The D’Oyly Cartes

Like many people, my wife and I are members of the National Trust. Also, I am sure, like many people we have our favourite houses and one of those is Coleton Fishacre, near Dartmouth in Devon. Having recently seen a collection of D’Oyly Carte ephemera on a probate valuation I was involved in, Coleton Fishacre and it’s wonderful garden came flooding back to my mind.

It was Richard D’Oyly Carte (1844-1901) who started the D’Oyly ball rolling. He was the impresario behind Gilbert and Sullivan and it was he who founded the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company. He also built the Savoy Theatre (the first to be fully electric) and opened the Savoy Hotel in the 1880s.

However, it was Rupert, Richard’s son, who after succeeding his father as chairman of the Savoy Hotel Company in 1903 at the tender age of 27, built Coleton Fishacre in the 1920s.

The house was a breath of fresh air to the D’Oyly Cartes, compared to the fast paced London life they lived during the week. Every Friday they came to Coleton where they sailed, fished, swam, played tennis and rode horses. A perfect weekend cottage getaway, only a slightly larger than average scale.

Sadly the D’Oyly Cartes son Michael was killed in a car crash and the couple never really recovered, eventually drifting apart. Their daughter Bridget, as Rupert’s only surviving child, inherited Coleton Fishacre, the Opera Company and the hotel empire.

Bridget successfully managed the businesses for many years and became a Dame of the British Empire in 1975, dying in 1985. D’Oyly Carte memorabilia is not a common sight in the salerooms and it’s appearance always creates a buzz from specialist collectors. Keep your eyes open.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse
Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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