Preston Park and Manor
A large and pleasant expanse of 67 acres on the western side of the London Road,
some two miles out of Brighton, was bought by the Corporation in 1883 for £50,000
from Mr. and Bennett-Stanford. The purchase money came from a bequest of
£70,000 made to the Corporation in 1879 by William Edmund Davies,Brighton
bookmaker, as the inscription on a plinth in Preston Park records. Billie Davies was a
legendary figure in racing circles, and known as ‘The Leviathan of the Turf’,
chiefly because he never refused the heaviest and paid out his clients’
On the Cesarewitch of 1848 he accepted a bet of, £1,000 to £12,000
on the winner, paying up on the following day.
Three years earlier a proposal had been made to buy for £30,000 a large expanse of
meadow-land near the village of Preston the idea was turned down because of the
great cost, and with the excuse that the sea-front and the Downs provided all the
open space that was needed.
With Billy Davies’s bequest there was a change of heart and land was bought,
although the price had by then increased by another £20,000, and Brighton
acquired its magnificent park adjoining the London Road at Preston.
At the northern end of the Park stands Preston Manor, a house probably originally
of early date, which was given its present Georgian form in 1738 by
Thomas Western Lord of the Manor of Preston, which at one time, as
‘Preston Episcopi’, consisted not only of the Parish of Preston but also most
of the eastern half of Hove, including the greater part of the. foreshore.
Eventually the house became the property of Sir Charles and Lady
Thomas-Stanford and soon after taking up residence at the Manor, in 1905,
they employed a young architect named Charles Reilly, who had later to become
Principal of the Liverpool School of Architecture, and to be knighted, to carry
out alterations, which consisted of adding a new wing at the west end, building
verandas on the north side, and widening the entrance hall. In March 1932
Sir Charles Thomas- Stanford, who had been Mayor of Brighton from 1910 to 1913,
died, having in 1925 bequeathed the house and surrounding grounds to the
Corporation, to be preserved as a building of historic interest and to be used
‘exclusively as a Museum and Reference Library’ especially devoted to Brighton and Sussex.
Lady Thomas-Stanford, who in her will had left the pictures, clocks, furniture and
other contents of the house to the Corporation, died in November 1932, and in
January 1933 the Manor was taken over by the Corporation and subsequently
opened to the public. With its remarkable collections of English seventeenth-,
eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century furniture, silver and porcelain, this
agreeable Georgian house richly represents the setting of the domestic life
of a wealthy Brighton family as it was lived over a period of more than two
centuries in Brighton, and as such complements the picture of life at the
Royal Court in the Pavilion.
|Preston Manor is medieval in origin and parts of the 13th and 16th centre house can be seen in the basement. However, the present house dates mostly from the 18th century.
In 1738 Thomas Western remodelled the medieval house, creating a rectangular main block of five bays with two storeys over a basement.
The low wings on either side each contained one large reception room. In 1794 the house was sold to William Stanford of Horsham. His grand-daughter and heiress Ellen Stanford married Vere Fan Benett of Pythouse, Wiltshire in 1867 and they had one son, John Benett-Stanford. She had a lavish lifestyle which was financed by the sale of building-leases on the Preston estate.
This encouraged the rapid growth of Brighton and Hove. Ellen Benett-Stanford's husband died in 1894 and in 1897 she was re-married to Charles Thomas, a member of a prosperous shipping family. In 1905 the couple settled at Preston Manor. They refurbished the house and enjoyed the Edwardian 'belle epoch' in Brighton. Charles Thomas was mayor the town between 1910 - 13 and the couple entertained on a grand scale. After the deaths of the couple in 1932 Preston Manor was left to Brighton Corporation which had previously purchased a large part of the estate to form Preston Park.
The walls, stables and lodge that once sheltered Preston Manor from the road have been pulled down and today the house looks rather exposed. The house is furnished as it was in its Edwardian heyday and the contents reflect the lavish taste of Charles and Ellen Thomas-Stanford. The house powerfully evokes the way of life of the Edwardian gentry, both 'upstairs' and 'downstairs'.
More than twenty rooms over four floors are open to view. The Hall stretches the width of the main 18th century house and was remodelled by Ellen Thomas-Stanford in 1905. A screen of Ionic columns divides the room in two and it is furnished with the Thomas-Stanford's finest 17th and 18th century furniture and the walls are hung with many family portraits. The left- hand wing houses the Macquoid Room. This room was originally the dining room and it then became Sir Charles Stanford's library. Today it is named after the artist and designer Percy Macquoid whose widow left part of his collection of paintings, silver and early furniture to Brighton Corporation. The splendid 17th century-style panelling and chimneypiece designed by Macquoid are part of that bequest.
The Morning Room next to this is very much as Ellen Thomas-Stanford left it, with watercolours and family mementoes. The Cleves Room also has 17th century-style panelling and there is 18th century furniture and 17th century gilt-leather embossed wall hangings from the Netherlands. The Drawing Room is housed in the right-hand wing. This is the largest room in the house dating from the remodelling of 1738 but is furnished in Edwardian style. There is a mixture of 18th and 19th century furniture and the room has an array of landscapes, photographs and objets d'art. The Dining Room next to this was added in 1905 and designed in classical style. The room is dominated by a collection of 124 Chinese porcelain 'Dogs of Fo'.
