The current building at Preston Manor was built in 1738 by the squire, Thomas Western. He probably acted as his own architect. The entrance porch was added in about 1800.
Preston Manor is listed in the Domesday Book. It belonged to the Bishop of Chichester. The manor covered the parish and a large part of the Hove foreshore.
In 1933, following the death of the last residents, Charles and Ellen Thomas-Stanford, the house was bequeathed to Brighton Council. It's now a country house museum, specialising in the recreation of country home life before the First World War.
Preston Manor was built in the village of Preston, which means ‘Priests Holding’, and it is thought that there was a Monastery on this site in the middle ages. As part of the manorial property, the house belonged to the Bishops of Chichester until 1559 when they were forced to secede the property to the Crown under a new Act of Parliament. The manor was then leased to a series of tenants before Thomas Shirley became the first lay lord in 1628. The Western family inherited the manor in 1705 until 1738. In 1794 it was sold it to William Stanford and Preston manor remained in the family for 138 years. The Stanford’s employed a staff of 17 servants and entertained such eminent house guests as the young daughters of Queen Victoria and Rudyard Kipling. Within the grounds of Preston Manor a pet cemetery can be found where 16 family dogs and 4 cats rest peacefully. The Manor, all contents and grounds were bequeathed to the corporation by Sir Charles and Lady Ellen Thomas Stanford on their deaths in 1932 (Sir Charles and Lady Ellen, were Mayor and Mayoress of Brighton).
Tales of ghostly sightings and supernatural experiences at Preston Manor go back throughout its history. In the late nineteenth centaury the family living in the Manor were so disturbed by unexplainable events including a disembodied hand floating by the four poster bed, petrifying noises and appearances of a White Lady that they hired a Medium to conduct a series of séances. According to papers held on this séance it’s reported that the séance itself was conducted in the Cleves Room in 1896, the spectre was revelled as a nun wrongly expelled from the church in 1535 and buried in un-consecrated ground. Soon after this séance took place a workman discovered a 400 year old skeleton beneath the south entrance. There is also said to be a grey Lady who descends the grand staircase and in the 1960’s it is reported that a friendly ghost was seen playing with a Childs toy tractor.
After Preston Manor became a public museum in the late 1930’s strange happening’s continued in the building and grounds. A grey Lady appeared to firewatchers during the Second World War and in the 1950’s the caretaker’s children frequently saw the ghost of a nun. Modern day staff and visitors also report feeling a variety of unusual sensations including inexplicable scents and sounds, sightings of non-existent visitors, doors locking themselves and lights turning on and off, and the ghostly hand holding onto a doorknob, which all lead to the building retaining an eerie reputation.