Shambellie House (c) Anne Robertson
Shambellie House

This Baronial style Victorian mansion house is a creative centre for arts, heritage and the environment, with a year-round schedule of courses, workshops and events in thee setting of a superb 19th-century house.


Shambellie House was designed in 1856 by architect David Bryce for the Stewart family. A descendant of the builders named Charles William Stewart amassed a collection of historic costume during his lifetime, and in 1976 he gave the entire collection to the Royal Scottish Museum. At the same time, he granted the Victorian house to the Scottish government.

The Costume Museum

For many years, until budget cuts forced its closure, Shambellie House was home to a museum of costume, designed to showcase historical costumes in the setting of historical rooms. The timeline approach showed how fashions of the wealthy changed and developed from the 1850s to the 1950s. The individual chambers were created as lifelike room settings to show off different time periods in fashion and lifestyle.

The oldest 'setting' in the house was the Sitting Room, depicting a summer afternoon in 1882, with four mannequins dressed in period clothing. The oldest costume here was an 1873 grey silk dress originally used as a wedding dress. The Dining Room was set for another summer's day, this time from 1895, as family members gathered for an evening party. Most of the company wore evening clothes, while one female figure wore a mourning dress of black satin.

The Drawing Room showed a scene from May 1945 as household members cluster around a radio to hear WWII news. The Library showed a scene from 1952 as the family was formally dressed for a Hogmanay Ball at the Assembly Rooms.

Other rooms depicted scenes from 1905, 1913, and 1945. An upstairs room was used to house an exhibition on the house and the Stewart family. This helped give a sense of how and why the historic costumes were used, and why the house was such a perfect setting for the museum.

In addition to the historic costume collection, the period rooms held family portraits of the Stewart family and Scottish furniture and art.