The records about Stanmer village date back to Norman times when it was the property of the Bishopric of Canterbury. It was later owned by the Michelbourne family and in 1701 on the death of the last member of the family, it was bought by the Receiver General of the county. When he died, the village was bought by Henry Pelham about 1713.
The Pelham family, who came from Hertfordshire and were distinguished for their military progress, first earned a knighthood in the 14th, century. Later under Henry VIII, they were granted land at Halland and Laughton, where impressive remains of their houses still stand. However, Stanmer, on the creation of Thomas Pelham as Earl of Chichester became the family's principal seat.
The building of the present house began in 1722, and the original accounts covering its first five years have been preserved.
The architect was Nicholas Dubois, an associate of the First Earl of Burlington, patron of the arts, amateur architect and follower of Andrea Palladio - hence the term ‘Palladian’.
The house, roughly square in plan, had its principal entrance on the north wing, the east side contained the chief rooms, the west side offices and the south was a corridor joining the wings. The house surrounded a small courtyard.
The roof to the entrance facade was the only concession Dubois made to ornament the entrance. The present porch and balustrade are 19th century additions. Dubois was a military architect by training, known for his simplicity of style and Stanmer House is the only complete house he is known to have built. The interior, of the building for which he had little responsibility was far more ornate.
Features of the Entrance Hall are the unusually massive Chimney-piece made of stone, and the architraves of the doors. The walls are in plaster in imitation of wainscoting. The plaster-work is known from the accounts to be by William Wilton of London.
The Staircase, housed in the inner hall, is by Robert Boston, a joiner from Lewes. It was made the subject of a separate contract and cost £35.
Sometime late in the 18th century the wainscoting was removed from the Drawing Room and a fine, Adam-style ceiling was introduced. This has now been restored with colours appropriate to its style and date.
The Dining Room, now the most elaborately treated of any room in the house, dates from after 1727, when the accounts ended. It is, in the style of the followers of Lord Burlington, such as Isaac Ware. A screen of pairs of Corinthian columns, joined at the top with a complete entablature (the superstructure of mouldings and bands which lie horizontally above the columns, resting on their capitals), divides the south end of the room, giving it an impressive dignity. In the frieze of fruit, flowers and scrolled motifs is the buckle of the Pelham’s.
The ceiling is very fine, in the French Rococo style which was widely practised by the 1750's. It is an excellent restoration from the original mouldings.
According to the accounts, there was a chimney-piece in Torbay marble designed by Dubois and made, by Samuel Tufnell of London. This unfortunately has disappeared, having been replaced by one of no special merit.
In 1797, Sir Thomas Pelham, who owned Stanmer for over 70 years and held several important offices of state, was created Earl of Chichester. He died in 1801.
The front elevation of Stanmer House after restoration in 2010.
Stanmer and the Pelham Family continued