Murder in the Manor is a work of fiction. Preston Manor was never owned by the Frankson-Yews, and no murder ever took place there.

But Preston Manor is a real house, and the eight rooms that you can explore on this website, and the objects that inspired the writers, can all be seen by visitors today.


History

Preston Manor was the home of Ellen and Charles Thomas-Stanford, who left the house to the Brighton Corporation, the local council of its day, when they died in 1932. Ellen came from a family of wealthy landowners, and her grandfather had purchased the manor in 1794.

Although parts of Preston Manor date back to the thirteenth century, the building that survives today reflects the remodelling that was commissioned by the Stanfords in 1905. A new servants’ wing and dining room were added, and this allowed the house to accommodate more visitors and become a place for socialising. It typified the workings of the grand Edwardian house. Visitors to the house would be entertained in the luxurious drawing room and dining room, but would be largely unaware of the downstairs areas in which hard-working servants provided for their needs.

Socialising was important to the Stanfords, as they were prominent people in local society. Ellen had inherited large areas of land in Brighton and Hove, which she gradually sold from the 1870s onwards. Formerly used for agricultural purposes, her estates were developed into housing to accommodate the rapid growth of Brighton at this time.

Charles, Ellen’s second husband, had made his fortune from business interests in Africa, but his marriage to Ellen in 1897 led him to settle in England. He became a keen archaeologist and historian, and a popular local politician. He served as Mayor of Brighton from 1910-1913, and as Member of Parliament for Brighton from 1914-1922.

Murder in the Manor is probably not something the Stanfords would have expected when they left the house to Brighton. Would they have approved? Perhaps. Ellen was a keen and accomplished photographer, and she may well have appreciated the panoramic shots made possible by modern technology. Charles may have enjoyed the creative writing. An author of several books, in 1912 he wrote a novel entitled Ace of Hearts, a thriller set in Madeira, the island where he and Ellen first met.

You can learn more about the history of Preston Manor at the Royal Pavilion and Museums website and blog.


Visiting the manor

Preston Manor is open to the public from 1 April to 30 September. Details of opening hours and admission charges can be found on the Royal Pavilion and Museums website.

If you’re thinking of coming to see the manor, try solving the Murder in the Manor first. Catching the culprit may provide an extra incentive to visit…