Exploring Petworth House & Park, West Sussex

by Jan

Petworth House is a late 17th Century stately home in West Sussex in the South of England. The National Trust now own this impressive house, which is popular for its lavish art collection and extensive deer park.  We chose to spend some time exploring Petworth House on the second day of our weekend away in West Sussex.

The Pleasure Grounds at Petworth House

A splash of purple in the flower beds at the Petworth House Pleasure grounds, Sussex

On arrival, we followed the path through the Petworth Pleasure Ground towards the main house.  The famous landscape designer “Capability” Brown, designed these gardens in the latter part of the 18th Century.  Brown significantly changed the outside space at the property and replaced the original formal gardens.

Although it was the end of summer, many flowers were still in bloom and the different hues of Autumn leaves further complemented the landscape.

If you detour from the path, you can visit some of the monuments that Brown has placed in the garden.  One of the key focal points is the Rotunda, which overlooks the gardens.

It’s only a short walk from the car park through the Pleasure Grounds and it was soon time for exploring Petworth House.

Petworth House

View of Petworth House and expansive lawns leading to deer park, Sussex

A brief history of Petworth House

For over 900 years, the palatial Petworth House has been the family home for the Percy family.  As Earls of Northumberland, the family were extremely prominent in the north of England.  However, After Queen Elizabeth I exiled the 8th Earl to Sussex he chose to remain there with his family.

Originally, Petworth was a medieval house.  However, Charles Seymour significantly remodelled the property after marrying Elizabeth Percy in 1682.  The pair wanted to build a lavish house in the Baroque style of the palaces in Europe, such as Versailles.  Predominantly they wanted to show off their wealth and royal connections.

Petworth House today

Petworth house Ornate Marble Fireplace and Gold trimmed mirror.

Today Petworth House is managed by the National Trust.  However, it’s still the family home of Lord and Lady Egremont.  They live privately at the southern end of this lavish stately home.

The main part of the house is now open to visitors, but only downstairs.  The servants’ quarters have also not yet reopened to the public.  As a covid precaution, we had to wear a mask in the house and follow a one-way system.

Petworth House family chapel with stone arches and stained glass windows, Sussex

Once inside, our first stop was the chapel.  This is the oldest surviving structure and dates to 1300.  The small medieval room is dominated by a stained-glass window, bearing the many coats of arms of the Percy family.

Red room with Paintings and Marble sculptures, Petworth House, Sussex

From here we proceeded to the red room, which is just full to the brim with art and sculptures form the family’s past.

One of Charles Seymour’s descendants, George O’Brien Wyndham was a collector of British art.  Wyndam spent a lot of money importing paintings and sculptures from around the world.  He also often invited renowned artists, such as Turner, to visit the Petworth House and even stay.

The 2nd Earl of Egremont even extended the mansion so that he could showcase his ever-growing collection of sculptures in the North Gallery.

Art collection Petworth House with impressive King Henry VIII at center, Sussex

Nowadays, the unique art collection is evident throughout Petworth House.  Paintings from the great masters such as Turner, Constable, and Gainsborough still adorn the walls.  In fact, Petworth House has one of the most valuable art collections in Britain today.

One of the most impressive pictures is in the carved room.  Dominating the room from above the fireplace is a larger than life painting of King Henry VIII. As with all the paintings in this room, the picture frame has been elaborately carved from wood.

After we’d finished exploring Petworth House, it was time to head outside.

The Deer Park at Petworth House

To the rear of the house is an enormous deer park, which is great for walking.  Just like the Pleasure Ground, it was Lancelot Brown who redesigned the 700 acres of parkland at Petworth.  However, the park has a very different look to the Pleasure Ground and is far less formal.

Deer's grazing in Deer Park Petworth House, Sussex

The Deer Park has two serpentine lakes and magnificent views stretching back over Petworth House.  Although the map shows three different trails, there are no signposts, so you can really pick your own route.

We followed the trail for the “long walk”, which is a circular walk round the perimeter of the park.

Boys climbing stack of tree trunks enjoying deer park walk, Petworth Park, Sussex

As its names suggests, the park has about 700 deer, which can be seen roaming freely round the park.  It also has several fallen trees, which the kids loved climbing.

Quite honestly, the interior of Petworth House was not much fun for the kids. Although they had a picture hunt to help them spot the art, they were far happier exploring the grounds.

More information for your visit to Petworth House

How to get to Petworth House

By car

Petworth House in in the small market town of Petworth, in West Sussex.  The easiest way to get there is by car.  You can use the A3 and A283.

Petworth is only 20 minutes away from Arundel Castle, another of the best historic attractions in West Sussex.

By train

Trains from London to Petworth leave from Victoria or London Bridge.  It takes about 2 hours and you must change at Pulborough.

Petworth House Opening Times

The opening times for Petworth House are currently 10:30 to 16:30.

The Deer Park is open from 08:00 to 20:00.  You can access the Deer Park via the pedestrian gates and the North car park

Admission Prices

Admission to Petworth House is free to National Trust members.  If you are not a member admission prices can be found here.

Have you tried exploring Petworth House & Park yet?  Please feel free to comment below.

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