Scottish Government hand over Shambellie House to local Trustees

The Scottish Government handed over the keys to Shambellie House to Shambellie House Trust on Thursday July 1 to enable it to begin a new life as a centre showcasing the rural creative arts community. 

They are also providing funds from both the Culture and Regeneration budgets to carry out repairs to the house and lodge. 

The Trust had an initial scheme which would have created accommodation on site and a small extension to the House.

Following a review of the impact of Covid on the potential funding the Trustees decided to limit the first phase of works to some alterations to provide toilets on the main floor and repairs to both the House and Lodge to enable them to be secured for the local community. 

It is planned to start to deliver a range of courses in January delivered by local artists, makers, photographers and practitioners many using the environment, culture, and history of this region as their inspiration.

Jenny Gilruth MSP, Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development said: “I am delighted that ownership of Shambellie House in Dumfries has been transferred from the Scottish Government to the Shambellie House Trust, and I would like to thank the Trust for all their hard work in making this happen.

“The plans provided by the Trust are exciting: there is the potential for tremendous benefit to the local and regional communities economically, culturally and educationally. I wish them every success.”

With grants in place from Hugh Fraser Foundation, Holywood Trust, Lottery Community Fund, and the Dumfries and Galloway Coastal Communities fund, the Trust still faced a shortfall for the conversion costs until South of Scotland Enterprise (SoSE) agreed to provide support bringing the total to just over £150,000. This will allow initial internal works to be done but the Trust are still fundraising to ensure the centre can offer a full range of courses.

Commenting on this award Professor Russell Griggs OBE, Chair of SoSE said: “SOSE is here to work with the people and communities across the South of Scotland and we are delighted we could support the Shambellie House Trust with a grant of £71,000.

“The grant will help the Trust transform Shambellie House and its grounds into a creative tourism destination, and a hub for supporting small and micro businesses to operate in the creative sector.

“It will be a fantastic boost to those in the creative industry who have been greatly impacted by the pandemic, and who are now focusing on their recovery and a brighter future.

“SOSE is here to provide investment, expertise and mentoring, and we will continue to work closely with the Trust and support them in their valuable work over the months and years ahead.”

Chair of the Trust, Gordon Mann OBE, added: “The Trustees have worked very hard over the years to bring Shambellie House back under local ownership and we are delighted to have achieved this with the support from the community and the faith placed in us by our funders.  We are continuing to fund raise so that we can offer a great experience in the House and grounds.  

“We will now start on the repairs and improvements to the house and lodge so that some courses will be ready for delivery early in 2022, courses which will provide a welcome boost for the local creative sector which have suffered so much in the pandemic.”

Shambellie House grounds.
Shambellie House grounds.

Local artists and makers have welcomed the news. Ricky Nolan of Lochmaben commented: “I know there a number of others like me who are looking forward to being able to offer courses in photography where, with both a traditional darkroom and an Apple Mac digital suite, we will be able to provide a wide range of courses at all levels for anyone interested in photography.”

Ann Hill BEM of Mouswald said: “The popularity of quilting has been shown by the attendance at our exhibitions, but this will allow many of us to deliver courses on quilting and other crafts such as embroidery in what must be one of the best settings possible”

Kerrie Mckinnel, Lockerbie added: “Shambellie House is one of my favourite places to run a creative writing workshop – the house and grounds are peaceful, beautiful, and endlessly inspirational. I am thrilled to hear about the Trust’s plans and progress, and I can’t wait to return to run more workshops in the near future.”

Shambellie house was owned by the Stewart family until 1970 when Charles Stewart handed it over to Scottish Ministers on condition that it was used to display some of his extensive collection of costumes.  When it was closed by the National Museum of Scotland in 2013 the Scottish Government agreed to pass the property back to a local community-based charity provided they had a sustainable plan and the necessary funding.

Lou Greenshields, niece of Charles Stewart, added: “The Estate has been closely following the Trust and its exciting plans for the House.  I am sure that Uncle Bill (as Charles Stewart was known to the family) would have been delighted to see the House come back to life providing scope for local artists to be involved.  He was a very accomplished artist himself.”

Shambellie House was built in 1856, sitting in 2.33ha of grounds on the edge of the village of New Abbey.  It became the National Museum of Costume in 1978 and closed in 2013.

The House was gifted to the Secretary of State for the Environment in 1970   by Charles Stewart and was used to house part of his collection of costumes and was run by the National Museum of Scotland.  It closed in 2013 and the costumes remain with the Museum in Edinburgh.  Following closure Shambellie’s ownership passed to Scottish Ministers as statutory successors under devolution provisions.

Shambellie House Trust was set up in 2015 following an unsuccessful campaign to keep the House open as the National Costume Museum.  At that time the Scottish Government agreed to transfer the House to a local charity provided they had a sustainable business plan and sufficient funds for any alterations needed to the House and that position has now been reached.

The Trust converted recently to a charitable Community Benefit Society and already has 82 shareholder members.  Membership is open to anyone over the age of 16 who purchases 10 shares at £1.00 each.  For detail of this and the current trustees see the web site