An introduction to Petworth

The house and upper pond at Petworth in West Sussex

Inspired by the Baroque palaces of Europe, Petworth House is an extraordinary and surprising ancestral seat created by just one family over 900 years. The 17th-century building you see today comprises grand state rooms which form the centrepiece of your visit. Designed to display the taste, lifestyle and artistic patronage of generations, the state rooms offer an infinity of paintings and sculpture, including major works by Van Dyck, Turner, Reynolds and Gainsborough. A particular highlight is the earliest English globe in existence dating back to 1592 . This remarkable collection reflects a journey of survival and success through the Tudor Reformation, Gunpowder Plot and the Napoleonic Wars. Separate Servants’ Quarters offer a glimpse of life ‘below stairs’, featuring domestic rooms and Historic Kitchen with a 1000 piece copper batterie de cuisine while the 700 acre Capability Brown landscaped deer park offers panoramic views.

In November the North Gallery and Chapel are open on a free flow basis with a new exhibit called 'Petworth's Royal Academicians' that highlights ten of the most important works in the collection created by founders and members of the Royal Academy. The remainder of the House is closed for conservation cleaning but aspects of the Servants' Quarters are still open to enjoy. For a visit to see more of the collection please return in 2019.

 

Petworth House

The building you see today was built in 1682 when heiress, Elizabeth Percy, daughter to the 11th Earl of Northumberland, married Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset.

The state rooms are saturated with internationally important paintings by artists such as Van Dyck, Reynolds, Titian and Blake together with classical and neo-classical sculptures.  Follow in the footsteps of JMW Turner who spent long periods at the mansion under the patronage of the 3rd Earl of Egremont, and whose paintings of Petworth Park can be seen in the Carved Room today.

" The desolation of magnificence, an infinite vista of chambers, passages, and halls opening out of each other apparently peopled only by human forms carved in marble."
- Thomas Hay Sweet Escott, 1700s

The state rooms you see are largely laid out as they were by the 3rd Earl of Egremont (1751-1837) and designed to showcase his fine collection of paintings and sculptures to guests. As state rooms they were never lived in by the family and so inside you won't find domestic furniture arrangments.

The domestic rooms are upstairs and to the south end of the mansion where Lord and Lady Egremont reside. With their kind permission these private rooms are available to view by guided tour but these rooms and the upstairs areas are not open to view on a self led visit to Petworth.

 

Servants' Quarters

The servants’ quarters by contrast to the grandeur of the mansion offer a glimpse of life ‘below stairs’. Imagine the hustle and bustle of servant life in the Historic Kitchens and myriad ancillary rooms. Look out for our costumed interpretation team on select days as they bring history to life.

See a range of rolling temporary exhibitions that feature paintings never before exhibited at Petworth in the exhibition gallery.

Petworth Park

The landscape gives every impression of being totally natural but in reality nothing is further from the truth. The park was transformed in the 1750s and early 1760s by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown stripping away the formal gardens and the long driveway to the front of the mansion to create a serpentine lake framed by rolling hills. To this day Petworth remains a supreme surviving example of Capability Brown's landscape portfolio.

The 700 acre parkland is also home to a herd of over 900 fallow deer, complimenting the idyllic 'natural' style that Capability Brown is lauded for.

Discover the views that inspired Turner as you roam the parkland. Use the free interactive Park Explorer on your smartphone or tablet to uncover further details on the transformation of the landscape including our three year archaeological project.

The Deer Park is also a space where we allow dogs under close supervision.

The Pleasure Grounds

Enclosed within a ha-ha, the 30 acre Pleasure Grounds were designed to inspire a range of emotions as you strolled by the Doric temple, a registered war memorial, and the Ionic Rotunda, with dense shrubbery and trees giving the impression of seclusion for your thoughts before finding a surprising opening to reveal panoramic views.

Rotunda at Petworth

The Petworth Pleasure Ground

The formal gardens of Petworth were stripped away by Capability Brown in the 18th century. In their place he constructed the Deer Park and a seperate Pleasure Ground - a wooded walk with open spaces designed to inspire a range of emotions.

Following Brown's landscaping, the Pleasure Grounds became the approach for visiting guests and demonstrates how proud of the garden the family must have been.

Stay with tradition and amble along the meandering paths admiring the trees and exotic shrubs with one of our downloadable walks.

Please be aware we only allow assistance dogs in to the Pleasure Grounds.