Timeline: History of Killerton costume collection

The costume collection at Killerton House holds a rich array of clothing and accessories. Find out how the collection came together and why it is held at Killerton.

    Beginnings: 1940s

    Black and white picture of Paulise de Bush, the woman whose period costumes form the core of the costume collection at Killerton House, Devon

    During the Second World War, Victor Anger’s niece, Audrey Deacon, went to her uncle’s home in Aston Tirrold to escape the bombing in London.

    The Anger home was full of clothes dating back to the 18th century. Audrey started clearing it out to make room. Paulise de Bush lived nearby and saw Audrey throwing out period clothes (mainly 18th- and early-19th-century dresses). Paulise bought many for her drama group.

    Collecting clothes: 1950s

    Paulise de Bush herself in period costume

    Paulise became an enthusiastic collector of both theatrical and historical costumes, partly for use in her theatre productions. She also began exhibiting the costumes.

    Making film: 1960s

    Replica costumes are worn at Killerton for show purposes

    Paulise met Atherton Harrison at a Women’s Institute talk and found they had plenty in common. Atherton was trained in theatre design and her husband, Harvey Harrison, was a filmmaker. In 1965, the three put together a 35-minute film - Fame and Fashion, featuring Paulise’s collection.

    Paulise's death: 1975-7

    Killerton House, Devon, home of the Acland family for generations

    Paulise died in 1975. She asked Atherton to ensure the collection went to place a where it would be displayed. In 1977, Atherton found a home for Paulise's period costume collection at Killerton, just as we were opening the house to the general public. It was at Killerton that Paulise’s collection was first catalogued.

    Settling in at Killerton: 1978

    The Paulise de Bush Collection arrived at Killerton and put on display. Displays have been created every year since, with Atherton consulting until her retirement in 1994.

    Costume on display: 1978 - present

    Cocktail dresses of 1950 and 1960 from the Costume Collection at Killerton House, Devon

    The collection has grown since its arrival at Killerton. Now it includes over 10,000 items of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing dating from 1690 to the 1970s, as well as shoes, jewellery, fans, hats, samplers, fine lace and beadwork.

    In recent years, curators concentrated on enhancing the current collection. Their efforts are seen in the fantastic annual exhibitions.