Preston Manor is located in Preston, Sussex in England.
During the Domesday survey of 1086 it is believed that Preston had a manor house with a simple timber-framed structure but no trace of it exists today. In the survey the manor was valued at £25 with its own church, 12 ploughs, 8 oxen and an unspecified type of mill. It belonged to the Bishopric of Chichester.
A 13th century structure was built in stone and consisted of two rooms. After the dissolution os the monasteries the manor house became the possession of the Crown. In 1561 the Elrington family became tenants of the manor and when Richard Elrington died in 1569 he left the property to his widow, who then left it to her named Anthony from her privies marriage to William Shirley.
Anthony went on to get married and have 12 children. Anthony’s wife died 1 year before himself and when he passed on, the manor was left to their son, Thomas.
During the 1600′s Thomas made the first significant structural changes to the property with moulded entrance doors. A marble chimney breast, walled garden and a staircase and 1st floor were also added around this time.
In 1654 Thomas’s grandson named Anthony inherited the estate. As a member of parliament for Arundel, Anthony gained the favour od King Charles 2nd and in 1666 became a Baronet.
In 1683 Anthony died and his son, Sir Richard inherited the estate. When Richard died, his son also named Richard inherited the estate and died unmarried in 1705. Richards 3 sisters, Anne, Mary and Judith all jointly inherited the property. In 1711 Judith died unmarried and her portion of the property was shared between the 2 remaining sisters.
In 1712, Thomas Western Purchased Anne’s share of the property for £6’275. Soon after, the Western family were in full possession of the manor. Thomas was succeeded by his son, also named Thomas in 1733. in 1738 Thomas built the manor we can still see standing today use ding the 13th century structure as the core of the new building. When Thomas died, his 2 sons, Charles and Thomas inherited the property. Thomas, who was a Reverend, decided to swap his share of the estate for land in Essex, his brother Charles married a lady named Frances who was the daughter of a Colonial Agent in the American Colonies. Charles was tragically killed not long after they got married when his horse stumbled. Frances was so distraught she gathered their children, moved to Essex and never returned to the manor.
William Stanford bought the manor along with it’s 1000 acres of land in 1794 for £17’600. William had been brought up with his wealthy farming family in Sussex. The interior of the manor was redecorated and a columned screen was installed into the enhance hall. William married a lady named Elizabeth Avery who bore William two children. Both infants died in 1790. Anne died the following year.
In 1802 William married again to a lady named Mary Tourle of Lewes. Together they had seven children. William became the high sheriff of Sussex in 1808. By the time of Williams death in 1841 he was considered one of the richest private individuals in the country. Williams eldest son, also named William, inherited the manor and its lands. He lived there and continued farming the lands. The following year William married a young lady named Eleanor Montague Morris who was the daughter of a London solicitor. William and Eleanor’s first child was a boy. Unfortunately the baby died aged just five months old. In 1848 their second baby, a girl, was born. They named her Ellen. When William died in 1853 Ellen became the heir to the Stanford Estate.
Eleanor remarried the following year to Captain George Varnham Macdonald and together they had three daughters. Flora being the first born in 1857 followed by twins in 1866, Diana and Christiana who was more well known as lily. In 1867 Ellen married Vere Fane Benett of Pythouse and lived in Pythouse for their married life along with their son, John Montague Benett-Stanford who was born in 1870. Growing up, John became known for his erratic and eccentric behaviour. He worked on the railways after graduating from Eton and then eventually joined the army.
In 1981 trustees of the Stanford Estates were persuaded by Vere to purchase his family’s Pythouse and Wiltshire estates. Vere and Ellen bought a property in Madeira and a yacht with the profits made from selling the estates. Vere died in Madeira in 1894. Following the death of her husband, Ellen spent her time between London, Wiltshire, Brighton and Madeira. Ellen met a bachelor Charles Thomas in Madeira in 1896. They were married in 1897 and went to live at Pythouse. Charles owned a house in Norway where the couple spent most of their summers. Their winters were spent in a holiday home in Madeira which the couple purchased in 1902.
Eleanor died in 1903 and Ellen and Charles made preston manor their home in 1905. Alterations were made to the manor and its grounds by Charles Stanley Peach who was a close friend of the Stanford’s. The building was extended to make a dinning room and rooms for guests. A verandah was built to the right hand side of the entrance (five years later a verandah was built on the left hand side of the entrance to match the other side.). A porch area was added onto the rear of the building. The attic was converted, creating more rooms.
Charles became the Mayor of Brighton in 1910 and until 1913. The following year in 1914 Charles became a conservative member of parliament until 1922.
In 1925 Charles wrote it into his will that Ellen and himself wished Preston Manor to be passed onto the Brighton Corporation by deed of gift on the condition that the manor would be preserved as it was in its historic condition and that it would be open to the public as a museum. After both Charles and Ellen had died, the Brighton Corporation purchased the frontage to Preston Road and Preston Drove for £5000.
In recognition of his years of service to the public, Charles was made a Baronet and Ellen, a Lady. Both Charles and Ellen died in 1932 just eight months apart. Charles being the first to die in March followed by Ellen in November. The Brighton Corporation became fully responsible for the manor and its contents in January of 1933. As requested in Charles’ will the manor was opened to the public as a museum with artefacts relevant to Brighton and Sussex. Henry Roberts became the curator of the manor and he took up residence in the west wing of the manor with his wife and family.
In 1936 the corporation had the stables, lodge and gardeners cottage demolished to lay out grass and shrubs on the land. Sir Charles’ library became known as the Macquoid Room after a macquoid bequest was installed into the room in 1939. Preston Manor became an air raid precaution report centre, control centre and a base for a mobile First Aid post during the second world war.
The Mayor of Brighton invited Princess Elizabeth to tea at Preston Manor in 1945. This was the Princesses first public occasion.
When Christiana (Lily) died in 1947 the Mayor closed the manor from the public on the day of her funeral as a mark of respect. Henry Roberts died shortly afterwards in 1951 and his daughter Margery became the Honorary Curator of the Manor right up until 1970.
Money from the Heritage Lottery Fund provided the money for the walled garden to be restored in the 1990′s.
Today Preston Manor is owned by Brighton & Hove City Council and administered as part of the Royal Pavilion, Museums and Libraries department.
Reported Paranormal Activity
Preston Manor has been described by some as one of the most haunted houses in Britain.
Reported ghostly sightings include a woman dressed in grey, an excommunicated Nun with blonde hair, a disembodied hand and the ghost of a child riding a toy tractor.