Opening closed doors at Coleton Fishacre

The servants' dining room at Coleton Fishacre near Kingswear in Devon

In the past visitors to Coleton Fishacre often asked the same questions: ‘Where is the kitchen?’ or ‘Where are the servants’ areas?’. In 2010 a project began to open the closed doors, which lasted for two years and saw the restoration of 11 rooms.

Ideas for change

The rooms which were opened as a result of the Opening Closed Doors project had previously been used for staff accommodation. When that use was complete, a number of different ideas were put forward for the rooms, such as a re-creation of the servants’ and maids’ bedrooms, making them into a holiday cottage or even a staff meeting room. As property and regional staff discussed the various ideas, they became more ambitious and began to encompass more of the house. The best idea was to ask visitors what they’d like to see re-created and re-interpreted in various areas of the house.


Your votes

The result was that visitors wanted to see the servants’ areas and to understand what they did there. They wanted to know the story of the people who had lived and worked at Coleton Fishacre.


What changed?

The project was completed for the 2012 season. The rooms that were restored and opened to the public as a result of the Opening Closed Doors project include the kitchen, servants’ hall, laundry, pantry, guest bedroom, and servants’ bedroom and bathroom. Three of those rooms are now undergoing some more work: the laundry, lavatory and brush room are all closed whilst repairs are carried out on the flat roof above them. 


Look out for 1920s and 30s items in the kitchen
1920s items in the kitchen at Coleton Fishacre
Look out for 1920s and 30s items in the kitchen

The project in action

Staff worked hard to research even the smallest details. Samples of paint layers were scratched off the servants’ areas doors and sent away for pigment analysis. The findings revealed that the original colour was a vivid salmon pink.
The screens that divide the kitchen from the hallway are original to the house, but they had been removed. They were found in the National Trust rangers’ woodshed, broken into pieces. Luckily they were salvagable and have been carefully restored to their former glory. The screens offer a safe passageway into the servants’ hall, without disturbing the cook hard at work in the kitchen.


Finishing touches

A modern Aga in the style of the classic 1930s model was installed in the Kitchen. The original range ran on solid fuel and was removed in the 1980s. The modern Aga runs on electricity and is very energy efficient and low in carbon emissions. The Aga is now used for cooking events at which volunteers bake scones for visitors to taste.


Thanks to you

Money raised through raffle ticket sales was used to commission an exact replica of the kitchen dresser. The raffle money enabled every small detail to been reproduced, even down to the chrome catches.