Interview with one of our artists ‘Dovetail Foundry’

Dovetail Foundry’s sculptural work, in response to Castle Drogo, reveals their attention to detail, dedication and excitement for the stories of Castle Drogo and concepts they are w orking with. Their contemporary attitudes to installation bring a fresh and unique approach to the Castle’s collection and interpretation. They explore the existing collection to interpret family stories as well as architectural features designed by Edwin Lutyens in the early 20th century.

How have gone you about creating and developing your work?

We’re creating a range of installations using a variety of methods so it’s hard to give a short answer. Each has had its different inspirations and ways of development. One of the uniting aspects is that we have looked and listened closely to the stories that the landscape, building and people have to tell, and tried to incorporate this in the narratives of our work.
With regard to the camera, we actually used a series of short-term time-lapse set ups and then a lot of smaller shoots to get the seasonal change. We had a tripod of fixed length and pegs driven into the ground so we could return and get the exact same view of the hillside as it changed from summer to winter. We also sought local advice about the best vantage points to see seasonal change – the top of various hills, certain walks and times of day that the most evocative light would be available.

Tell us about your experience on your visits to Castle Drogo, such as your filming?

Apart from the filming of the hillside and surrounding details of landscape, we spent time by the river capturing the foaming water, and managed to glimpse a leaping salmon. However, the best images came from early rising and spending time on the promontory that the castle is on, as the sun rose, catching storms, rainbows, mists and sun.

Tell us about local artists you have been working with?

For the Willow Mirror Jo worked with local maker Linda Lemieux, who is a basket maker and teacher and who runs the shop Wood and Rush in Chagford. She was invaluable, in guiding and helping with the structure and providing the materials – and the willow mirror was constructed in her studio which has a view of Drogo from the window.
We were also keen to draw upon the skills the volunteers at the castle possess. We’ve been fortunate through this process to be put in contact with Tavistock Goosey Quilters who have been beavering away making pieces for a quilt for the exhibition.

The studio where the Willow Mirror is being made.

How has the Castles collection been reflected in your work?

We’ve been inspired by lots of items in the castle, from the astonishing ‘Seven Ages of Man’ marquetry cabinet to the various trinkets that the Drewes collected on their travels.

What stood out to you when you visited the Castle to inspire your work?

The story of how and why it was designed and built – the Castle is in some ways a pinnacle of the Victorian paradox in architecture – medieval in concept but technological in construction. It represents a moment in history where the world is irrevocably changing – interrupted by the First World War, it is the last of its kind.
What also stood out was how varied and changeable the landscape is surrounding it. The light is constantly shifting, the seasons are vivid but unpredictable – sun and rain in the space of an hour. That all helped create lovely images for the time-lapse.

Dovetail Foundry are currently building a lantern which will be presented in one of the castle rooms. This large-scale storytelling sculpture is in full swing, however, we shall save pictures for the great reveal when we open on the 9 March.

Julius Drewe’s Home and Colonial Stores


Thank you for this blog about the Home and Colonial stores.

Originally posted on A Dartmoor blog:

One of the wonders of Dartmoor is the National Trust’s Castle Drogo near Drewsteignton. Construction began in 1911 by Britain’s best known architect Edwin Lutyens and the owner Julius Drewe. This was an epic project representing the ambitions and dreams of Drewe. This short post tells of the story of where Drewe derived his money to embark on such a grand scheme.

It is a story of major Victorian and Edwardian entrepreneurship and success. In 1883 Julius Drewe set up the company in partnership with John Musker – the business consisted of a single grocery shop on the Edgware Road in London – the shop mainly specialised in tea and traded initially as the Home and Colonial Tea Association. Shops were opened in Islington, Leeds and Birmingham. The company then rapidly began to expand – by 1900 there were over 100 stores and by 1903 there were over 500 –…

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Telling stories through photographs

Mike Smallcombe 

One of the creative partners working at Castle Drogo is the established photographer Mike Smallcombe. Mike has recently been working in the garden and on the estate, gathering images to go towards a series of 10 large-scale photographs that will be displayed around the site.

Mike’s conceptual journey began with ideas to represent the human story of Castle Drogo and create intriguing and rich images. The inspiration of these photographs will bring a wider understanding of the Castle, inspired by the people who lived there, the history of the estate and the landscape of Dartmoor.

The team have been following Mike throughout his work as he focuses on particular areas of the Castle grounds.

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This image shows Mike working on angles, light and positioning for one of his ten photographs that will be installed and open to see at the Castle this summer. The photograph that Mike is working on in this image will interpret the Castle’s collection in the context of the formal garden.

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This second image, shows Mike working near Fingle Bridge on the Drogo estate. This image shows Mike positioned on one side of the bridge taking a picture of the forest on the other side. This photograph incorporates stories of the Drewe family in the setting of the estate.

These photographs will ultimately capture references to historical stories inspired by Castle Drogo and the surrounding landscape, displayed in a contemporary setting. The team look forward to working with Mike throughout his development of his beautifully thought-provoking images.


