Timeline: History of Killerton costume collection

Paulise de Bush played a big part in Killerton's fashion history.

Killerton holds the National Trust's biggest dress collection with over 20,000 items. Discover the history behind the fashion collection. Please note that the fashion exhibition will be closed in 2017 while we carry out vital conservation work to the house inside and out.

Beginnings: 1940s

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 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

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

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

The collection has grown since its arrival at Killerton. Now it includes over 20,000 items of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing dating from 1690 to the 1970s. Shoes, jewellery, fans, hats, samplers, fine lace and beadwork also form the collection.
In recent years, curators concentrated on enhancing the current collection. Their efforts are seen in the fantastic annual exhibitions.
Killerton, near Exeter, Devon, needs your help to raise 100K to help us care for Killerton

Our roof is almost watertight 

There's not long left before the roof conservation project finishes. Thanks to you - we've reached our £100k target to plug the funding gap. Find out what's happening and how you can continue to help us care for Killerton.