National Trust launches appeal to stop Dartmoor's Castle Drogo being "lost to nation"

By Richard Moss | 10 February 2011
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a photo of a large castle with a gravel drive in front of it
© NTPL Charlie Waite
In a country of countless great castles, the granite monolith of Castle Drogo perched high above Dartmoor is perhaps one of the most unusual.

Designed and built by Sir Edwin Lutyens between 1911 and 1930, it is certainly the last to be built in England. Yet despite its relatively tender years, the former home of food retailing magnate Julius Drewe is now in a parlous state.

Notwithstanding the credentials of its builder, the castle has suffered major structural problems ever since its completion. These have resulted in serious leaks and water penetration throughout the building.

The problem is so bad that the National Trust has launched a major fundraising campaign to save the iconic building which, they say, risks becoming “inaccessible and lost to the nation forever."

“The castle is regarded as a masterpiece of 20th century architecture, but its future is now hanging in the balance,” says Adrian Colston, the Trust’s Dartmoor General Manager.

“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.”

A photo of a woman inspecting a stone column
National Trust conservator Bryher Mason surveys the damage © Picture by Apex
The Trust plans “conservation on a grand scale”, including renovation of the massive flat roof structure using cutting-edge materials to make it permanently watertight. This will involve the removal and return of 2355 granite blocks, weighing 680 tonnes.

Some 900 windows containing more than 13,000 panes also need to be refurbished to stop them leaking, and more than 60,000 metres of pointing will need to be replaced.

With an estimated cost of £11 million in a five-year project, the Trust says it is launching the public campaign to get the work underway as soon as possible.

They are also hoping to involve the local population in the work by offering opportunities for learning new skills such as masonry, joinery and furniture-making, as well as innovative ways for volunteers to take part in their local heritage.

An accompanying £2.5m application to the Heritage Lottery Fund is currently in process - having already received a HLF endorsement of their proposals with a first round pass.

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