cemetery and the Thiepval Memorial , all in the Somme region of France. The latter is the largest British war memorial in the world a model of which we have held at Drogo for several years.

The memorial to the Devonshire Regiment at the front of Exeter Cathedral was designed by Lutyens and unveiled in July 1921. The cross design used became known as the Lutyens cross and was used by him in several other towns in the UK. The site was chosen because the permanent home of the regiment was in Exeter and the Cathedral was the first place of worship in the county. Exeter was also where the 8th and 9th battalions of the regiment were created in September 1914 to accommodate the hundreds of those who volunteered some of whom may well have been from the Drogo workforce.

The Dartmoor Cemetery was started in 1915 as a casualty cemetery near the village of Becordel-Becourt on the Somme, whose name it was initially given. The name was changed later in 1915 to the Dartmoor Cemetery at the request of the 8th/9th Battalion of the Devonshires who were at that time manning that sector. 768 casualties are buried there, many of whom are Australians and New Zealanders and Lutyens was called upon to create the final post war layout.

On 1 July 1916, the first day of the battle of the Somme, the men of the 8/9th went ‘over the top’, their objective being to take the village of Mametz. Within a few hours 160 of them were dead, a figure that is difficult to comprehend today. Later in the day their bodies were returned to the trench from which they had departed at the beginning of the assault. Uniquely the trench was then designated a cemetery. For this reason it became famous as a battlefield cemetery despite its relatively small size. 163 men are buried there, some of whom were never identified and Lutyens is attributed on the approval form as the principal architect.

At the risk of being frivolous, I draw to your attention an unfortunate connection between Castle Drogo and the Thiepval Memorial, which displays the carved names of the 72,099 missing during the battle of the Somme in which the Devonshires were heavily involved. The flat roof of Thiepval has twice needed extensive repairs since water ingression caused potentially major damage to the facing of the memorial. Repairs were undertaken in1952/3 and again in 1970.
Finally, an interesting statistic that I came across during my researches. The total cost to the War Graves Commission of all cemeteries and memorials completed in Belgium and France, well over 900 in total, was £8.15m. The cost of one day’s shelling during September 1918 as the war reached its conclusion was £3.75m. A salutary note on which to close; someone might like to convert these figures into today’s values.

Clive Smith O.B.E

UPDATE: Lottery funding boost for Fingle Woods, April 2014

The transformation of Fingle Woods by the Woodland Trust and National Trust has been boosted with initial support, including development funding of £64,900,from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), with plans in place to apply for a full grant at a later date.

The HLF grant will be used to carry out a number of ecological surveys of the wildlife on site, including butterflies, bats and birds, as well as an archaeological survey, which will allow the charities to understand how the landscape has developed over time.

The funding will also help the charities hold a public launch event in the summer, giving people the chance to offer suggestions on what they would like to see on site, as well as learn more about the charities’ long term plans.

David Rickwood, Woodland Trust site manager, said: “It’s a fantastic boost for all involved to receive this funding from the HLF, which will help us learn more about the rich history and wildlife associated with Fingle Woods.

“We’ve now raised £3m towards the acquisition and management of the site with incredible support both locally and nationally. Anyone who hasn’t yet donated can still make a real difference and help us restore these fantastic woods for the benefit of people and wildlife.”

Adrian Colston, General Manager at the National Trust on Dartmoor, added: “We are delighted that the HLF has funded our first round bid. Fingle Woods is huge, providing many opportunities and this funding will enable us to draw up plans which benefit the woods, their wildlife and archaeology. We will also be able to discuss our plans with the local community and other interest groups so that our plans for access and recreation are appropriate and fun.”

The two charities joined forces in August 2013 to purchase and restore the woods which straddle the Teign Valley, and recently opened 45km of previously inaccessible pathways on site, allowing visitors to explore routes closed for up to 10 years.

Around two-thirds of Fingle Woods is covered in damaged ancient woodland, planted with conifers, which the charities aim to restore by gradually thinning the conifers over many decades. This will allow native woodland to regenerate, increasing the habitat for species such as pied flycatcher, redstart, wood warbler and fritillary butterflies. Damaged ancient woodland makes up nearly half of the existing ancient woodland left in the UK, which is irreplaceable and covers just 2% of the landscape, with restoration being the only way to protect its long-term future.

To find out more information or donate to the Woodland Trust’s appeal visit

Fingle Woods- The most exciting thing to happen to the Teign valley Rangers since the Chocolate Hobnob!

As many of you may be aware, the National Trust, in combination with the Woodland trust have last year bought the section of woodland which once divided the castle Drogo estate from our Teign Valley woods holdings. This comprises around 830acres of broadleaf and conifer woodland and over 45km of tracks and pathways. This is also the first time the two charities have worked together on a project like this.
This is tremendously exciting for us as Rangers not only does it mean the woodlands are now “whole”, but it provides enormous potential for the future.
Much of the conifer woods are what are termed PAWS (Plantation on Ancient Woodland Site), and it the intention of both the NT and WT to restore these to broadleaf woodland, a long process that will take over a century. The potential for the new woods can be laid out as follows;

As we thin the conifer plantations, there will be much saleable timber, providing the funding needed to work the less profitable areas of the woodlands. We will also be able to supply plenty of biomass to the castle for the foreseeable future.

