Walking

Petworth House & Park, Sussex

Tucked away in the breath-taking South Downs countryside in Sussex is the National Trust-run Petworth House & Park. A grand, Grade I-listed country house, Petworth and its estate have an extensive history spanning 900 years. Famous for its historical connections, art and culture, it invites all to retrace the steps of Henry VIII, the Wizard Earl, Gun Powder Plot conspirators, Capability Brown, JMW Turner and more and discover its exquisite art collections including Gainsborough, Titian, Reynolds and Van Dyck. 

Petworth House

Home to internationally important paintings, the earliest English globe in existence dating back to 1592, extravagant state rooms and time-forgotten kitchen rooms, Petworth House is a veritable time-trap beautifully preserving life 200 years ago. To learn more about the house and its residents, 45-minute guided tours are available.

History

Petworth has been a family home for more than 900 years and descendants of its first residents still live at Petworth House today. Originally, there was a large Medieval house built upon the estate’s land – gifted into the Percy family by the widow of Henry I – and the original Chapel from this era still survives to this day. Undergoing several transfigurations over the centuries, the manor house was transformed into the house you see today in 1661 by the 16-year-old heiress Elizabeth Percy and her third husband Charles Seymour, the 6th Duke of Somerset. Dubbed the English Versailles, it was built to rival the beauty and grandeur of European palaces and is one of the most striking of its kind in the UK. 

State Rooms

Heavily influenced by the Baroque Palaces of Europe, the 17th Century rebuild of Petworth House was undertaken with grandeur in mind, proudly showing off the Percy family’s wealth, taste and Royal connections. Foregoing comfort in favour of style, its rooms were never intended for the practicalities of daily life and instead were individual showpieces created to impress. And impress they do.

Hailed the “house of art” in 1834 by John Constable, its state rooms are home to mind-blowing collections of art. A living museum and art gallery, these rooms are a real time capsule and display world-class pieces, including painted landscapes by JMW Turner and Shakespeare scenes by Sir Joshua Reynold. See the Square Dining Room, the Marble Hall, the Beauty Room, the Carved Room and more and step 200 years back in time.

Servant’s Quarters 

Once you’ve explored the opulent state rooms of Petworth House, the servant’s quarters make for a striking contrast. A later addition built in the mid-18th Century, the quarters were home to around 40 live-in servants, all working seamlessly together to ensure the smooth running of the house. The kitchen, built in 19th Century, was the heartbeat of the home and used to serve over 100 meals every day. After a fire broke out in the kitchen in 1872, the latest steam-powered technology was installed, much of which is still in place today.

Take your time inspecting the historical kitchen with all its intriguing accoutrements and original features (including the old roast range in front of the fireplace), before checking out the pastry room, still room and scullery. Combining to create a fully functioning powerhouse, each room had its own important role and in 1829 alone were used to serve nearly 30,000 guests. Left very much as they were in the Victorian times, they provide fascinating insights into this bygone era and can keep all generations easily absorbed for hours.

Petworth Park

Petworth House is surrounded by a verdant sprawl of manicured gardens and landscaped parkland – scenery that inspired many of JMW Turner’s landscape paintings. Woven with footpaths and trails, it beckons for year-round strolls in the fresh air, admiring the beautiful surrounds that blend seamlessly with the rolling Sussex countryside. 

Pleasure Grounds and Deer Park

Petworth House’s 700-acre grounds and parkland may look like natural spaces shaped from the undulating Sussex countryside, but in fact they are the creation of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. Redesigned in the latter part of the 18th Century, the estate’s original gardens were stripped of their formal features and reimagined with winding paths, sweeping vistas, serpentine lakes and relaxed planting that all encouraged a much more relaxed look and feel. 

A popular kind of Georgian landscaping, ‘Pleasure Grounds’ were created to provide well-to-do families and their guests with space to privately walk and socialise. Designed to inspire a range of emotions and lead the eye over striking features, the style of landscaping at Petworth revolved around dramatic backdrops, with rising tiers, far-reaching views and enclosed spaces full of scented blooms. Keep an eye out for the Ionic Rotunda and the Doric Temple as you get to know the grounds.

Extending beyond the Pleasure Grounds is Petworth’s deer park and 30 acres of woodlands. As well as being home to one of the oldest and biggest trees in the country – a 940-year-old oak – the estate’s parkland also provides sanctuary for around 800 fallow deer. A feature of the park for over 500 years, the deer were once hunted by Henry VIII but today enjoy a peaceful existence within the park’s protective folds. A real spectacle takes place in the autumn months, when young bucks go head-to-head to establish the herd pecking order.

Whether you’re after a gentle stroll or want to rack up the miles, there are lots of walks to choose from around the estate. If you have your dog with you, then you can make the most of the dog-friendly paths around the estate, as long as your dog is kept on a lead. To wind down afterwards, there are food and drink facilities available on site too, including a shop and a café: the Audit Room Café. While dogs aren’t allowed in the café itself, you may be able to pick up something to go and enjoy an alfresco picnic in the sunshine. 

Feeling inspired? Have a look at our luxury cottages in Sussex here.

Petworth House and Park, Petworth, West Sussex, GU28 9LR | 01798 342 207 | www.nationaltrust.org.uk/petworth-house-and-park

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