Charles William Stewart

Charles William Stewart was born in the Philippines in 1915. His father worked for the merchants Smith, Bell and Co., and later became a partner. He was sent to live with his uncle, Capt. William Stewart, at Shambellie House, New Abbey, near Dumfries in 1918. Then in 1923 he was moved to St. Leonard's - on -Sea, where he and his sister were brought up in the care of an Edinburgh widow, a nurse and nursery maid. His parents remained in the Philippines, but returned to Scotland in 1930 when Charles father inherited the Shambellie estate from his brother.

During the Second World War, he was a conscientious objector, and served as a stretcher-bearer in Air-Raid Precautions in a unit based at Battersea. By this time he had realised that his talents lay in book illustration rather than stage design, and in 1943/44 he undertook his first commission. A further commission for 32 illustrations from publishers Bodley Head for Uncle Silas, prompted him to undertake historical costume research in depth since the story was set in the 1840s. Further costume acquisitions followed as well as fashion plates. In 1950 he returned to Byam Shaw School to teach and became a co-Principal in 1955. 

In 1954 he purchased a 19th century artist's lay figure - a life-size articulated dummy. Her name was Rosie! That same year he lent Rosie to Pietro Annigoni for his portrait of the Queen. It was easier for Annigoni to paint the folded drapery of the Queen's robes when worn by the ever still Rosie, than by the Queen! 

By now, Charles Stewart was collecting costume for itself rather than simply to aid his book illustration. However in 1958, the collection proved invaluable once again for a prestigious commission from the American Limited Editions Club, for illustrations to an edition of Thackeray's Pendennis, set in the period 1815-1835. 

In 1960, Charles Stewart left London for Shambellie, to look after his invalid father, and in 1962 inherited the estate on his father's death. He continued his costume collecting, and also undertook several book illustration commissions, working from his home at Glenharvie, New Abbey, where he later created a studio in an out-building. 

In 1967 he visited Greece for the first time, returning there each summer for 8 years. An interest in collection Greek costume developed, and he began to collect this as well. His interest extended to Turkish costume after a visit to Istanbul in 1976. 

Concern about the future of both Shambellie House and his costume collection, prompted Charles Stewart to offer the house to the nation to act as a home for his costume collection. After first approaching the then Royal Scottish Museum in 1967 (now the National Museums of Scotland), his offer was eventually accepted by the Secretary of State for Scotland in 1977. The last of his collection was transferred from Glenharvie to Shambellie in 1979. His collection secured for the future, in1990 Charles Stewart decided to retire south to Oxford where he could be nearer the cultural life of London. He died there in 2001. 

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