The Pleasure Garden at Petworth
The garden at Petworth was designed by ‘Capability’ Brown (c.1715-16 - 1783) during the latter half of the 18th century. Brown removed the formal features that previously existed here and introduced serpentine paths as well as informal planting.
Summer in the garden
Summer is a vibrant time of year in the garden, as the grounds come alive with colour. The eye-catching handkerchief tree flowers in June, followed by blooming roses and dahlias in the formal borders. The woodland path around the garden is wrapped in the fresh green grown of deciduous trees as birds flit about the branches – keep an eye out for nuthatches, song thrushes, great spotted woodpeckers and even a sparrowhawk if you are lucky. The area is abundant with flowering meadows at this time of year too, with swathes of white petalled oxeye daisies, along with common spotted orchids, yellow rattle, meadow buttercups and speedwells.
Finding your way around
The Pleasure Garden is situated between the Petworth House car park and the house itself. Open from 10am to 5pm in the summer and closing at 4pm in the winter, you can stroll through the Pleasure Garden at your leisure, taking in the informal planting and enjoying the views and vistas to the landscape beyond.
From the Pleasure Garden you can explore the monuments introduced by Capability Brown or make your way through the iron Tijou Gate beside the house and enter the Deer Park. Do make sure on your travels to take note of the closing time of the Tijou Gate if you've parked in the main visitor car park for Petworth House, these gates are the only way back to the main car park.
What are Pleasure Grounds?
The garden here was historically known as the Pleasure Ground. This was a popular type of Georgian garden where the family and their guests could walk privately or socialise, perhaps over tea or a game of croquet. During this period, plant collecting in the Americas was becoming popular and Pleasure Grounds became areas to showcase these new and exciting plants. Not only a patron of the arts, the 3rd Earl of Egremont here at Petworth was a patron of plant collectors and he used the Pleasure Garden here to display his collection of North American trees and shrubs. Though informal in design, Petworth’s Pleasure Garden was immaculately presented and the intriguing specimens were given prominent positions within the landscape.
Pleasure Grounds were designed to instill a variety of emotions in those who walked within them. Brown’s design for the planting at Petworth was theatrical, with rising tiers of plants, enclosed spaces full of scent, and areas of extended viewpoint.
In part due to the changes Capability Brown introduced, since 1743 guests would have entered Petworth House through the courtyard on the opposite side of the house. As you make your way through the Pleasure Garden to the courtyard, visitors can enter Petworth House this way just as guests, like JMW Turner would have done.
You can read more about Capability Brown here.
If you are a National Trust member or have paid entry to the house and gardens you are very welcome to walk your dog in the Pleasure Garden. We kindly ask that dogs are kept on a short lead at all times and walkers keep to the hard or gravel paths. There is a maximum of two dogs per adult in the Pleasure Garden.
You can find more about dog walking in the Pleasure Garden and offlead walking in the Deer Park below.