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.
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.