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Photographer: Michael Edwards

Castle Drogo

Gazetteer No. G0215

Date 1910-30

Address Exeter, Devon EX6 6PB England


Drogo was built for Julius Drewe, a rich young man who had made his fortune in the grocery trade. He asked Lutyens to build a solid granite castle to fulfil his very precise romantic notion of a castle that might have belonged to a 13th century ancestor Drogo de Teigne. From the laying of the foundation stone in 1911 the grand plan went through several changes and what we see today is about one-third of the original quadrangular scheme. The changes and reductions encouraged Lutyens’s spatial inventiveness and the result is one of his finest buildings. Circulation spaces and staircases are on a grand scale making full use of superbly cut granite – vaults and domes that recall both New Delhi (he was working on the Viceroy’s House at the same time) and Piranesi. Rooms vary from the ‘cathedral undercroft’ qualities of the kitchens with furniture designed by Lutyens, to the Edwardian over-richness of the dining room. Solid granite, exterior walls punched with simple mullioned openings and sharp fins of granite and steeply battered walls at the dramatic south end make Drogo totally original. The forms of the roofscape and chapel are reminiscent of the abstraction that grew from Lutyens’s war memorials, a quality that is deeply rooted in his almost sculptural understanding of materials. (Amery et al., 1981, cat no.159)

Though construction started in 1911 on a vast new house arranged around three sides of a court, the scheme was halved the following year to a more manageable size by arbitrarily cutting the scheme on the centre-line of the original proposal. Further reductions followed the Great War and the foundations of the intended great hall were remodelled to form the chapel. Because of these changes, Lutyens proposed building an entrance gateway across the drive to re-establish the mass of the house from the north. Despite the construction of a full-scale mock-up in timber and canvas the idea was rejected by the client.

As work proceeded from the north tower to the south end, a tour de force of granite construction, the Tudor treatment of the house became simpler under the influence of Lutyens’s work at New Delhi and Thiepval. The variation of the height of the principal bedrooms resulted in roof terraces at varying levels, treated almost as a promenade architecturale. Generally walls are battered, though some elements, for example the staircase window on the east face are vertical for emphasis. Granite construction is always apparent in the interior, even when progressively softened by overlays of oak, painted panelling and plaster. (Inskip, 1986, p.88)


Amery, C., Richardson, M. and Stamp, G. (1981) Lutyens, the Work of the English Architect Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944): Hayward Gallery London, 18 November 1981-31 January 1982. London: Arts Council of Great Britain.

Inskip, P. (1986) Edwin Lutyens: Architectural Monographs 6. 2nd edn. London: Academy Editions.

Also Cited In

Gradidge, R. (1982) Edwin Lutyens: Architect Laureate. London: Allen & Unwin.

Aslet, C. (1982) The Last Country Houses. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Pevsner, N., Cherry, B. (1991) Devon. The Buildings of England. New Haven: Yale University Press.

C, H., 1924. ARCHITECTURE AT THE ACADEMY. Country Life (Archive : 1901 – 2005), 55(1431), pp. 929-931.

Listing Grade


Listing Reference



Julius C Drewe