A Georgian Christmas at Petworth

Visitors admiring the indoor greenery for a Georgian Christmas at Petworth House

This festive season Petworth House celebrates a bygone Christmas that reignites the old traditions of the Georgian era with selected rooms of the House and servants' Quarters dressed for an opulent occasion and a 'below stairs' Christmas scene.

Please note that until 1 January 2019 the only access to Petworth House is for A Georgian Christmas where selected rooms are open to view, decorated for the season. Entry to the house is free flow and there is no need to book. Return from 2 January 2019 for the Royal Academicians display when we will be highlighting aspects of the collection once more.

Bringing the outdoors in, see selected state rooms opulently dressed for a party, and decorated with lashings of garlands, kissing boughs, and mountains of mistletoe and greenery from the Petworth estate.

The experience is brought to life with a personal welcome from one of the servants as you enter Petworth House and make your way through the state rooms to meet the hosts, George O’Brien Wyndham and his wife Elizabeth Ilive.

During this immersive experience, discover an elaborately dressed dining table laid for a banquet.  Dotted with show-stopping centrepieces of foliage, grapes and pineapples, luxuries of the Georgian era, the feast sits beside a grand log-burning fireplace to keep away the crisp winter air.

Take part in parlour games popular at the time and settle down with a game of cards in the Somerset Room. Haven’t booked your pantomime this year? Put on an impromptu performance on the Petworth stage with various scripts on offer or try your hand at puppet theatre, both Georgian pastimes.

The Marble Hall of Petworth turns in to a grand ballroom this Christmas complete with carols and live performances at selected times. Visitors can have a go at composing a masterpiece with instruments available to play. Around the room see the statues collected by the 3rd Earl of Egremont atmospherically lit and play with some traditional children’s gifts lying in wait for the children of the 3rd Earl and Elizabeth Ilive.

In contrast to the grand state rooms, delve ‘below stairs’ in the Servants’ Quarters and discover the lengths the servants have gone to prepare for the occasion in Petworth House. Give the Chef a hand and bring in some good luck for the New Year by stirring the mincemeat, the Chef might even have some tasters available.

It’s Christmas for the servants too, experience traditional music and decorations and see the display of gifts that may have been given to the servants by the 3rd Earl of Egremont.

Step in to the brewery for some Real Ale tasting but steer clear of the Estate Offices where William Tyler, a past House Steward at Petworth will be looking for any overdue rent!

Bringing the whole occasion together are staff and volunteers dressed in Georgian inspired clothing made by the sewing team of Petworth House.

Aside from the projection of William Tyler, you might see a butler, a housemaid or even the 3rd Earl of Egremont and Elizabeth Ilive walking through the state rooms. After you explain to them what photography is, they might even be willing to oblige.

Born in 1751, George O’Brien Wyndham is recognised at Petworth as a great patron of the English landscape artist JMW Turner. Elizabeth Ilive became the 3rd Earl’s mistress in 1785 but it wasn’t until 1801 that they married.

As part of National Trust programme ‘Women and Power’ this Christmas is the final opportunity to explore the exhibition ‘Elizabeth Ilive: A Woman Ahead of Her Time’ and discover more about her scientific pursuits as well as her life as a mistress, mother and countess.