The first time a house is known on the site of the present mansion is in 1759, when an unnamed house is shown on Isaac Taylor’s county map. Six years later in 1765 one Charles Braxton, described as ‘of Priestlands’ took up a lease on Little Priestlands. In the description of the boundaries of Little Priestlands it was said to lie ‘against the road leading to Priestlands House’. It is not known how long Braxton lived at Priestlands House, or whether he let it to tenants, but by 1789 a Charles Etty was living there. After his death his executors sold the property to Captain, later Admiral, Peyton in 1800. Admiral Peyton was one of the three local admirals who fought in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and is buried at Milford. He, and then his widow, Susanna Peyton, held the property for a while.

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An early view of Priestlands House.

By 1821-22 the house had come into the hands of John Armstrong. He had been mayor of Lymington in 1818 and seems to have continued to hold the property until it was sold to John Pulteney, lord of the manor of Pennington, in 1834. It was during the period 1759-1834 that the present country house estate was formed. The Pulteneys continued to own Priestlands until after the First World War, when it came into the Blunt family. The Pulteneys do not seem to have lived at Priestlands, having extensive estates elsewhere in the area. They let the property to a succession of tenants. These included Lady Frazer (1827), Colonel Edward D’Arcy (c1842-45), the Earl of Norbury (1851), Mrs Sophia Thornton (c1854-60), and Captain Frederick Ellis (c1867-91).

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John Whitlock haymaking on the Priestlands Estate. LMGLM:2001.35.6

After the Second World War the Blunts sold Priestlands to the County Council and it briefly became Pennington Infants School. Shortly after it was converted to a Teachers Training Centre and renamed the Gurney Dixon Centre. The County Secondary School for Lymington was built between 1955 and 1957 in the grounds of the estate. In 1970 the school became a comprehensive and new buildings were added (since 1957 their lessons had been split between Lymington and Brockenhurst). Following the closure of the Gurney-Dixon Centre in 1993 the house was renovated and incorporated into the main school.

The gallery below contains more information about the estate and the people who called it home.

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