Some areas of the woods were not covered in conifers as they were too wet/steep/difficult to plant, these areas are potentially very rich in biodiversity which could spread into the rest of the woods as they are restored. Our biosurvey team visits soon to tell us what we have got.

With over 45km of tracks currently identified, the potential for walking, cycling, horseriding and even organised motorsport is huge.
The woods were opened for access from March this year, so what are we doing at the moment? We have waymarked a number of trails to allow people to explore the woods, we have created areas for carparking to give better access. We will shortly be installing new interpretation at the entry points to help people find their way around. We are working with groups of local volunteers to undertake rubbish clearance and start to expose some of the features of the woods. We are working with contractors to draw up plans to begin tree thinning operations next winter and to enable us to get the timber out easier.

There will be an official opening of some sort in the summer, so stay tuned, and in the meantime I recommend you get out and explore!


Tom Wood

Adrian Drewe’s memorial room

 The Castle Drogo team are really pleased to be re-opening Adrian’s Room at the castle.

It is a room much loved by everyone who knows the property. It was originally created as a memorial to Julius and Francis Drewe’s son Adrian who was a Major in the Royal Garrison Artillery, sadly he was killed at Ypres on the 12th July 1917 aged only 26 years. The family originally created the room in their home at Wadhurst Hall, but when the family moved into Castle Drogo in 1928 the room was re-established here and has remained in the same room ever since.

The contents of the room were put in storage in December 2012 as part of the building project in progress at the castle, the window was taken out to be refurbished and it is the first window to be put back in situ out of 913 windows.

“The room has been re-instated exactly as it was before as the room is a designated war memorial. We felt it was important to have this room open this year with the centenary of the outbreak of WWI, particularly as the war had such a major impact on the building of the castle as well as the personal grief the family suffered with the loss of their eldest son” said House and Collections Manager Lucinda Heron.

003The room in the morning.

005Our conservation team carrying the portrait of Adrian Drewe carefully up the stairs.

006Adrian Drewe’s memorial room nearly finished


013The room is now ready for visitors.

William George Arscott 1893-1918

Once war was declared in August 1914 work on the Castle began to slow down. During 1914 men volunteered for the Army and workers at the Castle, the single men, were encouraged to volunteer and some were paid a bounty for volunteering by Julius Drewe. This money covered the cost of their kit, which at that time they had to pay for themselves. There are several letters in the Walker Letters to this effect.

Research identified G Arscott from the wages list of the Castle as William George Arscott of Drewsteignton.
In the 1911 Census there is a Thomas Arscott, a farm labourer, aged 47 living at Netherton, Drewsteignton. He has a son George aged 18, also a farm labourer. The census does not always give full names so it may be that William George was known as George.

G Arscott makes no further appearance on the lists after 14th August 1914.

Walker letters (#891 dated 19th September 1914)
Pt. W. G. Anscott (sic)
Dear Sir
Thank you for your letter re kit money.
I have now pleasure in enclosing you £3. 0. 6. also receipt for same, kindly sign this across the stamp and return to me.
This is two weeks wages plus 10/- for expenses incurred.
I hope you will have a good time, do your duty to the King and Country, and come back at the end of the War, unless you find that you like the Army & finish your 21 years, coming out as Colour Sergeant with various medals.
I am
Yours faithfully
J C Walker

Commonwealth War Graves Commission – there is a William George Arscott of the Devonshire regiment who died age 24 on 29/01/1918 in Greece. He is buried at SARIGOL MILITARY CEMETERY, KRISTON. His father was a Thomas Arscott of Netherton, Drewsteignton.

There appears to have been a long drawn out campaign in Greece in the Salonika area (now Thessaloniki) and he was involved in this for about two years.

It is worth quoting in full the piece form the Western Times about William George’s death as it is very poignant to read about what else was happening and what the Home Front was doing for the war effort and of course the piece about William George working at the Mansion.
Western Times –15th February 1918.
Article in the Drewsteignton news section, on the death of W.G. Arscott.

As showing the mildness of the season, bunches of primroses were picked in this parish during last week.
During the winter months the members of the Ladies Patriotic Working Party have knitted and sent to the Mayoress of Exeter’s Depot, 141 pairs of socks, 30 pairs of mittens and 16 mufflers. Since the formation of the working party one old lady. Mrs Harriett Lackey, who is close on 80 years of age, has knitted no less that 50 pairs of socks for our brave boys.

Mr Thomas Arscott of Netherton Cottage has received sad news that his youngest son, Pte. W.G. Arscott (Devons) has been killed in action. Pte. Arscott had been serving with the Salonica forces for over two years, and a few months ago was slightly wounded. Prior to joining up soon after the commencement of the war, Pte. Arscott was for a considerable time employed at the Mansion, where his quiet, unassuming manner won for him the esteem of all his fellow employees. He was also one of a band of five young ringers, all of whom gave their services to their country. The deepest sympathy is felt for Mr Arscott who, just over two years ago, lost his wife, it being while in the act of preparing a parcel to send to her son that she became ill and suddenly expired. ” 

William George is commemorated on the Drewsteignton war memorial.


Erica Williamson