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New Abbey, Shambellie House

Country House (19th Century)

Site Name New Abbey, Shambellie House

Classification Country House (19th Century)

Canmore ID 68559

Site Number NX96NE 50

NGR NX 96050 66617

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2021.

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Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Dumfries And Galloway
  • Parish New Abbey
  • Former Region Dumfries And Galloway
  • Former District Nithsdale
  • Former County Kirkcudbrightshire

Architecture Notes

NX96NE 50.00 96050 66617

NX96NE 50.01 96038 66457 Shambellie House, Walled Garden

NX96NE 50.02 96241 66386 Shambellie House, Stable Cottage

NX96NE 42 96249 66567 Shambellie Lodge and Gatepiers

ARCHITECT: David Bryce, 1854-5

David Bryce, 1897, proposed additions (not executed)

Andrew Scott C.E., 1869, stables

James Barbour, 1863, gates and gate-lodge


Publication Account (1986)

Drawn to Shambellie by the collection of historic gowns and costumes, visitors will fmd that the house has much interest in its own right. Built in 1856-7 for William Stewart to the design of David Bryce, it is a small, virtually unaltered Victorian mansion of Scottish Baronial style. In its sylvan setting, Shambellie appears to be a typically solid and comfortable house suited to a Victorian landed gentleman of moderate means. It stands its ground as naturally as any minor Scottish laird's house of the late 16th or 17th century, whose details it imitates.

Yet, the placid and confIdent aura which surrounds the building could not be more deceptive. Its construction was a a tale of acrimony, fuelled by the client's fastidious sense of economy. Rancour usually leaves much documentation in its trail, and Alistair Rowan has worked through a mass of evidence to produce a fascinating guide-booklet The Creation of Shambellie (1982). In his words, 'among Victorian country houses in Scotland, Shambellie is uniquely unfortunate in its building history. Almost everything that could go wrong with its construction did so. Mr Stewart fell out with his architect, the tradesmen he had employed, his friends and almost everybody connected with the house. In the end he was brought to court by his builder'.

The client's concern with cost manifested itself early. Bryce's scheme matched Mr Stewart's expectations, but the estimated £2,700-£2,800 was well beyond what he was prepared to pay. Bryce's perspective view shows Shambellie as it might have been, but the house was built on a reduced scale in accordance with a second set of plans in 1855. The arrangement of the bay windows on the garden front remained unaltered,but the differences between the fIrst design and the existing house represent the gap between Mr Stewart's dream and fmancial reality. The effects of economy are also visible within. As Professor Rowan points out, 'modest plaster cornices replace the ornate bracketed designs intended for the main rooms; embellishments in the masonry are omitted; deal is substituted for oak; the chimney-pieces are not by Bryce but by a jobbing mason from Carlisle; and finally, to achieve a saving of a few feet in the banisters, the main stair has been turned to run in the opposite direction to that which Bryce intended, a last-minute alteration that made the first floor pass clumsily across one of the windows of the entrance front'. To keep down costs the attics were also left unfmished and not fItted up until 1866. By this time Stewart calculated that the house had cost him just short of £3,000, a sum which he had initially considered to be beyond his means; on top of this he also had substantial legal payments to make. As his lawyer had sagely advised him in 1860 'Enlightened liberality in good time is real economy in the end'.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Dumfries and Galloway’, (1986).


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