Castle Drogo at Christmas

On a cold winter’s afternoon just before Christmas, Alice treated us to a personal tour of the castle. We enjoyed seeing what the castle, which is in Dartmoor National Park, and hearing all about the Drewes family who lived there.

The live tour was very popular. We had 40 individuals join, from 6 care communities across the UK.

One lady joined from her own bedroom. This lady used to be very isolated, but tours like this help her rekindle her connection to heritage and art.

The grand tour

We had a quick look outside, and at some of the restorations that are underway. Then we popped inside to see the enormous Christmas tree in the main entrance. The tree is always cut from the Castle Drogo estate, and topped off with an original German doll of Father Christmas. We heard how the tree is always too big and needs to be trimmed to squeeze inside.

The dining room was all set ready for Christmas dinner, complete with drinking horns and a flight of five glasses for each setting. Some of us thought it might be good to have 5 glasses, but other thought it might be a bit much. We all agreed that turkey is our favourite at Christmas dinner.

Christmas traditions

We were lucky enough to see Father Christmas’ footprints in the library, a Christmas traditions enjoyed by the Drewes family. People shared some stories about their own Christmas traditions – from wrapping left over food and giving it to the poor, to leaving out small collections of Christmas cakes (plus a bit of sherry).

We visited the servants’ quarters, and talked about where we would rather spend time – in the grand rooms the Drewes family lived in, on these more cosy servants rooms. A hand knitted Christmas stocking got us thinking about our best childhood Christmas presents. One of us had got a puppy (but not in a stocking), whereas another of us remembered a toy phone you could use from different rooms.

As a child, Etta was told that she wouldn’t get any presents if she saw Father Christmas: “I shut my eyes terribly tight, or he wouldn’t leave anything”. I was also told this, and Estelle thinks she is going to try this with her son to make sure he goes to bed.

Mystery object

Alice showed us the Butler’s pantry, with its teak sinks each of which have 3 taps (hot/cold/drinking water). We also heard that the water still comes straight off Dartmoor today. Then we saw the original internal telephone switchboard and servants’ bells.

The kitchen is home to some amazing ranges, which is something a lot of people can remember from childhood. In here we also had a mystery object – the question was’ what was it meant to be used for?’ It turns out that it wasn’t an egg poacher (it still looks like one to me), but was instead meant to keep sauces warm.

Thank you to our expert, Alice

A big thank you to Alice, who was the perfect host. She knew so much about the Castle’s history, which really got us thinking about our own memories of Christmas. She also helped to make the event accessible to everyone, including people who joined the event who are living with dementia.

“I really enjoyed hosting the tour for everyone, particularly when we had the chance to make things interactive. Castle Drogo is looked after by the National Trust, for everyone, for ever, and I really felt like, in a small way, I was helping to achieve that with this tour. It was great fun too.” Alice

Also a big thank you to Shula and Estelle, the skilled hosts with many years’ experience working in care homes, who helped include everyone and make it such good fun.

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