Coleton Fishacre House and Gardens
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
Coleton Fishacre is a wonderful country house in Art Deco style, set in a beautiful wooded valley on the south Devon coast near the mouth of the River Dart. The house is set in outstanding gardens featuring rare trees, water features and moisture-loving plants.
Coleton Fishacre was built in 1925 by Rupert D'Oyly Carte and his wife Dorothy. The couple were sailing along the Devon coast when they spotted a valley leading down to the sea at Pudcombe Cove. They decided on the spot that the location was perfect to build a country house.
Rupert D'Oyly Carte was the son of Richard D'Oyly Carte, the theatrical producer and entrepreneur behind Gilbert and Sullivan and the Savoy Hotel. Rupert followed in his father's footsteps and ran the Savoy company from 1903 and the opera company from 1913. In 1907 he married Lady Dorothy Gathorne-Hardy, the daughter of the 2nd Earl of Cranbrook.
Together the couple created one of the finest Art Deco houses in Britain, an outstanding example of early 20th-century design, full of beautifully-made wooden furniture and crafts. The rooms are spacious and light, with wonderful garden views. The house superbly recreates the splendour of the Jazz Age.
The architect was Oswald Milne, who studied under Sir Edward Lutyens, probably the foremost architect of early 20th-century Britain.
Rupert worked in London during the week while Lady Dorothy stayed at Coleton Fishacre and developed the gardens as well as sailing and fishing. Together they hosted country house parties on the weekends, entertaining figures in the arts. Their guests were often expected to help weed the garden during their stay.
The D'Oyly Cartes loved gardening, and would often sail their yacht along the coast to Cornwall, looking for inspiration from other gardens.
Their idyllic life came to a jarring end in 1932 when their son Michael died in a car crash at the age of just 21. Michael's tragic death placed a strain on the D'Oyly Carte's relationship and they separated in 1936.
With Michael D'Oyly Carte's death, the family business was eventually taken over by his sister Bridget, who took over the D'Oyly Carte opera company in 1948 and eventually established it as a charity.
Bridget D'Oyly Carte sold Coleton Fishacre in 1949 to Rowland Smith, a motor trader and hotelier. His wife Freda offered the estate to the National Trust in 1982. The garden and house are now owned by the National Trust, which also administers much of the coastline in the area.
Coleton Fishacre gardens were designed by Sir Rupert and Lady D'Oyly Carte in 1925, and the moist Devon climate makes it ideal for plants that like it wet, such as bamboos, mimosa, and subtropicals. In addition, there are walled and terrace gardens, a circular pool and stream gardens, and scented plants and herbs. A gazebo provides excellent sea views.
There are 30 acres of gardens, accredited by the Royal Horticultural Society. The tree canopy and the moist climate make this a perfect environment for tender plants from South Africa, New Zealand and the Mediterranean.
Coleton Fishacre is good for autumn colours.
At the bottom of the garden, a gate gives access to the South West Coast Path, running along the coast, and to a trail leading down to the shore at Pudcombe Cove. On the shore you can see the D'Oyly Carte family's tidal swimming pool.
Our family spent a wonderful week exploring the English Rivera. At the end of the week, I asked everyone which place they had enjoyed most. The clear winner was Coleton Fishacre. It is one of those rarities, a historic house that feels like you could happily move in and enjoy living there.
Coleton Fishacre is located down a narrow country lane about 2 miles east of Kingswear, so please be careful when approaching. It is always a good idea to come during off-peak periods so you won't face the prospect of having to reverse to find a passing place for vehicles heading towards you. Try to combine a visit to Coleton Fishacre with a trip to explore another National Trust property at Greenway, just a few miles to the north-west on the far side of Kingswear.
About Coleton Fishacre
Address: Brownstone Road, Kingswear, Dartmouth, Devon, England, TQ6 0EQ
Attraction Type: Historic House
Location: 3 miles east of Kingswear
Website: Coleton Fishacre
National Trust - see also: National Trust memberships (official website link)
OS: SX908 509
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
Darmouth, St Petrox Church - 1.4 miles (Historic Church)
Dartmouth Castle - 1.5 miles (Castle)
Gallants Bower Fort - 1.6 miles (Historic Building)
Bayard's Cove Fort - 1.8 miles (Historic Building)
Dartmouth Museum - 1.9 miles (Museum)
Dartmouth, St Saviour's Church - 1.9 miles (Historic Church)
Greenway - 3.4 miles (Historic House)
Stoke Gabriel Church - 5.3 miles (Historic Church)
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