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The history of Petworth town

Petworth town seen from the roof of Petworth House in West Sussex, in misty sunlight.
Petworth town seen from the roof of Petworth House | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

The historic market town of Petworth lies just outside the gates of Petworth House and Park and is a great place to visit alongside the estate. The history of the town is closely linked with that of the Petworth estate.

Petworth town and the Petworth estate

The Petworth estate owned land 360 degrees around the town. Farming and the use of the land was dominated by the estate, with many of the farms having tenant farmers.

Lots of houses in the town were owned by the estate and were lived in by those who worked there. They all had mid-brown doors which showed they were estate cottages.

Whilst many of the houses were owned by the estate, very few of the shops or business premises were.

Discover historic Petworth town

Find out more about the history of the town through some of the remaining heritage sites. Each of these historic places is linked to Petworth House through their shared history.

Mrs Cummings's cottage
Mrs Cummings was a seamstress at Petworth House and lived in her cottage in the town from 1901 to 1930. Now a museum, the cottage is furnished as it would have been in 1910.Explore the cottage
Just to the south of the town is Coultershaw, the former site of a turnpike and corn mill. In 1782 a beam pump was built here to provide water to Petworth House and the town and was in operation until around 1960. Although the last building was demolished in 1974, you can still see evidence of the old canal and associated warehouse.Discover Coultershaw
St Mary's church
Close to the Servants' Quarters to the east of Petworth House, the church once proudly boasted a spire – originally a wood and lead structure that twisted and resulted in the local rhyme 'Proud Petworth, Poor People, High Church, Crooked Steeple'. There is a close relationship between Petworth House and the church, with the Wyndham family worshipping at St Mary's where they have their own private balcony. This can be seen opposite the organ, above the nave.Visit St Mary's
Other local churches
Petworth also has the Catholic Sacred Heart Church that was built in 1896, one of the earliest Congregational Churches, built in 1740 (now the United Reformed Church) and a Strict Baptist Chapel (now a private residence). The employees at Petworth House would have been expected to attend church every Sunday, but not all would be seen at St Mary's.Petworth's Catholic churches
Burton Mill
A mill is mentioned in the Domesday book as part of Burton Manor and it’s believed that this was located to the south of the house, under what is now Burton Mill Pond. By 1893 the present mill included two waterwheels and four pairs of stones. Soon after, one waterwheel was replaced by an early turbine that drove a dynamo and provided power to Burton Park House.Explore the mill
St. Mary's Church in Petworth, seen from the roof of the house at Petworth House and Park, West Sussex.

Virtual Petworth

The Petworth Heritage Partnership has created a 'Virtual Experience' where you can discover the intriguing stories behind these historic locations, including Petworth House. Click here to start your virtual visit.

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