Landmarks: Castle Drogo

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The Independent Culture
When you approach Castle Drogo at Drewsteignton in Devon you see what looks like a ragged granite outcrop on the top of a hill, looking out across a wild landscape. It was built by the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, between 1911 and 1930, for a chap called Julius Drewe who made so much money from his business, he was able to retire at the age of 33. As you come nearer you find this most romantic building with battered walls, all in sheer granite, and penetrated with high mullioned windows culminating in a skyline of crenellated towers. It rambles over its site like a medieval castle and wraps itself round the brow of the hill. The entrance is through a portcullis with a great coat of arms over the doorway.

In its scale it is like Italian Baroque, typified by the enormous staircase, about 30 ft high, which is capped by a ribbed vault roof. The great scale and granite detailing goes right through the building, even into the service areas. The kitchen is mind-blowing, with light reflecting off the great vaults onto enormous tables. In the dining room and drawing room the detailing becomes more domestic, it is still on a grand scale but the rooms are panelled with decorative moulded ceilings.

Castle Drogo is absolutely not pastiche; it makes a very strong statement. I feel it is one of the last true country houses - somehow life was never quite the same after the 1930's. I like the building because it embodies an act of patronage by a man who had a vision, and appointed an architect who could realise it. I suspect they both got more at the end of the day than either of them dreamed of achieving.

Nigel Woolner is the senior partner with Chapman Taylor Partners, London W14 and has been with the firm for 23 years.

(Photograph omitted)

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