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The Pleasure Garden at Petworth House

Looking up the slope to Brettingham's rotunda, in the Pleasure Ground at Petworth House, West Sussex
Looking up the slope to Brettingham's rotunda, in the Pleasure Ground at Petworth | © National Trust Images/David Sellman

The garden at Petworth House was designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown during the 18th century. Brown removed the formal features that had previously existed here and introduced colourful informal planting, winding paths and impressive monuments with views over the surrounding landscape. Open all year round, you're welcome to bring your dog to enjoy the garden with you.

Finding your way

The Pleasure Garden lies between the car park and the house. As you make your way through the garden to the courtyard you can enter the house just as guests of the past would have done.

Once you have explored the garden at your leisure you can enter the Deer Park through the iron Tijou Gate beside the house. Please take note of the closing time of the gate if you've parked in the main visitor car park for Petworth House, as these gates are the only way back.

The Ionic Rotunda

Constructed in 1766 at the suggestion of Brown, the Rotunda is similar in style to the Temple of Vesta in Trivoli, Italy. When seen from below, the Rotunda symbolises the difficult and steep path to fame. Designed as one of the two focal points in the Pleasure Garden, it offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

The Doric Temple

The temple was relocated from the Deer Park to the garden by Brown in the 1750s before being moved to its current location in 1875. Based on the Doric temples of Greece it is designed to evoke dignity, nobility and antiquity. Today it houses a memorial to Henry Scawen Wyndham (1915-1942), who died in action at El Alamein during the Second World War.

The rotunda in the grounds at Petworth House, West Sussex
The rotunda in the grounds at Petworth | © National Trust Images/David Levenson

Autumn in the garden

There are beautiful displays of autumn colour at Petworth, thanks to the magnificent collection of North American and native British tree species.

Red oaks, sweet gum trees and red maples produce a rich orange-red canopy, which creates a wonderful contrast to the orange-yellow foliage of the tupelo and tulip trees, and the ancient chestnuts and oaks will reveal themselves as the leaves fall from them.

The last flowers of the summer will persist into the autumn dahlias, and the seed heads of the herbaceous plants will be standing in the borders to feed the birds through the winter.

What are Pleasure Grounds?

The garden here was historically known as the Pleasure Grounds. This was a popular garden style during the Georgian period 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 gardens around the country became areas to showcase plants brought to Georgian England from overseas. Alongside being a supporter of the arts, the 3rd Earl of Egremont here at Petworth was a patron of plant collectors and he used the Pleasure Garden to display his own collection of North American trees and shrubs.

The rotunda with yellow daffodils in the foreground in Petworth's pleasure garden.

Discover more at Petworth

Find out when Petworth House and Park is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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