The first thing that can be said about St Margaret’s Priory is that it was never a priory. The name was adopted in the 20th century as a fashionable name for an old building.
Parts of the building date from the late 16th century or early 17th century and the dominant feature of the building, the brick tower, dates from this period. The residential part was substantially enlarged in the late 18th century.
The question as to why it was built is a challenging one. Some have suggested that it was built as a lookout tower to spot game in the park, although the practicalities of communicating that information to the hunters is difficult to imagine unless they had developed some kind of semaphore system. More plausible is the theory that it was built at the time of the Spanish Armada invasion as a lookout point. Certainly there is an unimpeded view for miles.
Once built it may have occurred to the third earl that it could be developed as a residence, possibly for one of his officials, or, as has been suggested, a dower house. It was certainly used for the latter purpose during the period that the Delmé family owned the estate.
From the 1620s onwards the house was occupied by a farmer and it was known as St Margaret’s Farm. A document dated 1641 describes it as “a capital messuage (house and associated buildings) and farm called St. Margaret’s, wit a parcel of land enclosed from the great waste of Titchfield (Titchfield Common) and two closes (enclosed fields) called Low Lamber and the Outash.”
It was occupied by tenant farmers until the Delmé family appropriated the building for their own use, and considerably enlarging it in the process.
It was purchased in 1919 by Herbert Hughes-Stanton, who, being of a romantic disposition, added many “Tudor” features to the building. Hughes-Stanton was a respected artists and Royal Academician and one of his sons, Blair Hughes-Stanton, became even better known as an artist.
In recent times the building has been subdivided into three separate properties.