Dramatic installations help tell the story of Castle Drogo to visitors amidst major building work
One of the largest projects ever undertaken by the National Trust to save Castle Drogo from certain ruin has begun.
Castle Drogo in Devon has suffered major structural problems ever since completion which has resulted in serious leaks and water penetration throughout the building. If extensive conservation work was not carried out, 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.
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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.
Tim Cambourne, National Trust Project Manager said: ‘This is a hugely exciting time for everyone involved in helping to save Castle Drogo. Visitors will get opportunity to share with us the trials and tribulations over the next five years of one of the largest projects the Trust has ever been involved in. Saving Castle Drogo will be no small task but particular thanks must be extended to all the members of the public who help us every step of the way from giving donations to our public appeal to joining our vital team of volunteers, without our volunteers, opening Castle Drogo during this time would not be possible.
‘Particular thanks must go to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) who awarded us a £2.5 million grant in July 2012 and is the Trust is also grateful to the support of European Union funding through the INTERREG IVB NWE programme, he added.