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Step Inside Petworth House: Where History and Luxury Collide

petworth house from a hill

Petworth House as it stands today, dates back to the late 17th century when it was commissioned by Charles Seymour, the 6th Duke of Somerset. Nestled amidst the serene countryside of West Sussex, England, it stands as a testament to the grandeur and elegance of centuries past.

However, Petworth can be traced back 900 years ago, originally being an old fortified manor house. The widow of Henry I gave it to her brother who married into the noble English Percy family and was based in Alnwick Castle, so only used Petworth occasionally.

In the late 16th Century, Queen Elizabeth banished them to the south, and this is when they set up home in Petworth.

petworth house seen from the upper pond

This magnificent mansion, with its sprawling estate and richly adorned interiors, was designed by architect Daniel Marot and built between 1688 and 1692.

The mansion was initially intended as a grand family residence. However, it was under the ownership of the 3rd Earl of Egremont, a descendant of the Duke of Somerset, that Petworth House truly flourished.

In the 18th century, Petworth House became synonymous with the Egremont family, who transformed it into a cultural and artistic haven. The 3rd Earl of Egremont, Charles Wyndham, was a passionate patron of the arts and welcomed renowned artists, poets, and intellectuals into his home.

petworth house from the courtyard

His extensive art collection, which included works by J.M.W. Turner, William Blake, and Sir Joshua Reynolds, adorned the walls of Petworth House, making it a hub of creativity and inspiration. This is what makes Petworth House a must-visit destination today.

It has one of the most extensive art collections in the care of the National Trust (the house was transferred to the NT in 1947) who now look after the house and gardens. Because of its historical importance, regency architecture and impressive art collection, there is no surprise it was used as a filming location for Bridgerton.

Exploring Petworth House

foxgloves in front of Petworth House

Petworth is located in West Sussex, around 50 minutes from Brighton and 1 hour and 20 minutes from central London. Parking at Petworth House’s Main car park, which is to the east of the house, you will find the Visitor Entrance.

  • Prices: Adult – £19, Child – £9.50, Family of 4 – £47.50. National Trust Members get in for free
  • Car Parking: The Main Car Park is £4, and the North Car Park (for the gardens) is £3. Again, NT Members are free.
  • Opening Times: The House is open from 1030 to 1630, the Deer Park is open from 0800 to 2000. Check the National Trust website for individual opening times.

Once you have paid, follow the signposts to the main house which will take you through the Pleasure Gardens.

Pleasure Gardens

a temple at Petworth House
The Doric Temple

The Pleasure Gardens were designed by Lancelot “Capability” Brown with formal flower beds, ancient trees and 3 trails, the main path, woodland walk and lower path. Here you will also discover the Ionic Rotunda and the Doric Temple and plenty of open green spaces, which is where we normally stop with the kids to have a picnic.

pleasure gardens at petworth house

Some of the paths can be quite steep, but the kids love running around the woods. If you make it to the top of the Rotunda, the views are fabulous!

Fire Engine Shed

fire shed at petworth house

Before you enter the courtyard of Petworth House, you will find the Fire Engine Shed to the left. This houses the Lattice-Girder Fire Escape Ladder which was purchased in 1912 by the 3rd Lord Leconfield to help escape from the upper floors of the main house.

a big screen in an old fire shed
Watch a short video in the Fire Shed

The Fire Engine Shed also has a huge screen which shows a short video on the history of Petworth House and is well worth watching.

Servants Quarter

A corridor with stone flooring
The long corridor of the Servants Quarter

Continuing up the path into the courtyard of the main house, you will find the Servants Quarter on the left. As Petworth House continued to grow, the servants were moved out of the main house and into new quarters in the mid-18th century. It could house up to 40 servants and they were known to serve up to 30,000 guests. Wow!

an 18th century kitchen in a manor house
Servants Quarter Kitchen

I love this old building, it is always busy with people exploring and staff busily moving from one room to the next. Whilst I was there, there was a French chef, complete with a chef hat, talking to a staff member and going on his break from the Audit cafe.

It made me smile as I realised, it hasn’t really changed much from its original use. You could almost hear the clatter of pans and ghostly sounds of the 18th century.

an 18th century kitchen in a manor house

The most impressive room is the historic kitchen which is set up to show you how it would have looked over the centuries. There is an open-fire Tudor range and an old Victorian steam boiler. There are also several rooms leading from the kitchen including;

an 18th century kitchen in a manor house
Scullery – The boiler that powered the equipment in the kitchen
an 18th century kitchen in a manor house
Still Room – Where maids prepared light meals
an 18th century kitchen in a manor house
Larder – at the colder north end of the kitchens. Meat not real!
an 18th century kitchen in a manor house
Winter Dairy – Extended in 1891, these rooms were built partially underground to help keep them cool
an 18th century kitchen in a manor house
Pastry Room – Cakes, pies and pastries for the main house

The Servants Quarters also has a cafe (which was once a large dining hall for the servants, so you will be eating a cream tea surrounded by history), toilets, a gift shop, an art gallery and a second-hand bookstore.

audit cafe at petworth house
Audit Cafe

Next to the Audit cafe is the Church Lodge Entrance which takes you out into the streets of Petworth and is something you should definitely consider exploring whilst at Petworth House and Park.

