The twins behind the riddles at Preston Manor

This summer we’re launching a new children’s trail at Preston Manor. It’s based on the lives of Lily and Diana MacDonald, who grew up in the manor during Victorian times.

Photo of two children peering from the side of a door
Courtesy Simon Dack

Their home-schooling is the starting point of the trail, where pet dog Little Jim sets the scene. Wondering about the wider world, but confined to their schoolroom, Jim encourages the girls to explore their own house instead. Using rhymes, riddles, playthings and clues visitors can join Lily, Diana and Jim as they move through Preston Manor, having fun along the way.

Photo of children examining bells at a table
Courtesy Simon Dack

The Riddle Trail was designed by Preston Manor staff to entertain children as well as to introduce them to the house and its previous occupants. But what do we know about the real twins who inspired the trail?

Lily & Diana MacDonald

B&W photo of two young twin sisters
Diana and Christiana (Lily) Macdonald 1887

The twins were born in 1866, and were younger half-sisters to Ellen Thomas-Stanford, the heir to Preston Manor.

The sisters lived a comfortable upper-class life in the manor, and seem to have particularly enjoyed the company of their dogs, such as Tatters.

They also seem to have spent time with less welcome companions: both saw the ghosts that are reputed to haunt the manor, including the infamous ‘White Lady’.

They also spent time on arts and crafts. The watercolour below was painted by Lily MacDonald in her late teens.

Watercolour showing lawn in front of a church
The Church by the Lawns, Lily MacDonald, 1884
Photo of children crouching by a fireplace
Courtesy Simon Dack

You can read more about the mysterious Lily MacDonald in this post by Paula Wrightson.

The Trail

The trail will be a fun new way for families to explore the manor. You can learn more on the Preston Manor web pages, or download the trail before you visit.



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