Char de Triomphe Armorial Tapestry

Creative partner, Jill Smallcombe, has been developing research to ‘deconstruct’ the history, techniques, symbolism and materials of the Char de Triomphe Armorial Tapestry. The tapestry was owned by the Drewe family in the 1900s and will be returning to the Castle in this March.

Jill has visited the National Trust Textile Conservation Studio in Norfolk to see stages of the tapestry’s restoration. The studio team have dedicated 5 years of hard work on the tapestry’s conservation to restore its colour and imagery.

Jill also had the opportunity to visit the Gobelins manufactory in Paris, where the tapestry was originally made, to research and find out about its history.

Castle Drogo will host the grand unveiling of the unlined textile in March 2015 where visitors will be able to view both sides of the Tapestry.

Here are some images of Jill’s fantastic trip to the Gobelins in Paris:


Jill outside The Mobilier National where she met Thomas Bohl, Conservateur du patrimonie. (Heritage Conservator).


These buildings house the dye works, the chapel and weaving workshops at the Gobelins.


Jill visiting the Galerie des Gobelins tapestry and furniture exhibition.

A sneak peek at what’s coming

Studio visit

A sneaky snap-shop at a model-box in the making at Forkbeard Fantasy in Devon.

Towards the end of December the Creative Programming Manager, along with other team members, made a visit to see the studios of fantastic creative teams MDesign and Forkbeard Fantasy. Both teams are busily working away in their studios producing new interpretational artwork for Castle Drogo.

Both studios, based near Tiverton in Devon, have a range of exciting and adventurous works inside. The artists are developing their sculptural, interactive and humorous work. They showed the team glimpses of the drawings, sketchbooks, model boxes and animation studios.

Forkbeard Fantasy, well known for their theatrical puppetry and animations, describe themselves in the most appropriate way as ‘Architects of Humour and Invention’. Their large enchanting studio is a play-ground of not just those with creative minds but to all. Generating the ideology that ‘anything is possible’, the artists at Forkbeard are working towards an engaging experience which will be translated into the sculptures they are producing for the Castle.

The creative work to capture the history and progress of the building project at Castle Drogo is making fantastic progress and can be seen at the opening on 9th March 2015.

The men walking through the wall

During the first phase of Castle Drogo’s major building project to save the castle, Codsteaks, a creative design company, helped interpret the importance of the building project. Codsteaks sculptural work spans from looking at the details of the architectural and building work, archived letters of the building work and a tribute to stonemasons and family members who went to fight in The First World War.

As the castle moves into Phase 3 of the building project and is being creatively reinterpreted for 2015, Codsteaks visited the castle to re-install their sculptures into new spaces.

The ‘Building Section’ which was originally presented in the dining room has now been re-installed in the gun room. This structure reveals the detailed layers of materials that architect Lutyens used to build the castle. This visually helps to technically explain why the castle began to leak and what needs to be done to prevent it.

Codsteaks also re-installed the fantastic ‘Call to Arms’ sculptural piece. These three photographs below show the developmental stages of the work being re-installed.

The pictures show the sculpture being cut in half so that it can be easily moved through the castle and then re-installed on the wall in the Chapel.




This piece plays tribute to the men who were lost in the First World War. Mr Julius Drewe’s eldest son Adrian and many of the stonemasons and were sent off to war whilst Castle Drogo was being built.

These heart-felt and fascinating sculptural works will be back on display in the summer of 2015.

The next phase of the project

As the conservation project at Castle Drogo continues through the winter months we have invited 4 creative partners to produce brand new interpretation for the next phase of the building work. From next March these artists will help visitors explore why the project is so important, and to create their own artistic responses to the castle and the landscape.

Creative partners have approached this opportunity by exploring the stories of Castle Drogo, the people who built it, the family who lived here and responding to the collection, whilst the castle is going through a period of change.
Each creative partner has taken a different and diverse approach to interpret exciting areas of Castle Drogo’s history:

MDesign’s interpretational work for Castle Drogo explores the parallel timeline switching between 1915 and 2015. Using the Castles archive and the present day construction, MDesign are making playful engaging works that span from impressive films, interactive gadgets and fictional stories that explore the collection. They are also teaming up with Forkbeard Fantasy to imagine the Castle if it was left to the elements.

The Dovetail Foundry have been inspired by the buildings architecture, stories of the family and their hopes and dreams. Their installations and interpretation will involve existing collection items to explore family stories and architectural features designed by Edwin Lutyens in the early 20th century.

Jill Smallcombe’s work explores the collection of textiles at Drogo and delves into the history and conservation. Central to her interpretation will be the symbolic and powerful ‘Char de Triomphe’ tapestry which is returning to the castle in March following extensive conservation. Jill’s interpretation will show us the ‘behind the scenes’ of the Tapestry which links in closely to the current experience of the Castle which is also going through renovation.

• As a successful photographic artist, Mike Smallcombe is currently in the process of creating large scale images that link to the Castle Drogo estate and narrative threads of its history. These images will visually interpret stories of the castle and of the Drewe family as well as generating an opportunity to explore the estate in more detail.

There will be weekly updates about the development of the creative work that will be open to visitors on Monday 9 March 2015.