|Castle Drogo is one of Dartmoor's finest
over at Castle Drogo was a dream come true for Mark Agnew. Perched
up high on the northern slopes of Dartmoor, Drogo is one of the region's
most popular National Trust properties. Trouble is, it's got a bit
of a damp problem - which will cost £4 million to fix!
its popularity Drogo needs all the money it earns to keep going, with
little left over for such extensive repairs.
Agnew could be just the man to tackle the problem.
to Drogo, having left behind a high powered career in bookselling.
really didn't want to be making money for other people, I wanted to be
doing something that had some value and a valuable end product.
made a list of the organisations I wanted to work for and the Trust was
at the top."
Peter Inskip investigates|
was an unusual acquisition for the National Trust, to whom it was gifted
in 1974 - it was the first 20th Century property they took on.
the mould because the Edwardian building was designed by Edwin Lutyens,
Britain's greatest 20th century architect, according to fellow practitioner
architects aren't that hot - there are probably six great English architects,
and I put Lutyens in that group."
why the Trust wanted to get their hands on Drogo - but not why the former
owners, the Drewe family, wanted to part with it.
was originally built between 1910 and 1930 for Julius Drewe, a self-made
millionaire whose chain of Home and Colonial Stores enabled him go into
semi-retirement in 1899 at the age of 33.
family painting of Julius Drewe |
situated above the Teign Gorge, the castle is a granite fortress and has
been called 'the last castle to be built in England' by historians.
It is believed
that Drewe chose the site after discovering that the land was owned by
a Norman baron named Drogo de Teign, from whom he claimed to be descended.
stone was laid on Drewe's 55th birthday in 1911 and construction took
died only one year after the castle was completed in 1930.
history, the remaining Drewes mistakenly feared the introduction of a
wealth tax by a newly elected Labour government, as Charlie Johnstone,
Drewe's great-great grandson recalls.
Johnstone's family gave the house to the National Trust|
you go back to the 1970s there was a very difficult political environment,
changes of government had put some fear into people who owned assets.
grandparents were living here on their own and it's a big house, there
is a lot of maintenance, as the National Trust is finding, so the decision
was made that it would be better to look for another home.
decided to hand it over with the land and buildings."
may be a splendid building, but its location means that it has always
been susceptible to the weather.
rain seems to always find its way through the flat roof, the huge leaded
windows, and dodgy mortar joints in its granite walls.
Drogo is susceptible to the typical English weather|
Trust first took it on they spent a million pounds trying to keep it dry
inside, but the problem refused to go away.
A long term
solution is needed and Peter has conducted sophisticated computer-aided
lot of architects have worked here over the last 20 years carrying out
attempts at solving the damp problem and it was blatantly obvious that
no-one had actually investigated what was the real cause."
true scale of it only hits you when you are working here and it
starts to rain and it's coming in with the wind."|
mean repairing a damp-proof membrane that previous Trust architects cut
by mistake, sealing all the windows and using a mortar more suited to
you really recognise where the problems are," Mark says despairingly.
a building this size that kind of work doesn't come cheap.
hope now is that money can be raised via the Trust's HQ in London.
looking at probably four to five million as a total figure.
points out the castle's damp problems|
have to remember that in Devon and Cornwall not only have we got a large
number of fantastic properties but we also manage a huge amount of coastline
one of the most difficult things for the Trust to decide - what is the
priority, where are we going to spend the money."
take years before all the funding is in place and by then the costs could
have risen well above the £4m mark.
scale of the problems here, were the Trust right to take the building
As a fan
of the architect Lutyen's work, Peter Inskip thinks so.
But he is
the first to suggest that with hindsight, perhaps it wasn't the best decision,
Trust's direction has changed tremendously in the last few years, away
from country houses to landscape and scenery.
think we have all got to be more careful in the future and analyse things
before jumping in."
and Peter examine the exterior|
has no regrets about taking the job.
can have a couple of thousand people here and it can be full of life,
then at six o'clock it's complete silence.
can hear all the birds, the deer come down and start grazing outside,
and you're on your own, you're standing here and you've got it to yourself."
luck Mark will eventually raise the £4m he needs to put a stop to
and the National Trust's sake, let's hope they get it right this time
- and don't end up pouring more money down the drain.
Drogo is open from 11am - 5pm Monday to Friday between March 20
and October 31, and then from 11am - 4pm from November 1 - 7. Admission
prices are £6.20 for adults, £3 for children, and a
family ticket is available for £15. Admission to garden and
grounds costs £3.15 for adults and £1.60 for children.
further information visitors are asked to contact Castle Drogo,
Drewsteignton, Nr Exeter, Devon, EX6 6PB. Tel: 01647 433306. E-mail