Julius Drewe

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Julius C.H. Drewe
Born Julius Charles Hendicott Drew
(1856-04-04)4 April 1856
Pulloxhill near Ampthill, Bedfordshire
Died 21 November 1931(1931-11-21) (aged 75)
Drewsteignton, Devon
Residence Castle Drogo
Nationality British/Anglo-French
Education Bedford School
Occupation Tea Merchant/Trans-Global Businessman/Entrepreneur
Known for Home and Colonial Stores
Spouse(s) Frances Abelle Richardson
Children Adrian, Basil, Cedric, Mary and Frances
Parent(s) George and Mary Drew

Julius Charles Hendicott Drewe (surname originally spelt Drew) (4 April 1856 – 20 November 1931) was an English businessman, retailer and entrepreneur, known for being the creator of the successful Home and Colonial Stores, as well as for the building of Castle Drogo in Devon as his family's country home.

Early life and career[edit]

Julius Charles Hendicott Drew (he changed the spelling to Drewe in 1913) was born at the vicarage in Pulloxhill near Ampthill, Bedfordshire, to George S.H. Drew and Mary (née Peek) a French artist.

Julius was the third youngest of eight children. His siblings Mary, Edith, Ada, Reginald, William, Anna and Evelyn all moved, either to different parts of the United Kingdom or to the Colonies, including British North America. He was the nephew of Richard Peek, one of the Sheriffs of the City of London.

As a child he attended the renowned and prestigious Bedford School between 1862 and 1874, a traditional private boarding school founded by King Edward VI. After leaving school at eighteen years of age, Julius started his working life as a tea buyer in China and opened his first tea shop four years later in Liverpool in 1878, aged only twenty-one. In 1883 he moved to London to expand his enterprises. The business developed rapidly under the name of Home and Colonial Stores. After only six years, in 1889, he and his partner, John Musker, were able to retire from active participation in the firm as extremely rich men. Drew was only thirty-two years old. In 1919 they sold their outstanding shares in the business for £3.5 million (estimated at £193 million today), a vastly huge sum in those days.[1]

Julius married Frances (née Richardson), on 26 September 1890. With his brother William he had always taken a keen interest in the history of the Drew family. A genealogist convinced him that his family was descended from the Norman aristocratic Drew family of Broadhembury near Honiton in Devon, who had controlled many acres of land since the Norman Conquest. This suggested that Julius descended also from the royal House of York through Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York's marriage to Isabella of Castile, Duchess of York. After discovering this, he bought land there in 1901 and installed his brother William, a wealthy and established barrister, at Broadhembury House; he later died there on 25 March 1938.

Castle Drogo[edit]

Main article: Castle Drogo
Castle Drogo, Devon

Julius's first cousin was Richard Peek, the rector of Drewsteignton (named after Drogo de Teigne, alleged forefather of the Drewes). Julius stayed on several occasions with his cousin and it must have been here that he conceived the idea of building a castle on the home ground of his ancestor. He found an ideal site, and in 1910 he bought about 450 acres (1.8 km2) south and west of the village; by the time of his death he had bought up an estate of 1,500 acres. He then went to Edwin Lutyens, a prominent architect of the time, and asked him to build his castle. According to his son Basil, he did so on the advice of William Hudson, proprietor of the Country Life Magazine, who was both a patron and a champion of Lutyens. Drewe was now 54 years old, but he still had time, energy and money to create his new family seat. On 4 April 1911, Drewe's 55th birthday, the first foundation stone was laid.[2]

The castle took many years to complete, with the First World War and the economic downturn causing many delays. Castle Drogo was finally completed in 1930, a year before Julius died. Castle Drogo was the last castle to be built in England, and probably the last private house in the country to be built entirely of granite. It is now a Grade I listed building.[3]


Julius Drewe died on 20 November 1931 and was buried in Drewsteignton.


Julius' father, George S.H. Drew the 2nd, born 22 October 1818 in Kensington, London to an affluent, inner city family. He was a middle class clergyman and serial publisher. Julius' mother was Mary Abelle Richardson (née Peek) born 12 July 1823 within the 16th arrondissement of Paris in Passy, an artist, whose family owned a women's garment business located in Le Marais in central Paris. Julius' grandfather, George H Drew the 1st, was born in Belgravia, London in 1790 but moved to their country retreat as permanent residence with his family to South Hams Devonshire aged four years old. George moved back to London aged twenty-one and became a tea merchant during the birth of the Industrial Revolution. The Drew family traditionally had close ties also with French aristocracy in the eighteenth century by the linage of Louis XIII of France through his great-granddaughter. As a result of this, Julius' great-grandfather, Thomas Drew was born 1745 in Gironde, France. Thomas later migrated back to England with his father at a young age, years before the outbreak of the French Revolution.

Julius and Frances Drewe had five children, Adrian, Basil, Cedric, Mary and Frances. Their eldest son, Adrian Hendicott Drewe, was the seventh 'Drewe' (previously Drew) to be educated at Eton College and Oxford University. He died during the First World War on the front line in 1917 from overwhelming intake of mustard gas in Ypres, France, alongside 80-100 men (approx) from his platoon. His death was a terrible loss and Julius never fully recovered from the shock. Basil, their second eldest, inherited Castle Drogo after Julius's death in 1931 after studying for seven years in central London. Cedric, their youngest son, studied at the University of Birmingham between 1916 and 1920. He was elected as a Member of Parliament in 1924, and in 1953 was appointed into the Royal Victorian Order as a Knight Commander.[4] He inherited the Broadhembury properties after Julius's death.

After Julius's death, his wife Frances and her son Basil continued to live at the castle. Frances Drewe died in 1954 and Basil was then joined at Drogo by his son Anthony and his wife. In 1974, Anthony and his son, Dr Christopher Drewe, gave Castle Drogo and 600 acres (2.4 km2) of the surrounding land to the National Trust. It was the first 20th-century property the charity acquired.[5]