The collection at Castle Drogo falls into three distinct categories:
- The archive of plans, drawings and letters relating to the construction of the castle, garden and ancillary buildings
- Items of furniture design by Sir Edwin Lutyens specifically for Castle Drogo
- Drewe family items, both brought from Wadhurst Hall and purchased specifically to furnish Castle Drogo (such as the tapestries)
The archive is a highly significant part of the Castle Drogo collection. It is not only significant within the context of the buildings and garden, charting the design and construction process week by week, it also has a national and international standing. It is the largest single collection of Lutyens drawings relating to a building and associated garden in the United Kingdom. The quantity is only superseded by the collection held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan (formerly the Viceroy’s Palace), in New Delhi. It is this connection with the Viceroy’s Palace (designed concurrently with Castle Drogo) that gives the archive international significance.
The garden plans
The survival of numerous plans for the garden, both planting and structural is rare, if not unique, for a 20th century scheme and provides an invaluable resource. The archive for the castle and other buildings is also unusually complete with many different types of drawings, from very early sketches to detailed plans and blueprints.
The archive of plans and letters
The drawings by Lutyens are complemented by large numbers of contractor drawings ranging from the coursing of the ashlar blocks to the inner workings of the turbine house. Supplementing the plans are 8,000 letters which record everything from wrangling over designs and costs to organising social events and the impacts of the First World War. All of this amounts to a collection which has significance, not only within the context of architectural and garden history, but also to the study of the wider social history of the 20th century.
The items of furniture designed by Lutyens for Castle Drogo are significant within Lutyens oeuvre and are often described as archetypal examples. The kitchen and pantry furniture in particular incorporate many of the themes to which Lutyens often returned to. For example the column legs with bun feet beneath the stretcher rails. As well as the geometric games – in the case of the kitchen table, concentric hexagonals diminishing on the circular top along with the attention both to detail and proportion.
The significance of the collection of objects at Castle Drogo essentially lies with their direct connection to the Drewe family. It entirely reflects the tastes and interests of a family whose lives revolved around their love of the outdoors and spending time together. The furniture is for use, not for show.
The paintings are family portraits, not old masters. The ceramics were for eating from, not for admiring through a glass cabinet. Therefore the significance of these items would be lost if they were not at the castle.
The exception to this rule is the large collection of late 19th and early 20th century photographic portraits. In particular, the large collection of photographs produced using the opalotype process is of significance, being the largest collection of this type of photograph in the National Trust.
Bryher Mason, House and Collections Manager