The significance of the Castle Drogo collection and archive

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 The quantity is only superseded by the collection held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan (formerly the Viceroy’s Palace), in New Delhi.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 Kitchen

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

Restoring the landscape vision

Early views

Castle Drogo 1940s

When Julius Drewe starting building Castle Drogo he had a clear vision of the views he wanted from his castle.

He asked Sir Edwin Lutyens to plant Scots pine trees to create a feel of the Scottish highlands leading up to the castle walls. The Scots pines were planted to shield the castle from the weather, but also planted thinly enough so that the Drewe’s could maintain key views both from the castle and into the castle from the surrounding area.

Over the years trees have self-seeded in between the Scots pines and this is a far cry from the vision that was intended. Earlier in the year some trees were cut down, the results compared to the very early photos are breathtaking.

view 1

The view of the south end of the castle 2014


view 2

The view of the south end of the castle 2015


earlt views 2

Castle Drogo still being built

Truth and Triomphe

At Castle Drogo in 2016 there is a rare chance to see a vibrant tapestry by artist Grayson Perry. It was created for his popular Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman exhibition at The British Museum, and is set to be displayed from Saturday 5th March.


The 15ft wide Map of Truths and Beliefs, created by Perry in 2011, will be part of the new Truth and Triomphe exhibition at the castle. Perry’s tapestry will be hung alongside a French masterpiece, the 300 year old Char de Triomphe, made for King Louis XIV and believed to have hung in the Palace of Versailles during his reign.


The exhibition is providing a rare opportunity for visitors to compare and contrast the historic and contemporary methods, symbolism and making of both tapestries.


Perry’s tapestry, created in the style of a map with the Great Eye in the Centre, is a colourful depiction of the clash of everyday and spiritual pilgrimages. There is plenty of fascinating symbolism for the viewer to pick out from the tapestry – including religious, secular and historical pilgrimage sites from across the world, from Stonehenge and Glastonbury or Medina and Everest.


Stand out figures include a tightly clad Lady in Black holding two mobile phones, representing aggressive consumerism, whilst water flows from Elvis’s mouth and a large bear sits near the centre, portraying a wild emotional vision of the world. Airborne weapons of war hover over the skyline whilst Perry’s much loved teddy, Alan Measles, sits in the pupil of the eye at the centre of the tapestry.


Hand-drawn by Grayson Perry, the Map of Truth and Beliefs was created using modern methods. Grayson’s design for the tapestry was digitized, coloured by a digital mediator in Madrid, then sent to a specialist loom in Belgium. Perry then oversaw the yarn colours to ensure the correct shade, before the modern loom produced the 15ft tapestry in under a day.


By contrast, the Char de Triomphe, designed by Charles Le Brun c.1715 (First Painter to King Louis XIV), took six people approximately three years to weave by hand before being hung at Versailles.


Although their manufacture differs enormously, they have a number of similarities and are both highly symbolic.


Grayson explained that he “wanted to make a sort of altarpiece, a map of heaven. I looked at the floorplan of the British Museum as a mandala, and added all the different terms I could find for the afterlife. The charge of it is in the clash of the prosaic and the spiritual. I was thinking of pilgrimage in a wider, non- religious sense, so I included places of pilgrimage that I’d googled. Most are religious but many are historical and secular.”


Perry originally created the tapestry for his exhibition The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman at The British Museum in 2011, and has been in a private collection since. The tapestry is on display at Castle Drogo as a result of a chance conversation between friends, who kindly offered to let it be hung with the Char de Triomphe. The tapestry will be on show at Castle Drogo until the end of October 2016.


Bryher Mason, House and Collections Manager at Castle Drogo, said “We are delighted to have this opportunity to stimulate discussion about the medium of tapestry and how contemporary art allows us to see historic objects with new eyes.”



New tapestry for 2016

After a chance conversation between 2 friends there will be a rare tapestry on display at Castle Drogo in 2016.


The tapestry was bought in 2011 and will be on display from Monday 7 March.

