Skip to content

Five curious collection items at Coleton Fishacre

View of the Art Deco doorway in the Saloon at Coleton Fishacre, Devon
Art Deco doorway at Coleton Fishacre | © National Trust Images / Oskar Proctor

Coleton Fishacre is an accredited museum, which means that every item in the collection, every design feature and every material used in the house is cared for by the conservation team. Each piece tells a story about the D'Oyly Carte family, who called Coleton Fishacre their home, and gives an insight into their lifestyle during the 1920s. Here are just five items from the collection.

Limestone fireplace

The fireplace in the Sitting Room is made of limestone from Hopton Wood Hill in Derbyshire. It contains fossils of crinoids, or sea lilies.

Despite their plant-sounding nickname, these fossils were sea creatures, related to starfish and sea urchins. There are crinoids still in the sea today, but the ones in the fireplace lived millions of years ago.

See the fireplace in the collection

Servants’ bell board

On the wall just outside the Dining Room is the historic servants’ bell board. This was electrically operated using buttons in the rooms.

If pressed, a bell would ring and a disc would drop down in front of the room where the servant was required. Lady Dorothy had a second, more decorative button installed at the table in the Dining Room so that she didn’t have to move.

The bell board today

The button on the table doesn’t work any longer, but the one in the corner of the room does. Please ask a guide about having a go so that you can see the system working.

See the bell board in the collection

Art Deco treasures

There are a number of Art Deco collection items at Coleton Fishacre, including the Marion Dorn carpet in the Saloon.

Rupert D’Oyly Carte admired the large-scale patterns that leading textile designer Marion Dorn used, and also commissioned rugs and carpets for his hotels, such as Claridge's and The Savoy.

Detail of the Marion Dorn carpet in the Saloon at Coleton Fishacre, Devon
The Marion Dorn carpet is a feature point in the Saloon | © National Trust Images / Oskar Proctor

Tidal clock

The tidal clock, which can be found near the front door, told the D’Oyly Carte family when to expect the next high tide. This helped them to know when the lido at Pudcombe Cove could be used.

It was also used alongside the wind dial in the Library to forecast sailing conditions. The tidal clock had to be set by hand each day, as it has no mechanism.

A copy of this year’s tide tables is kept in the Flower Room so that the team can continue to do this each day.

See the wind dial in the collection

An oil painting on a panel showing a Kingswear Peninsula with a wind dial, found at Coleton Fishacre, Devon
The wind dial at Coleton Fishacre | © National Trust Images/John Hammond

Stoneware jar

A pale stoneware jar sits on the worktop to the right of the sink in the Butler's pantry. While it might look like a typical cider jar, it was actually something else entirely.

The three chamfered shoulders signify that the jar contained something poisonous, like the fluted edging on old glass pharmacy bottles. This was a way of telling everyone, including those who couldn’t read or were visually impaired, that the contents were not for drinking.

What did it contain?

This jar contained ‘spirits of salts’, an old name for hydrochloric acid. It was sent here by train in order to remove rust stains from linens in the laundry.

The train company labels for the fare paid from Paddington Station, London are still visible.

See the stoneware jar in the collection

Marmalade slicer

There are all sorts of interesting food preparation gadgets in the kitchen at Coleton Fishacre, including a marmalade slicer. This was a hand-operated machine used to cut fruit peel for making marmalade.

It has a screw fixing for attaching it to a tabletop, and a wooden block for pressing down the fruit.

See the marmalade slicer in the collection

The electric bell board in the Servants' Corridor at Coleton Fishacre, Devon

Coleton Fishacre's collections

Explore the objects and works of art we care for at Coleton Fishacre on the National Trust Collections website.

You might also be interested in

Sevres Wine Cooler, showing nymphs worshipping the bust of Pan, from a service made for Louis XVI, dated 1792, in the Porcelain Lobby at Upton House, Warwickshire

Art and collections 

The art and heritage collections we care for rival the world’s greatest museums. Learn more about the collection of paintings, decorative art, costume, books, household and other objects at historic places.

Painting on display in the Upper Gallery at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire

Introducing our remarkable collections 

See the breadth of our collection of works of art, furniture and more: we care for around a million objects at over 200 historic places, there’s a surprise discovery around every corner.

Man and woman looking at large historic globe in gallery lined with Greco-Roman statues

Celebrating 125 treasures in our collections 

Discover the stories behind some of the greatest artworks and artefacts looked after by the National Trust, as told in a dedicated book, 125 Treasures from the Collections of the National Trust.

A black and white archive photo of the D'Oyle Carte family and friends relaxing on the house terrace with a dog at Coleton Fishacre, Devon.

The history of Coleton Fishacre 

Find out about the D'Oyly Carte family and the history of their country home, Coleton Fishacre. Discover how the perfect spot was chosen while sailing their yacht.

View through trees to flower borders and a long, narrow water feature

Visiting the garden at Coleton Fishacre 

With a climate as mild as South Cornwall, exotic and tender plants thrive in the garden at Coleton Fishacre. From formal terraces to woodland, the garden is varied and filled with year-round interest, and RHS accredited.

The saloon at Coleton Fishacre with two green armchairs in the foreground and steps in the background leading to an open door.

Things to do in the house at Coleton Fishacre 

Step inside the 1920s country home of the D’Oyly Carte family where Art Deco features, sea views and light and airy designs create an intimate atmosphere.

A colourful, rolled up picnic blanket, sunglasses and water bottle

Eating and shopping at Coleton Fishacre 

A visit to Coleton Fishacre would not be complete without browsing the National Trust Shop or picking up a tasty treat from Café Coleton.

A volunteer waving and smiling at someone out of shot

Volunteering at Coleton Fishacre 

There are lots of different ways to volunteer at the Coleton Fishacre in the English Riviera. Find out about the different volunteer roles and how you can get involved.