Drogo, Britain's youngest castle, faces a battle for survival

Julius Drewe was just 33 when he decided to cash in and spend the rest of his life playing the country squire. The year was 1889 and Drewe's astonishing success from relatively humble origins marked him out as the prototype for generations of self-made retail tycoons to follow, from Jack Cohen to Philip Green.

But the young magnate's enduring legacy was not to be the chain of Home and Colonial Stores which he founded. Instead, it was the granite fortress completed 40 years later which he built for himself and his family from the vast wealth accrued servicing Britain's love affair with the cup of tea.

Drogo Castle, the last castle to be built in Britain and an epic fantasia blending Norman and Tudor styles, was conceived and executed on the edge of Dartmoor near Exeter by the most celebrated architect of the age, Sir Edwin Lutyens.

But today, the future of what is considered one of the most important and grandest private dwellings built in the 20th century is under threat. The owner, the National Trust, is trying to raise £1.5m through a national public appeal to reverse the ravages of the years. Drogo, named after a Norman nobleman Drewe believed to be his forebear, has suffered severe deterioration.

Water has penetrated the exterior fabric of the building and deep into its 12ft-thick walls and the leaks have wrought havoc to parts of the interior. Conservationists need the money urgently to replace Lutyens' huge flat-roof structure with new materials to make it permanently watertight. That means builders must remove 2,355 granite blocks weighing 680 tonnes, and 900 windows containing 13,000 panes will require refurbishment. To prevent further water damage, a total of 60km of crumbling exterior pointing must be replaced.

Adrian Colston, Dartmoor general manager for the National Trust, said the rescue effort would involve local people and provide opportunities for learning new skills such as masonry, joinery and furniture-making. Volunteers would also be recruited for the £11m project which will include new educational and exhibition spaces.

It is hoped the balance of the cost will be met by other funding bodies, including a £2.5m application to the Heritage Lottery Fund. Mr Colston said: "The castle is regarded as a masterpiece of 20th-century architecture. This is our last chance for Castle Drogo and we urge our supporters across the country to help us raise the money we need to ensure its survival."

Building had begun in 1911 but was not completed until 1930. Unfortunately, its creator died in 1931, only briefly enjoying its magisterial views and the ministrations of its 23 staff. Drogo was designed to look as if it had stood in the ancient landscape for centuries. Construction was interrupted by the First World War which robbed Drewe not just of two-thirds of his workforce but also his eldest son and intended successor Adrian. Second-born Basil lived at the 600-acre property until 1974 when he died and the family seat became the first 20th-century property to be turned over to the Trust.

The cost of building was £60,000, equivalent to about £30m today. Drewe had built his fortune by spotting a unique business opportunity. The son of a clergyman, he was apprenticed to his uncle in the tea trade and spent time in the Far East as a buyer. This experience persuaded him, aged 22, to import his supplies direct not from the traditional middlemen in China but from plantations in India.

He established his first shop in Liverpool in 1878 and then London's Edgware Road five years later. By 1903, when Drewe and his partner John Musker had sold most of their stake, the chain had 500 shops. The Home and Colonial brand was a fixture of the high street until 1961 when the loss of empire rendered the name out of date. Relaunched as Allied Suppliers it was bought by Sir James Goldsmith but was later acquired by Argyll Foods which in turn became Safeway.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star