An introduction to Petworth
Home to an extraordinary collection of art, this magnificent 17th century mansion stands as a monument to the evolving taste of one family over 900 years. Rooted in the powerful northern Percy dynasty, their journeys through the Tudor Reformation, the Gunpowder Plot, the Napoleonic Wars and up to the present day are reflected in an astonishing array of treasures that survive at Petworth today. The palatial state rooms offer an infinity of paintings and sculptures, including major works by van Dyck, Turner, Flaxman and Blake. 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.
The palatial mansion that 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."
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.
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.
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 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.
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.