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Friday, 19 December 2014

Drogo Castle


 On a Sunday in Allington “One walked over the brass plates of dead Dales in the village Church.” Roger Carbury is Carbury of Carbury parish, Ralph Newton heir to Newton Priory within the bounds of Newton Peels, and the Greshams are Greshams of Greshambury. These are fictional portrayals of a real world and found in the pages of Anthony Trollope.
For Trollope a hierarchal society was humanised by mutual duty and respect and found its purest expression in the countryside, in particular the landed estate.
The most direct relationships were those existing between master and servant and Trollope delighted in the mutual loyalties encouraged by custom and tradition. Squire Vavasour has an old butler who is so rheumatic the rest of the household now care for him. Roger Carbury’s butler had never lived anywhere else. And for Hopkins the gardener the nooks and crannies of his master, Squire Dale, are as well known to him as those of the apple trees he has nurtured for over forty years.
In contrast to my previous post, which focused on decadence and froth, Trollope’s world was very much in the Downton tradition, or should that be the other way round. What is significant however is that this was a very real world. Trollope was an acute and sensitive observer of Victorian landed society and how it changed over forty years.
I was reminded of this when we visited Castle Drogo a month or two back. The name enchanted me, its location, too: Dartmoor, Game of Thrones country. The reality was almost as weird and, initially, disappointing. Not only was this a castle built to order by a rich tea magnate in late Edwardian England, it was in such a state of disrepair it was covered in Perspex as builders strove to restore it – something less than a hundred years old.

 Julius Drewe, a man contented with life, as well he should.

Julius Drew made so much money from tea imports and his incredibly successful grocery chain ‘Home and Colonial’ he was able to retire at just thirty three and spend the rest of his life hunting, fishing and looking after a wife and five children. What he aspired to however was to be a country gentleman – a country gentleman that could fit happily within the pages of Trollope. He added an ‘E’ to his surname to reinforce a spurious link to the noted Elizabethan Devon family - Drewe. And he built a granite fortress, designed by an initially reluctant Sir Edward Lutyens. Lutyens may have been persuaded by £60,000 to play with – in today’s money £30 -40 million. 
On one level you might see Julius Drewe as a man with more money than sense, but dig beneath the surface and you quickly detect a warm and generous spirit. His workmen were treated kindly and with the utmost consideration. His wife (Frances Drewe, nee Richardson) personally vetted the plans for the kitchen, making sure it was well lit by a glass domed roof, and spacious enough for the staff.

Castle Drogo was started in 1911, but the family were only able to inhabit it in 1925, and it wasn’t completely finished until 1930. A year later Julius Drewe died.  During 1939–45, Frances and her daughter Mary ran the house as a home for babies made homeless during the blitz. One of the mothers ran back to London in disgust with the lack of shops on Dartmoor.

For any who doubt Trollope’s world or even that Downton Abbey existed in different forms, read this short extract from the WadhurstHistorical Society. This was a self made man revelling in and continuing a Trollopian tradition. The link to the whole article follows it. 

 For those who don't want to read on but would like some idea of the setting, here be pictures. Article and link follow. And this will be my last blog post until the New Year. I hope you all have a really happy Christmas.

This table had electric fittings so that electric candles could be discreetly inserted in place.

A purpose built and designed work table for kitchen staff - positioned under the glass domed roof.

"Life there seems to have been blissfully happy. Frances (a daughter)  has given an account of her childhood, which reads like a fairytale; the sweet, kind parents with their five children, surrounded by friendly, devoted servants in the most comfortable and beautiful setting. She mentions many of the servants by name: Mr Waite, the butler, with his marvellous mutton-chop whiskers and his wife who made dresses; Mrs Stacey, the housekeeper, busy by the sewing machine in her work room; Mrs Chandler, the cook, who was chef-trained; the much-loved nanny Bernie Rickwood, nicknamed Bop; the second nanny Mary Jane Sharpe and the nursery maid Eliza Winch, who lived with her parents in Stream Cottages by the Miners Arms. Eliza’s husband worked in the kitchen garden. Her father prepared kindling wood in the cellar of Wadhurst Hall. There were White, the estate carpenter; Barnes, the sweeper of the front drive; Hutton and later on Grant, the coachmen; Mrs Bradshaw, the head laundress, married to the previous estate carpenter. There were the two drivers, Holter and Nethercot; Mr and Mrs Dunk - Mr Dunk nursing the Drewe boys when they got the measles, Mrs Dunk cooking for the unmarried men living in the Bothy. There was Mr Crawford at Scrag Oak, the estate agent, who every Christmas handed out turkeys and geese to the people working at Wadhurst Park. There were the under-keepers, Wickens and Everett; the latter reared the ducks at Doozes Farm. There was the charming Irish governess, Miss Jennie Griffith, known as Griff, and the Chaplain Leslie Stevenson at Sunset Lodge. He later became vicar of Wadhurst, then Canon and Dean of Waterford Cathedral. In the Entrance Lodge lived the Friend family, and at the Octagon Lodge by the back drive lived the Necklins. Mr Friend and Mr Necklin both served as night-watchmen.
"…..Morning prayers with all the staff were held in the dining-room. The family had many clergymen among their friends, Mr Drewe being the son of an evangelical clergyman himself. Sunday service was always in the Chapel; Mr Drewe taught Sunday-school to the senior boys, his daughter Mary to the smaller children. Elaborate Christmas tree parties were held in the riding school for all the people working on the estate, with heaps of presents and a huge tea to follow. !n the summer there were garden parties with pastoral plays and tea in marquees. There were shooting parties every Saturday during the season with enormous bags of ducks and pheasants, followed by tea in the hall, alternating with dinner parties with the children kneeling in the gallery to catch a glimpse of their beautiful mother going in to dinner. Occasionally balls took place in the huge Oakroom, where the orchestra sat comfortably playing in the ingle-nook. In the summer, lunches were served on the terrace with screens to keep out the draught and light shades to keep out the sun.


Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

14 years to build your dream home and you drop dead a year later. That is sad.

Maria Zannini said...

I can't even imagine having that kind of money.

I'm sorry he didn't get to enjoy his home more, though I doubt he suffered much in lesser accommodations.

Mike Keyton said...

Mac, at least he had a year. I'm put in mind of Luke's Gospel:

And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry."' 20"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?' 21"So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

But then again there is the other old adage that it is better to journey hopefully than to arrive.

Mike Keyton said...

Maria, reading the full transcript of that link, he had a wonderful old life. His only great tragedy - one visited on so many of that generation - was losing his son Cedric in the Great War.

DRC said...

I agree with the others that it's a tragedy it took so long to build and then he only got to enjoy it for a year. Still, at least it was put to good use during the war. But I'm sorry, a woman ran back to London because of 'lack of shops'?? It's Dartmoor (emphasis the word 'MOOR') lol.

But I love Dartmoor. My parents live in Devon and every time we visit we have to include a drive through it. I've never run into this castle before though. I did, however, find a Fairy Garden. Don't ask me where...lol

Mike Keyton said...

Dawn, I know - I was tickled by that woman running back to the blitz because there were no shops in Dartmoor. Couldn't make it up.

Hope you have a really good Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful pictures Michael. Thanks for sharing.