Home of an Edwardian gentry family

Home of a gentry family

Preston Manor is generally accepted as being one of the most important examples of the home of a gentry family at the turn of the last century. Ellen and Charles Thomas-Stanford moved into the manor in 1905, and they quickly modernised the house to ensure that it represented their lifestyle and position in society.

Interior decoration

The richly decorated and furnished drawing room, the province of the lady of the house, was eminently suitable to welcome visitors to the house. While the Thomas-Stanfords were in residence, these visitors included aristocrats and members of the Royal Family. By contrast the dining room, essentially the province of  gentleman of the house, has classical lines illustrating his education and good taste.

Upstairs and downstairs

To maintain their household the Thomas-Stanfords employed a large number of servants. These fell into two separate groups; those who looked after ‘upstairs’ and those who work was centred around ‘downstairs’ duties. It is likely that some of the downstairs staff never even saw the upstairs rooms, or their employers. Of course after WWI and the social upheaval it represented, the family were forced to run their establishment with less domestic help. 

Bequeathed by the Thomas-Stanfords

Ellen and Charles lived at Preston Manor until their deaths in 1932; Charles died in March and Ellen in November. Fearing that their only son would either demolish the house, or turn it into a girls’ school, the Thomas-Stanfords bequeathed the house and its contents to Brighton Corporation. The gift was conditional in that that it required the house to be preserved in its historic condition, and be used as a museum with exhibits relevant to Brighton and Sussex.

Preston Manor is open to the public from April to September; you can read the details here.

Comments about this page

  • I love this beautiful house. Have been dozens of times. Children when younger often came with us. Just beautiful.

    By Jennifer Tonks (24/05/2012)
  • The Preston Manor grounds and churchyard used to be home to a large number of squirrels, which my daughter delighted in feeding as a little girl (now she’s 40!). There were in the early 1970s some elderly ladies (sisters?) who used to feed the squirrels with peanuts from their hands and give them containers of water (recycled margarine tubs). They seemed to know all the different creatures even down to identifying siblings and family contacts! Gently eccentric and quite charming.

    By Geoffrey Mead (25/05/2012)
  • Now that is a real “upstairs / downstairs” the like of which will probably never be seen again. However, I would like to know what Mr. Thomas-Stanford’s occupation was.

    Editor’s note: Mr Thomas-Stanford did not have an occupation John. He occupied himself with study and research, pursuing his interests in archaeology and history. Between 1903 and 1912 he published five books inspired by his homes and travels. He was elected Mayor of Brighton in 1910, a position he held until 1913, and so began many years of public and civic duty. Jennifer

    By John Wall VK2 (26/05/2012)

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