End of era for Lionel - but he is not for retiring

Businessman and film star Julie Walters

Lionel and Julie Walters - Credit: Submitted

An era and part of Torquay's history has quietly come to an end.

Well-known businessman and local personality Lionel Digby has sold his vast array of costumes that has had him brushing shoulders with the rich and famous over many years.

The well known and much loved costume shop in Market street housed Flame Torbay costume hire costumes which were stored in the shop and warehouses at the rear.

The collection has been sold to Rebellion Studios in Oxford. The sale took a year to negotiate with interest from Italy, Spain and various costume houses in the UK. Mr Digby wanted to keep the collection in the UK and to sell as one whole lot. 

He says: "This collection would be impossible to put together today and is from years of buying from government surplus, theatre wardrobe clear-outs and old and forgotten costume houses when they sold up.

"Rebellion Studios have said they would keep the collection together and will call themselves Rebellion Flame in honour of our hard work."

The business started out as a fancy-dress shop, in the old police station in the early 1960's, which then moved into the shop at no 35 in the early 1990's.

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From the humble beginnings, Mr Digby moved onto theatre, film and TV hire in the early 1980's when he gave up his rock and pop promoting.

He says: "At the time this was a small selection of uniforms which over 40 years developed into the second largest military costumiers in the UK, including lady's military and military armour and equipment."

They also had a large collection of ladies and gents civilian costumes which where all supplied to the film, TV, and theatre industry.

Costumes where sent as far as field as Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Europe and Texas in the USA.

Costumes were supplied to small and big TV and film productions alike. 

Businessman with Brian Blessed

Lionel and Brian Blessed - Credit: Submitted

"The first film we did was 'Personal Services' in the early 1980's with Julie Walters and later she appeared on her TV show on which she spent a day filming in the warehouse," said Mr Digby.

Bigger productions beckoned including proving military uniforms to the 'Kings Speech', Disney's ' Christopher Robin', 'Landgirls' and one of Oliver Reed's last films, 'The Bruce'.

Businessman and film star Oliver Reed

Lionel and Oliver Reed - Credit: Submitted

TV shows included Dr Who, Foyles War, Downton Abbey, Mr Selfridge, Comic Strip Productions, and over 40 productions for Sky's history channel - plus many more.

At a young 85 Mr Digby is not planning on full retirement anytime soon and has plans to open his market street shop as a military collectors 'paradise' to sell collectable items as well as vintage and antique clothing. 

"That also been collected over the last 50 years," says Mr Digby, adding: "This is with the help of a long time employee and friend who has an interest in the vintage clothing."