This summer a visit to Petworth House and its remarkable park is a must. Petworth has been a family home for over 800 years and the estate was a royal gift from the widow of Henry I to her brother Jocelin de Louvain, who married into the renowned Percy family. As the Percy stronghold was in the north, Petworth was originally only intended for occasional use. It was in the late 1500s that Petworth became a permanent home to the Percys after Elizabeth I grew suspicious of their allegiance to Mary, Queen of Scots and confined the family to the south.
Within the house, each room is as resplendent as the next, however the The North Gallery was my personal favourite, as it is home to many fine sculptures and paintings. The room is also a stunning example of a 19th-century top-lit gallery.
Although the house is truly grand, as is often the way, it is the servants’ quarters that are home to the real stories. Built in the mid-18th century, the servants’ quarters are little changed since Victorian times. The building would once have accommodated around 40 live-in servants, who were needed to support the vast estate. The staff moved from house to quarters via a tunnel, so as not to offend the sensibilities of aristocratic family.
The main kitchen is home to some of the Estate’s 1,000 copper pots and pans, as well as a traditional roasting range, bain-marie and gas stove – that’s over 300 years of cooking styles in one room. Adjoining the kitchen you’ll find the larder, pastry room and scullery, all cleverly laid out to make the servants’ quarters as efficient as possible. And you will find the House Keeper in her sitting room!
The family could always took pride in having the latest technology, including the very first refrigerator.
A walk though the Capability Brown landscaped parkland is a real treat. There are stunning views over the South Downs and it’s a great place to escape to with your four legged chum.
In the gardens you will also find the Doric Temple, a touching tribute to a fallen son of Petworth.
Petworth House is operated by the National Trust and is free to members or entry costs GBP14.00 for an adult. Opening dates vary throughout the year so check online before you travel. Petworth Park is open 8am to dusk year round. It has a dedicated car park, which lies one mile north of Petworth on the A283 (the closest SAT NAV postcode is GU28 9LS) – wear flat shoes! Parking is GBP3 or free for National Trust members. There are also pedestrian entrances through the Cowyard tunnel in town and two on the A272 Midhurst Road.
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Contributor & photographer: Alexandra Pinhorn
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