Capability Brown's Pleasure Grounds

Walking trail

Take a stroll around the Pleasure Grounds on this Capability Brown inspired walk featuring the iconic monuments he introduced.

Capability Brown at Petworth

The Pleasure Grounds at Petworth were laid out in the 16th century and re-developed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in the latter half of the 18th century. He suggested sites for the Doric Temple and Ionic Rotunda to give impressive views both to and from the structures, introduced a ha-ha between the Pleasure Grounds and in the Park designed sinuous paths from the mansion and around the grounds.

The rotunda built in 1766, and daffodils in the park at Petworth House, West Sussex


Pleasure Grounds Trail OS Map


Petworth House & Park, main visitor car park, GU28 9LR


From the car park walk through the Visitor Centre. Above you on the hill is the Ionic Rotunda placed by Capability Brown to evoke the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli. The temple stands above the meadow, formerly a paddock. Several of the trees in the meadow would have been available to Brown. Walk to your right along the path towards a set of gates before turning left onto a grass path between some thorn trees. The path climbs across the wild flower meadow.

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Rotunda at Petworth


To your right as you cross the meadow is a wonderful specimen of the South European flowering ash. This spreading tree has showy panicles of fragrant creamy-white flowers. It was introduced from southern Europe and Asia Minor in 1700. Turn right at the top of the meadow below a bank of azaleas and follow the path to the Pleasure Grounds wall. Serpentine paths like this one designed to give views across the meadow, were one of Brown’s trademarks were to create a more naturalistic feel.

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pink azalea


Looking north over the wall you can see a wonderful rolling parkland landscape with a large pond which is fed via covered culverts from springs on the surrounding hills. In the distance is Black Down the highest point in Sussex at 280m. Turn around and retrace your steps to the top of the meadow and then continue on the path climbing the slight rise towards the Ionic Rotunda.

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Petworth Park looking north towards Black Down


The Ionic Rotunda was erected around 1765 on the site suggested by Capability Brown’s 1752 plan. He positioned it on the steep hillside to give commanding views over meadow below and the surrounding pastoral countryside to the east. Looking south east there is an open ride flanked by young lime trees and Irish yews, which evokes the former birchen walks. Walk south along the track re-joining the Salvin Drive and then proceed west towards the house.

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Rotunda with freshly cut grass in the Pleasure Grounds


Approaching the Doric Temple you will see that to the north it is surrounded by a planting of holm oak (quercus ilex). Records show of Brown purchasing several of these oaks which are native to the Mediterranean. They make magnificent large mature trees which augment the landscape and being evergreen add to the winter garden. Brown sited the Doric Temple to take advantage of the view across the Shimmings valley. In the late 18th century, after Brown’s commission ceased, the Goanah Lodges were built as the focal point to this view. Continue along the Salvin Drive into the courtyard.

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Temple with close up of buttercups


Capability Brown although more conservative than most of his contemporaries did incorporate several flowering and scented plants including roses. Planted in the bed around the North Gallery is the White Rose of York. Pause for a moment at the two urns that were acquired by the 3rd Earl in late 18th or early 19th century. The courtyard which separates the Servants Quarters and the mansion has several examples of magnolia grandiflora, they were introduced from North America in 1734 and brought a very exotic flower to Britain. It is evergreen with rusty-brown indumentum under the leaves, large creamy, fragrant flowers are produced in late summer and autumn. If you need refreshment a café and restaurant can be found within the Servants' Quarters.

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Urn in Pleasure Grounds at Petworth


Retrace your steps taking you back to the car park taking the pedestrian track where the drive curves to the left. To the right of the path Brown designed a continuous planting with the trees as the backdrop and shrubs in the foreground many of which were chosen for flower or scent. These hide the town and road, thus making the Pleasure Grounds seem more secluded. To the left of the path you will see two ancient lime trees, which are covered in mistletoe. Brown used native trees such as these limes to create structure in his plantings.


Return to the visitor car park

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Capability Brown's Pleasure Grounds

How to get here

Petworth House & Park Car Park London Road Petworth GU28 9LR
By road

Car park is located on A283; Follow signs from centre of Petworth (A272/A283)

The house car park is 700 yards from the house, courtesy car providing lifts to house is available, please ask at reception. Parking charge for non-members, £4 house car park, £3 park car park. NT Members, Free.

SatNav: Use GU28 9LR

Capability Brown's Pleasure Grounds

Facilities and access

  • Car Park
  • Lavatories
  • Audit Room Cafe