Ascending the 18th century staircase the visitor reaches the first floor where five rooms are on view. One contains a small library and the others are bedrooms furnished in the style of an Edwardian country house. The austere aspect of theis period is evident in Ellen Thomas-Stanford's bathroom and in the servants' bedrooms. In the attic is a room furnished as a nursery containing a collection of historic toys.
The tour of the house ends in the basement where the visitor can view the Kitchen, Scullery, Butler's Pantry and Servants' Hall and get a feel of life 'below stairs' in the Edwardian age. Also on view in the basement are two moulded doorways dating from the 16th century which reflect Preston Manor's medieval origins.
Outside there is a charming walled garden, a pets' cemetery and a 13th century church. The house stands at one end of the municipal park that once formed part of its grounds.
Around this are the pleasant suburbs of Preston Park which were also formed from the Preston Manor estate.
Although no ghosts of people have been seen in this charming Georgian house for some 50 years, a rather weird and unpleasant atmosphere still exists in a corner of one bedroom. A house was built on the site in 1250 and some of the old foundations are known to have been incorporated into the later construction of 1738. From notes of the first curator of the manor, which is owned by the Brighton Borough, one learns that a Mrs. Magniac, half sister of a former owner, called in 1934 to discuss the haunting with him. She told Mr. Henry Roberts, the curator, that Lady Thomas-Stanford's son was inaccurate when he claimed that the only witness to the apparition was Mrs. Studd. The `lady in white` had been seen by many people including Mrs. Magniac, who on one occasion went upstairs to change her shoes after a game of tennis and saw the figure of a woman standing on the stairway.
Because she did not recognise her as one of the players but assumed that she was another guest, she greeted the stranger, but received no reply. As she offered her hand and wished the woman `Good Afternoon` the figure vanished. Captain W.W. Sandeman was another witness to the haunting. He also saw the 'woman in white'on the stairs. One visitor in 1975 claimed that he has seen the ghost of a dog run through 'a couple of rooms and then disappear'. The description he gave was that of Lady Thomas-Stanford's pet 'Kylin'shown in a painting in the hall. The current custodian, however assured me that the report was probably a hoax.
Furthermore, Marion Waller, Keeper of the Preston Manor, and Rottingdean Grange, wrote to me after a television appearance saying, `the room in which you were televised, the north-west bedroom, is often felt to have an unpleasant atmosphere by our visitors`. Together with a group of students from one of my evening classes I re-visited the house in 1978 and many of us confirmed the fact that the centre of the `mysterious sensation of unease` was a corner of the cupboard. Several other visitors have told me that they have also seen `a sort of white shape` on the landing, so it suggests that the lady is still haunting. But the mystery of the cupboard still remains.
Sir Anonthy Sherley was the brother of Sir Thomas Sherley, the elder of Wiston Manor in Sussex. After the death of their father, William Sherley, their mother, Mary, married Richard Elrington who held the manor of Preston. At his death, she deeded the Preston estate to Anthony Sherley, the ancestor of William Shirley who was born in December of 1694 in this very house at Preston. He married Eliz. Godman of Ote Hall where he resided where resided just before going to Massachusetts USA to become Governor.
Preston is now a suburb of modern Brighton, then called, Brighthelmstone. It was a mere fishing villge and Preston Manor house was in the country, nestled amidst its trees in a cleft of the "Whale-backed" South Downs.
In the adjoining church you may see some Shirley tombs and an Elrington check tomb.
Sir Anthony's grandson, Richard Sherley, who was the last and third baronet, died unmarried in 1705. He left two sisters who were his co-heirs; one of them, Mary, married Thomas Western and the Western family then held Preston from 1712 until 1794 when they sold it to William Stanford, whose father, Richard Stanford, had been a tenant of the manor since 1758. The area sold was 980 acres, and the purchase price was £17,600.
This is the latest information if you wish to visit Preston Park Manor House
Experience the charms of this delightful old Manor House which powerfully evokes the atmosphere of an Edwardian gentry home both 'Upstairs' and 'Downstairs'.
Home to the Stanford family for nearly 150 years, the house dates from 1250, was rebuilt in 1783 and added to in 1905. There are more than twenty rooms to explore over four floors - all superbly and lovingly renovated. From the servants' quarters, kitchens and butler's pantry in the basement, to the attic bedrooms and children's day nursery on the top floor.
The Manor also contains notable collections of silver, furniture, portraits and other memorabilia which give a rare insight into the conventions of upper-class Edwardian taste. Situated adjacent to Preston Park and the thirteenth-century parish church of St Peter, the Manor also comprises picturesque walled garden and a pets' cemetery.
Preston Manor is situated two miles north of Brighton seafront on the A23 London Road.
The North West Bedroom The Drawing Room
Admission: These times & fess may have changed as of 2009. Please contact the Manor to get current information
Open from 1 April 2009 - 31 December 2009:
Winter closure - closed to the general public from 1 October 2006 to 31 March 2007.
Free car parking available
Tel: + 44 (0)1273 292770
Valid from 1 April 2009 to 31 December 2009
To book a school visit please e-mail Museum Education
Tel: (01273) 292770