One of the largest projects ever undertaken by the National Trust to save Castle Drogo in Devon from certain ruin has now begun.
The castle has suffered major structural problems ever since completion resulting in serious leaks and water penetration throughout the building. Without extensive conservation work the castle would eventually have become inaccessible and this national treasure would have been lost forever.
Although building work will have a dramatic influence on what visitors will see at Castle Drogo for the next five years, the Castle will be very much open to visitors during this time.
Visitors will have the opportunity to learn all about the castle’s history via a series of theatrical installations by Codsteaks, a company of designers best known for their scenery for films with Aardman Animations such as ‘The Pirates! In an adventure with Scientists!’
Dramatic installations, based on letters, postcards and plans from the archive, will show how and why Castle Drogo was originally built. Visitors will immediately understand how Mr Drewe made enough money to build his very own family castle and why it was built on Dartmoor. They will discover how a dedicated team of stone masons and craftsmen helped the renowned architect Sir Edwin Lutyens create his masterpiece, and how sometimes things were not as straightforward as Lutyens, Drewe and their clerk of works, J.C Walker, hoped they would be.
Visitors will also learn about the challenges in saving this 20th century castle and why Antony Drewe offered the castle to the National Trust.
Spaces unaffected by the building work have been used to store the castle’s contents safely, so no room will have the ‘lived in’ look it used to have. Instead, objects have been grouped and displayed in new ways, to help tell the story of the family, their lives and times. Two rooms, newly open to the public, are now stores where conservation work can be carried out by the staff. Here, visitors will get a chance to see this work close up and understand better how the objects in the collection are cared for.
Finally through the windows at the top of the castle there will be the chance to enjoy the changing views down the Teign gorge and contemplate the river where Mr Drewe enjoyed fishing for salmon on his new estate, living the life of a country gentleman in the shadow of the castle he dreamt of.
In a few months time, visitors will get chance to experience a ‘once in a lifetime’ chance to scale the outside of the castle walls on a scaffolding tower. They will see for themselves the re-pointing and re-roofing work that is essential to the building’s survival, and be able to take in the views across Dartmoor which makes this place so special.
The whole project will be brought alive by the volunteer team who will help present the castle in a completely new way with rooms never before seen open to the public.
The castle opens to the public on Saturday 9th March daily until the 3rd November.