Stanmer House

After many years of neglect, Brighton’s most elegant manor house has reopened following a thorough and sympathetic restoration programme.

Stanmer House is hidden by an awkward junction on the Lewes Road, guarded by a pair of intimidating gatehouses, shielded by a natural bulge in the landscape and tucked away at the end of a long driveway. Perhaps it’s not surprising then that it has sat forgotten for the past sixty years! Until now that is…

The Anglo-Saxon words ‘staen’ and ‘mere’ together mean ‘pool of stones’ which, in this case, refers to the circle of stones next to Stanmer Church – hence the name ‘Stanmer’. The nucleus of the estate was purchased by Henry Pelham of Lewes in 1713 and enlarged by successive generations of his family who gradually bought up the surrounding farmland. The estate was used by the military during the Second World War and then purchased by Brighton Corporation in 1947 for £225,000 less a claim for damage.

Stanmer House itself is Grade I Listed, its stables are Grade II* and many of the other buildings on the estate are Grade II. The House was designed in 1721 for Pelham’s son, also called Henry, in the Palladian style by the French architect, Nicholas Dubois. It was originally built with seven bays and a pediment across the projected central three. The eighth bay was added in 1860, leaving the building unsymmetrical (remove it!), in a matching golden sandstone. The cornice and rusticated porch were added later also.

The interior of Stanmer House is at least as impressive as the exterior and it is here that most of the recent work has taken place. The building’s current owner, the unstoppable Mike Holland, spared no expense during his ambitious restoration project. Stanmer’s spacious rooms are now an absolute delight to experience especially now that the plaster ceilings have been returned to their former glory. The grand staircase, fine panelling, solid floors, imposing fireplaces really deserve an article all of their own.

Stanmer’s launch party in June was a fantastic event with entertainment provided by David Van Day, Terry Garoghan, the Drifters and the Cheeky Girls! Stanmer House is now fully up and running and open for weddings and corporate functions (see www.stanmerhouse.co.uk for details). Mike and his team have done an absolutely fantastic job but don’t just take my word for it – go and see for yourselves one hot summer weekend.