The Edwardian Grand Designer: a Time Team Special, TV review

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Not to be outdone by Sky Atlantic, Channel 4 also offered the spectacle of two heavyweights toe-to-toe on home turf.

Tony Robinson was facing off against Grand Designs’ Kevin McCloud in The Edwardian Grand Designer: a Time Team Special on Sunday evening.

The Edwardian in question was Sir Edwin Lutyens, an architect whose career spanned cosy Arts and Crafts homes, great monuments to imperial arrogance and sombre First World War memorials. The occasion was the National Trust renovation of one of his most intriguing buildings, Castle Drogo, in Devon, the last castle to be built on English soil.

You might think Drogo’s leaky roof would undermine Lutyens’ claim to sit alongside Sir Christopher Wren as one of our greatest architects, but as Robinson saw it, this was further proof of the man’s genius. He always knew how to give clients what they wanted – even if what they wanted was an authentically flat-roofed Norman castle to shore up dubious claims of aristocratic lineage.

While McCloud praised the craftsmanship of a Lutyens chimney (tactfully, no one mentioned the big, ugly satellite dish attached to it), Robinson went further afield. The author William Dalrymple dished the dirt, describing the attitudes which informed Lutyen’s Viceroy’s Palace in Delhi as “somewhere between patronising and outrightly racist”.  Yet it stands still. As does the Cenotaph, a Lutyens design that we’re bound to be seeing more of in this centenary year.