Petworth House

The Entrance Hall to Petworth House
The Entrance Hall to Petworth House

Petworth House is a masterpiece of architectural design, blending elements of Baroque and English Palladian styles. Its imposing façade, adorned with intricate carvings and classical motifs makes a huge first impression, but wait until you get inside!

Somerset Room

a room with antique paintings

After walking through the House reception and Oak Hall, you will enter the Somerset Room. This room was renovated in the 17th century by the 6th Duke and Duchess of Somerset and was the original servant’s hall. It was split into 2 rooms, creating the Square Dining Room.

Artwork – The Adoration of the Magi by Hieronymus Bosch, family portraits and artwork by Van Dyck

Square Dining Room

a room with antique paintings

This was the family’s dining room and contains many Van Dyck and Joshua Reynolds paintings. At Christmas, the National Trust sets up a large dining table and gives you a sense of what it would have been like to dine in these magnificent surroundings.

Marble Hall

a sage green room with ornate ceiling details, black and white flooring and a marble statue

This was once the main entrance and had a drive leading up to it. The room is resplendent with sage green walls and black and white tiled flooring, a design that is still popular to this day.

Beauty Room

a room with antique paintings

The art mainly depicts women who were friends and family of the 6th Duke and Duchess of Somerset. Many of the paintings in this room are currently being restored and this is a testament to the dedication of National Trust in preserving British history.

Grand Staircase

a hallway with historic murals and grand staircase
a hallway with historic murals and grand staircase

Leading on from the Square Dining Room is probably my favourite room in the house, the Grand Staircase. After a fire in 1714, the 6th Duke of Somerset commissioned Louis Laguerre, a French artist, to create a wall and ceiling painting and The Creation of Pandora mural was born.

a hallway with historic murals and grand staircase

It is truly breathtaking and the National Trust have provided mirrors so you can take this masterpiece in without having to leave Petworth with a cricked neck! We don’t make staircases like we used to.

a hallway with historic murals and grand staircase

Little Dining Room

a sage green room with antique paintings and a red rug

Formerly known as the Van Dyke room, this room is beautifully decorated with marble statues, such as Statue 55 – a Roman in a Toga, and more artwork.

Carved Room

a room with ornate details and Henry VIII paintings

Named for its wood carvings, the Carved Room includes a famous portrait of Henry VIII and is where you can find some of JMW Turner’s famous paintings of Sussex, painted in Petworth. This room is a real jaw-dropper, I could have spent a long time in here as there is so much to take in.

Red Room

a red room with antique paintings and a marble fireplace

Decorated in a beautiful rich red, this room was renovated to mimic what it would have looked like in the early 19th century. You can find a Turner here hanging above the fireplace.

North Gallery

a red room with antique paintings

At the northern end of the house, this room was an added extension built by the 2nd Earl of Egremont so he could place his large antique Greek and Roman sculpture collection, which are still on display today.

an art gallery at petworth house

This is a huge room, bathed in light from the above skylights and one of the most impressive art displays, including work by Turner and Blake, that I’ve ever seen.

The Chapel

an old chapel inside a manor house

The Chapel was originally built in medieval times and is the last remaining part of the original manor house. The 6th Duke of Somerset “modernised” it to fit in with the Baroque style of Petworth House.

an old chapel inside a manor house

I spent around 2 hours inside the House (I’ve been many times, but normally with kids, so I don’t get the chance to take it all in!) and would have spent longer if I didn’t have to get back for the school run!

Petworth House has always had a lasting impression on me, I am fascinated with British history and you get a real sense of it here.

Petworth’s Private Rooms

One thing I didn’t know before this visit is that a third of Petworth House is still occupied by Lord and Lady Egremont. The house has been home to the Egremont family since the 18th century.

This part of the house is open at certain times and days of the year when you can visit the Stone Hall, Guest Bedrooms, the White and Gold Room, the Chamber Landing and the White Library. Check with the National Trust website for timings. Due to the private nature of these rooms, you cannot take photos, and rightly so.

Petworth Park

a pond with geese

Heading back through the courtyard and to the north of the building, you will find the entrance to the Deer Park through Tjou Gate. This is a 700-acre park that includes 2 ponds, a boat house, Monument Hill, a fallow deer park and views of the South Downs.

an 18th century boat house on a pond

There are several paths you can take; the Upper Pond Walk is around 40 minutes and the Long Walk which will take you around the estate will take 2 hours.

petworth house

If you are short on time, it is worth walking down to the Upper Pond, just so you can see the views of Petworth House in all its grandeur.

Petworth Town

a cobbled street in petworth

You could spend a whole day in Petworth House itself, it has plenty of tours and puts on exhibitions and holiday fun for kids. However, if you have time, take a wander into Petworth Town itself with its impressive cobbled streets, independent stores and cafes.

The easiest way to do this is to park at the Main car park, spend a few hours at Petworth Estate and then head out the Church Lodge Entrance which takes you into the heart of this old market town.

tudor buildings in a street in petworth

Its architecture is beautifully preserved and if it wasn’t for all the cars going around on the one-way street system, you could easily be transported back to the 18th century when Petworth House would have been the main employer and had a huge influence over the town.

Petworth House is one of the top destinations in West Sussex in my eyes. It is a magical place that I return to time and time again.

visit petworth house in west sussex pinterest pin

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