It will be exhibited in the Dining Room along with a much older tapestry called The Char de Triomphe which was designed by Charles le Brun for Louis XIV to hang in the Palace of Versailles.


The tapestry is 15ft long and lucky fits in a window bay at the end of the room. Bryher Mason, House and Collection Manager comments, “We are delighted to have this opportunity to stimulate discussion about the medium of tapestry and how contemporary art allows us to see historic objects with new eyes”.

More details to follow shortly…..

Reinstating Lutyens’ orginal design

As well as the castle undergoing major restoration the garden has also been undergoing conservation work to take it back to Lutyens’original design.

Reinstating the “crisp, straight lines”

Lutyens designed the garden to have crisp straight lines, however, over the years the egdes of the borders had become slightly curved and warped due to the wooden edging. Back in October the garden team installed around 600 metres of metal and slate edging to get these straight lines back.

It wasn’t an easy job though as the edging involved all 24 rose beds and turf from around all beds had to lifted and the old timber edging removed.

The result is a much more in line with Lutyens’ original design.

steel edging

The finished steel edging

Garden paths

Straight after the New Year the next contractor brought in his mini diggers and dumper trucks to start work resurfacing 750 square metres of pathway. This involved removing 200 tonnes of material to be able to create a level path with a solid layer of aggregate and gravel on top. The chosen finish is a 6mm granite gravel to dust which compacts very well. Once it’s weathered and settled down the gravel works its way to the surface. We believe this is what was used on the original paths and definitely blends in with the granite steps and surrounding walls.

All this work will definitely raise the presentation standards of the garden but more importantly it will conserve the garden at its best for the future.

Before garden pic

Work on the garden paths in January

After garden pic

The finished path ways

countrylife 1929 pic

The garden when it was finished in 1929

2016 project update

2 weeks ago the scaffolding on the central section started to come down as this part of the roof is now complete, here are a few of the photos.

scaffolgin dec 4 2015

The scaffolders were here in December putting up platforms to work from.

scaffolding dec 2015


scaffolding dec 2 2015

These photos show the roofing sheets being taken off (the crane was here to take scaffolding poles down to the ground).

scaffolding dec 3 2015

This photo shows a mason working by the Front door.


Autumn at Castle Drogo


In autumn the Teign Gorge takes on an incredible transformation. From the forests in the valley, to the borders in the garden there is a variety of flora and fauna making the transition away from the vibrancy of summer. Although this cold weather makes most of us want to cosy up at home, a few of you can’t wait to get out there and capture the amazing scenery changing before us. Here are some of our Instagram favourites showing off Castle Drogo’s awesome autumnal views.

danisquirrel fingle bridge resize

An ideal place to stop and take in your surroundings is Fingle Bridge. Here Instagram user danisquirrell has paused to take this characteristic shot of the bridge with the colourful gorge in the background.

swebbatron river and trees reszie

 The River Teign is a top spot for autumnal views, as Instagram user swebbatron demonstrates for us. This photo captures the fast flowing water in a golden setting.

bella_boss autumn trees resize

Instagram user bella_boos has found the sun breaking through the trees in the woodland around the estate. There’s a real sense of autumnal colour in this photo.

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Instagram user moleywart has also discovered the colours of the garden, with this stunningly composed photo of the path leading out towards the estate.

claireeharvey river resize

This is a beautifully framed photo from claireeharvey, displaying the River Teign’s leaf-littered banks.

danwht autumn trees resize

In this image, Instagram user danwht has beautifully captured the autumn sun on the gorge. From the cliff tops you can see the full extent of the trees losing their summer leaves.

charlottegraceh garden resize

Castle Drogo’s garden is an overabundance of plant life, so you’re guaranteed a colourful show. Here Instagram user charlottegraceh demonstrates the striking shade of the leafy canopies covering the pathways.

If you’ve taken any good photos of the Teign Gorge and garden you can enter them into our autumn photography competition which can be found by following this link >>>