RIP Kate Davson

Kate being presented with a bouquet after the concert at Peasmarsh

We are sad to learn of the death of Lady Kate Davson, aged 82, on July 26 at her home in Canterbury. She had been diagnosed earlier this year with metastatic cancer, which took a swift hold, borne with great fortitude.

Lady Davson, or Kate as she was known to a wide circle of friends, lived in Rye for many years at No. 4 Mermaid Street with her husband Sir Christopher Davson, 3rd Baronet, from 1975 until his death in 2004.

She possessed a fine intellect, and an intense feeling for and enjoyment of life, which found expression through a strong personality. Formidable to some at first, with her deep voice and direct manner, she was never la grande dame, but immediately sympathetic and would listen to anyone in need of help. She had a great sense of fun.

Before coming to Rye, Kate Foster as she then was, had established an international reputation with her knowledge of ceramics. She advised Sotheby’s auction house in London and was an expert on Meissen pottery. In 1984, she founded The French Porcelain Society, bringing together collectors, museum curators, dealers, auction specialists and enthusiasts to share their passion for French porcelain and promote its study.

She also dealt on her own account and my niece, who worked at Brand Inglis’ silverware shop in Halkin Arcade, Belgravia, London, recalls Kate coming into the shop with pieces of Japanese Yixing pottery for sale.

Settled In Rye, she was an active member of the Rye Church Fellowship, and took special interest in ecumenical outreach. In 2007, she became President of the International Ecumenical Fellowship. Fluent in French and German, she travelled extensively in Europe and later to Kenya and Uganda, where she established new ecumenical groupings.

A profound love of music

Kate Davson served as chairman of the Rye Festival in the late 1980s and consolidated its regional reputation for quality music-making. She made possible the appearance of Jeffrey Tate, the eminent conductor (having introduced him to the delights of porcelain collecting) in collaboration with Mitzuko Uchida, the world renowned pianist. Her powers of persuasion also saw Stephen Kovachevich appearing in a vividly remembered piano recital at St Mary’s Church.

Her profound love of music was shared with others. For her 70th Birthday, she sponsored a concert in St Mary’s Church, Rye, a memorable evening with the Zemlinsky Quartet. She was a great supporter of the Peasmarsh Festival and used to host the Florestan/Peasmarsh patrons’ party in her garden before the Friday evening concert.

To celebrate her 80th birthday, she commissioned a new work to be performed by Anthony Marwood and Richard Lester during the 20th anniversary Peasmarsh Festival. They asked Sam Glazer, who is both a composer and the leader of the Festival Trust’s education work, to create a new piece for string quartet and children’s voices. Kate was obviously delighted with the work, based on themes from Commedia dell’arte, and the main photo shows her being congratulated after the concert.

Kate had moved from Rye to live in Canterbury in 2013, where she settled happily, her new home overlooked the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey and lay within easy reach of the Cathedral. This clip from 2018 shows Kate in full vigour, talking about her ancestor William Wilberforce, whose values and Christian beliefs she shared. Kate continued to attend the annual music festival at Peasmarsh and kept in touch with her Rye friends.


Image Credits: Courtesy of Peasmarsh Chamber Music Festival ber Music Destiveal .


  1. Having been close friends with Kate and Chris over the past 35 years we had many happy, fun and sad times to-gether. They were both supporters of the AA and we went to many AA non alcoholic parties to-gether. Driving back from one of these Chris was controlling the wheel with his knees while dealing with lighting his pipe! Stories of them towing their boat to Venice and pulling in to a laybye and sleeping on their boat. Chris ordering top quality Champagne, a full case, and Kate taking it and Chris into the garden to pour out each bottle on the compost heap. The best nourished compost in Rye. Chris visited Rye Harbour frequently to support recovering alcoholics. He also visited Maidstone Prison. Kate was a wonderful cook I shall always remember her salmon souffle. I persuaded Kate to bring out her flute from the attic and we formed a small group playing in my small piano room in Rye Harbour with Janet on piano or viola, Carol Majied Cello and me on flute tackling impossibly difficult advanced pieces of music well beyond our capabilities. I used to collect the two grandchildren from George in Oxford, they were much loved. Kate said that I was the only person who would pop in to see her in Rye. In later years she was much treasured by the lovely Reg. I feel honoured to have known the more vulnerable and unconfident Kate. I have lost a dear and very close friend.

  2. Kate was

    a ‘one off’. I worked with her when she was Chairman of the Rye Festival. Her knowledge and huge sense of fun made her very approachable. We , the committee , looked forward to our committee meetings as they were held in her elegant drawing room at 4 Mermaid street.
    I caught up with her a few times at concerts in Folkstone and Canterbury recently.
    She was a good friend to have and to work with. I shall miss her not being around!

  3. RIP dear Kate. You were one of the kindest, most generous and loving of friends. You were there for so many people especially those who needed support. Many thought you were terrifying but there was a heart of gold beating inside. Those of us that knew you well will miss you greatly.

  4. Kate Davson was an awesome and formidable lady and I admired her tremendously. She and her late husband are remembered with great affection by me from my days at Cinque Ports Stationers near Needles Passage, (Christine Taylor, Marion Ives) and were always tickled pink by the fact that we had gin and tonics sent round from the Standard Inn on hot afternoons.


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