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Published: June 19th 2010
Castle DrogoThursday 10 June Castle Drogo and Dartmoor
A vast "castle" with all mod-cons
We were sad to leave our friends in Topsham but pleased to be on the road towards what was planned to be a restful week across the border in Cornwall. With hindsight, a fortnight might have have been restful - a week wasn't!
Our journey today took us up to the very northern edge of Dartmoor, through the pretty village of Drewsteignton, to the weird and wonderful Castle Drogo
. We’re certainly making good use of our National Trust membership - we’ve already more than recouped our outlay after visiting a handful of NT properties in the past couple of months.
This extravagant pile with its forbidding exterior, the last castle to be built in England, was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, whose works included The Cenotaph in London, Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme in France, and the British Raj’s monumental capital, New Delhi, among many others. It was commissioned by the wealthy founder of the Home and Colonial Stores, Julius Drewe, and he laid the foundation stone here on a massive granite outcrop looming high above Dartmoor on his 55th birthday, 4 April 1911.
It’s reminiscent of
Dartmoor - Postbridge
The clapper bridge - and French students
a medieval fortress, with a working portcullis and castellated roofs, yet from the outset it had central heating, and kitchens and bathrooms that were state-of-the-art for those times. There were telephones too, and all the electricity was generated by hydro-turbines in the valley of the River Teign below.
The original design had to be reduced in size when Drewe saw the building’s vast footprint pegged out on the site and again when the Second World War resulted in most of the skilled stonemasons joining the armed forces, never to return. The loss of Julius Drewe’s eldest son, Adrian, killed in action at Ypres in July 1917, aged 26, also added to a loss of enthusiasm for the project. Although what we see today is only a third of Lutyens’ original plan, it’s still enormous - more than 100 rooms spread over six levels! Most of the furniture and fittings are original and add to the feeling, once inside, of this being a comfortable family home rather than an austere ancestral mansion.
There are 600 acres of land surrounding the castle, 12 acres of it being devoted to well-maintained and very attractive formal and recreational gardens.
extensive tour and a snack lunch at the castle’s modern visitor centre, we continued southwest across Dartmoor, hilly and desolate in parts, with misty views towards Sittaford and Hameldown Tors.
We stopped briefly, like many thousands of others before us (and seemingly like half of France's secondary schools) at the ancient stone clapper bridge at Postbridge
. A 'clapper bridge' has flat slabs of stones which rest on stone piers and spans a river or stream. Here on Dartmoor, these slabs are called 'posts' - which, of course, is how Postbridge got its name.
A few miles further on, up a few hills and down the other side, across the sometimes barren moorland, we stopped even more briefly when a distant view of the notorious Dartmoor Prison at Princetown presented itself. I don't think we were really permitted to take a photo but, in my defence M’Lord, I think the prison was suitably blurred by the mist, don’t you? Did you know that Dartmoor Prison was originally built to hold prisoners of the Napoleonic Wars and is now owned by the Duchy of Cornwall (i.e. HRH Prince Charles)? The Duchy also owns about a third of Dartmoor
Castle Drogo - the sitting room
...complete with a table soccer game
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