Swanborough Manor Papers

Scope and Content

Working notes from printed sources and archives relating to the history of Swanborough Manor, from the Saxon period to the mid-20th century, and draft chapters. Signed studio portraits of Eleanor Roosevelt and the Marquis of Reading.

Administrative / Biographical History

Swanborough Manor is a house in Iford, East Sussex. The oldest part is dated to about 1200, when it was a grange of the Cluniac Priory of St Pancras, a few miles away in Southover, adjoining the town of Lewes. It served as the administrative centre for the priory's farms in the vicinity. The remainder of the north wing is dated to the 15th century, and the south wing to just before the Dissolution (1537) or, perhaps more likely, just after when it had passed into lay ownership. A major restoration and modernization took place in about 1934. (See W. H. Godfrey, 'Swanborough Manor House', Sussex Archaeological Collections 77 (1936), 1-14.)

In 1951 Swanborough Manor was bought by Stella Isaacs, Marchioness of Reading and Baroness Swanborough (1894-1971). Born Stella Charnaud, from 1925 she worked as secretary to Lady Reading (d. 1930), wife of the Viceroy of India, Rufus Daniel Isaacs, Earl of Reading (1860-1935) - who had already served as Lord Chief Justice and (simultaneously) as British Ambassador to the United States, and was later to be, briefly, Foreign Secretary. After his return to Britain in 1926, she worked also for the Marquis of Reading (as he now was) and became his second wife in 1931. In her own right Stella Reading is best remembered as the person invited in 1938 by the Home Secretary to form what became the Women's (Royal) Voluntary Service and its unchallenged leader throughout World War II and after.

As owner and resident of Swanborough Manor, Lady Reading encouraged or commissioned research on the house and its local context. The person engaged on this task was Miss L. E. F. Cole, of addresses in west London from 1951 to 1958 and then of 114 Malling Street, Lewes, until 1960/61 (membership lists of the Sussex Archaeological Society). The objective was a published book, The Story of Swanborough Manor, but this did not proceed beyond draft chapters. This collection comprises in the main Miss Cole's research notes and drafts.

Lady Reading was an active supporter for the campaign to found, and strong friend of, the University of Sussex. In her lifetime she gifted Swanborough Manor to the University, subject to her residing there. Between 1987 and 1997 it served as the Vice-Chancellor's official residence

Access Information

Items in the collection may be consulted for the purpose of private study and personal research, within the controlled environment and restrictions of The Keep's Special Collections Reading Rooms.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Stella Isaacs, Marchioness of Reading and Baroness Swanborough, 1964


Prepared by John Farrant, August 2002.

Other Finding Aids

An online catalogue is available on The Keep's website.

Conditions Governing Use

COPIES FOR PRIVATE STUDY: Subject to copyright, conditions imposed by owners and protecting the documents, digital copies may be made.

PUBLICATION: A reader wishing to publish material in the collection should contact the Head of Special Collections, in writing. The reader is responsible for obtaining permission to publish from the copyright owner.