Sir Harry Preston

Notes and queries: Any information please?

"My great uncle Harry Preston lived in Brighton in the early 1900s. He owned the Royal Albion and Royal York Hotels. He was well known as a sportsman and sponsored the Grand Aerial Race in 1911. We know he died at the Royal Albion on 13/8/1936 but have no idea where he was buried, or if he had children. We would be most grateful if someone could look up the local paper around that date to see if there is a death notice giving place of burial or even an obituary mentioning a possible family. We would be happy to pay any costs involved. Your website is excellent, we were interested to read so much local history about Brighton. Keep on the good work! (Tony Preston, Christchurch, N.Zealand, 04-11-03)

Response:Jack Latimer and Sue Craig, My Brighton and Hove volunteers, 06-11-03

Dear Tony, thanks for sending a message to the My Brighton and Hove website. As it happens, myself and another volunteer (Sue) were in the local studies library the day after your request came through, so we had a chance to do some research.

An extremely important man
As you know, Harry Preston was an extremely important man in Brighton, and there were four columns devoted to a tribute to him in the Brighton and Hove Herald of Saturday Aug 15th 1936. The Herald says that: 'Within a quarter of an hour of Sir Harry's death, the sad event was broadcast by the BBC in the first news on Thursday, and in the second news there was a notable tribute'.

Buried in Cuckfield
Where was he buried? According to the Herald: 'Sir Harry will be laid to rest in a quiet spot close to his beloved country residence Apple Tree Cottage, Ansty. He is, in accordance with his expressed wish, to be buried in the churchyard at Cuckfield." (Cuckfield is a nearby village.) The interment was scheduled to take place on Tuesday afternoon, the 18th.

Surviving family
Any surviving family? The Herald mentions the following people: 'Lady Preston, her sister, Miss Beatrice Collings, and Sir Harry Preston's daughters, Mrs Willard and Miss Nancy Preston and other near relatives were present when he passed peacefully away.'

We also found a photo in the paper (from another date) of Sir Harry at the Royal Albion. Hope that helps! We're always collecting material for the website, so if you have any information, memories or photos about Sir Harry that you think would be of general interest to visitors to the website, please let us publish them! (Jack Latimer and Sue Craig, My Brighton and Hove volunteers, 06-11-03)

This page was added on 22/03/2006.
Comments about this page
Re query from Tony Preston of Christchurch, New Zealand on 04/11/03, which I have only just become aware of: If he would like to contact me by email I can give him some information about Harry Preston which may be of help in his search for surviving family.
By Ron Woodlands (17/07/2004)
I am very interested in finding out more about Sir Harry Preston's surviving family. My husband's grandfather's name was John Preston, his parents passed away when he was very young and he was brought up by his sister. So we are unable to trace our family tree any further than that time. He was brought up living in Chichester, West Sussex. We will be very interested to find out more and to see if there is a connection. Please email me. Many thanks.
By Helen Preston (29/09/2004)
Ron Woodlands comments (17.7.04) that he can give me further information on my great uncle, Sir Harry Preston: I should be very happy to hear from him. Do you have his e-mail? Thanks.
By Tony Preston (24/10/2004)
Sir Harry Preston's daughter Ethel Maude Preston married Victor Railton Willard at the Chapel Royal, Brighton in 1914. Victor's father was Richard Willard, a Master Tailor in Brighton. Any information on descendants of the marriage or of the Willard family would be appreciated. My e-mail is if Helen Preston and Ron Woodlands wish to contact me.
By Tony Preston (25/10/2004)
Sir Harry Preston is, indeed, buried in Cuckfield Churchyard. His grave, with its impressive granite monument, is very easy to find. The easiest way is not through the main entrance by the church, but to take the A272 towards Haywards Heath. On the right hand side, you will see Courtmead Road. Go down to the end of Courtmead Road and walk through the gate there past some allotments and into the churchyard. The first grave you will see is the Burridge family. Immediately behind that grave, is Sir Harry's grave. Margaret Burridge's husband (John) knew a lot about Sir Harry and told me that he was buried standing up so that he could face his beloved South Downs and Brighton. I hope this helps.
By Sigrid Burridge (18/10/2005)
I was interested in Sigrid Burridge's letter 18/10/05 describing Sir Harry's grave. I have been trying to find out if his widow, Edith Ellen (nee Collings), was also buried there at a later date and if there is any inscription on the headstone or kerb about her. She was my great aunt.
By Tony Preston (25/03/2006)

I was brought up in Brighton in the 1940`s and 50`s and have always known of Sir Harry Preston from my mother who had a very high regard for him and his love of my home town. My wife and I moved to Cuckfield 2+ years ago, close to the churchyard and often walk through the churchyard. Sometime ago I spotted this large granite headstone and read on it Sir Harry`s name. I have tried since to establish if it was the same person I had been told so much about as a child. Today I found your website and the mystery is solved.

By Richard Constable (02/12/2007)

I have just been around to Sir Harry`s grave to see if there is any reference to his wife being buried there. Nothing appears on the headstone or surround. If Tony Preston would like to give me his E-mail address I will send him a photograph of the grave etc.that I have just taken.

By Richard Constable (02/12/2007)

I have a book written by Sir Harry Preston naming my great grandfather, Sir John Blaker, as the man that loaned him the money to buy the Royal Albion Hotel.  The book is called 'Leaves from my Unwritten Diary' by Sir Harry Preston. If you need more info contact me at

By Ann Blaker (18/03/2008)

Sir Harry Preston was a great benefactor to Amateur Boxing within the education system. In 1919 he donated two solid silver Challenge Trophies, plus individual weight cups, to be competed for by pupils from schools, and students from Universities, in the United Kingdom. I'd be most interested to trace any of his living descendants.

By Simon Kemp (02/11/2008)

In the late 1920s/early 30s, my grand-father,Lionel Williams, used to be a regular and a member of The Button Up Club at the Royal Albion. When my father, Bill Williams, came down to visit his parents at weekends, they would both be in the bar with their buttons firmly in their pockets, in case they got caught out. Another haunt of theirs, was at the boxing matches put on at the Dome by Sir Harry Preston.

By Pat Constable (02/01/2010)

I have become interested in Sir Harry recently and wondered if anyone has any information on his first marriage? Who was it with? Did they have any children?

By Elizabeth Saxby (13/03/2011)

Elizabeth, Sir Harry Preston was my great uncle and I have researched his family. Please contact me at for more info.

By Tony Preston (20/03/2011)

My grandfather's photo (boxer) hung in the Royal Albion Hotel, his name was Harry Paul Pat Boswell and he was one of the boxers promoted by Sir Harry. Has anyone any information on the fights he promoted? The photo may survive somewhere?

By Pat Boswell (04/03/2012)

Sir Harry was my great uncle too (my grandmother, Mabel Crouch, was Edith's sister). We have a copy of Sir Harry's memoirs here and my father used to tell many stories about him. Were you aware that if you Google him, there is some Pathe News footage of him up on the web?

By Francis Crouch (12/04/2012)

I am trying to contact anyone with a book by or belonging to Sir Harry J Preston that may have an ex-libris stamp inside as I have an actual printing block that was possibly a personal item of his. I'd like to match the block with the printed stamp.

By Malcolm Hollingdale (21/01/2018)

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