Prior to the Pelham Family ownership, the Michelborne family owned Stanmer House and park. By the time John Michelborne’s descendant Edward died in 1700, the Estate had expanded to include most of the dwellings and a Manor Farm. His sisters Bridget and Sybil sold it to Peter Gott, who then lived in the house until 1712, when it passed to his son Samuel.
In 1713, Henry Pelham of Lewes bought Stanmer Estate for £7,500. He died in 1721 and his eldest son Henry then appointed French architect Nicolas Dubois to design a new house in the fashionable Palladian style. With the old Manor demolished, work began on the new house in 1722, using sandstone quarried in the Weald.
In 1725, the Estate was inherited by Henry’s younger brother, Thomas Pelham – who had lived as a Merchant in Constantinople. Work on the house was finally completed in 1727.
In 1775 the Pelham family also acquired Falmer Manor, and the two estates were combined – later to become known as the Chichester Estate in 1801, when the Lord of the Manor received the title of Earl of Chichester. The first Earl was Thomas Pelham, and his Countess was Anne. The Pelham family continued to live in Stanmer House until the death of the 8th Earl, John Buxton, who was killed in World War II.
THE PELHAM FAMILY
1713 – 1721 Henry Pelham of Lewes
1721 – 1725 Henry Pelham
1725 – 1737 Thomas Pelham
1737 – 1805 Thomas Pelham 1st Earl of Chichester (From 1801)
1805 – 1826 Thomas Pelham 2nd Earl of Chichester
1826 – 1886 Henry Thomas 3rd Earl of Chichester
1886 – 1892 Walter John 4th Earl of Chichester
1892 – 1926 Jocelyn Brudenell 6th Earl of Chichester
1926 – 1926 Francis Godolphin 7th Earl of Chichester (he outlived his father by just 9 days)
1926 – 1944 John Buxton 8th Earl of Chichester
1944 – John Nicholas 9th Earl of Chichester (the current Earl of Chichester)
In 1942 Stanmer was requisitioned by the War Office for the Canadian Tank Regiment, to provide billets and live firing ranges. Until then, the buildings and grounds were in good condition, but the military occupation changed this, with extensive damage being caused to the main house and woodland areas.
In 1947 Stanmer was purchased by Brighton Corporation for £225,000 as the Pelham’s were badly hit by Inheritance tax, the Corporation bought it to protect the water supplies to the City, prevent urban spread and protect the land for the people of Brighton and Hove.
This brought to an end over 230 years of ownership by the Pelham family and so began a new era for the house, as a public rather than private country house. Major renovations in 2006 ensured the building can still be enjoyed 365 days a year. We celebrate our Tercentenary in 2022.