Exploring Petworth House – the English Versailles and its treasures

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It is quite possible that you have never heard about Petworth House. If you have, you know that visiting this 17th-century country house is one of the best things to do in West Sussex, England. Petworth House, located within the South Downs National Park, is a completely unexpected find. Netflix’s famous Regency drama may have put it on the bucket list of many visitors. But it is its rich history and parkland that make it unforgettable.

Petworth House: Petworth House in Sussex is proud of its rich heritage, culture and nature. Let’s have a look together at why you should explore it.

Petworth House is proud of its rich heritage, culture and nature. Let’s have a look together at why you should explore it.

 

Why is Petworth House famous?

Petworth House is a late 17th-century Grade I listed country house. This grand mansion once rivalled the palaces of Europe – no wonder many refer to it as the English Versailles. Petworth House is famous because it is one of the best National Trust attractions with an outstanding art collection.

Petworth House: Petworth House in Sussex is a late 17th-century Grade I listed country house. This grand mansion once rivalled the palaces of Europe - no wonder many refer to it as the English Versailles.

There are over 9,000 items at Petworth – many of them you can see during your visit.

 

Petworth House is worth visiting because it displays one of the finest art collections in the care of the National Trust. You can find the works by Titian, Van Dyck, Turner and Reynolds here. Petworth House is also famous because it was one of the filming locations of Bridgerton.

Petworth House Bridgerton: You are right to think that Netflix filmed the popular period drama Bridgerton here. Petworth House features in the second series (in episode seven).

You are right to think that Netflix filmed the popular period drama Bridgerton here. Petworth House features in the second series (in episode seven).

 

However, Petworth House was not only the filming location of Bridgerton. You may recognize this gorgeous building from film and TV productions, such as Barry Lyndon (1975) and Silver Bears (1977). Also, Petworth House was the filming location of Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), Maleficent (2014), Mr Turner (2014), Rebecca (2020) and Napoleon (2022).

 

A Short History of Petworth House

Petworth House Sussex: Petworth House in Sussex remembers the turbulence of the Tudor Reformation, the Gunpowder Plot and the Napoleonic Wars.

Petworth House remembers the turbulence of the Tudor Reformation, the Gunpowder Plot and the Napoleonic Wars.

 

Before you visit Petworth House, it is good to know a few things about the history of this building. Petworth House has been the home of just one family for hundreds of years – 900, to be exact. Descendants of this family still live at Petworth House. They occupy some apartments which you cannot visit.

Hundreds of years ago, the widow of Henry I gave the manor of Petworth as a royal gift to her brother. He later married someone from the influential Percy family and adopted the surname, Percy. Maybe you do not know, but his descendants became the earls of Northumberland. They were the most powerful family in northern England, and their primary seat was Alnwick Castle. Petworth was at first only their occasional residence. But Queen Elizabeth I banished this family to the south in the 16th century, and Petworth became their permanent home. The expansion of the house began at this point. However, Petworth underwent a complete transformation 100 years later.

Petworth House Sussex: Petworth House in Sussex became a grand mansion that could rival the palaces in Europe. Elizabeth Percy and the 6th Duke of Somerset took inspiration from the Palace of Versailles when building their home.

Baroque house

In the 17th century, 16 year old Elizabeth (the only surviving child of the 11th Earl) married the 6th Duke of Somerset – Charles Seymour. Maybe you do not know, but they became one of the wealthiest couples in England. Together they remodelled the house in a French baroque style. Petworth House became a grand mansion that could rival the palaces in Europe. Elizabeth Percy and the 6th Duke of Somerset took inspiration from the Palace of Versailles when building their home.

Elizabeth’s grandson Charles Wyndham (the 2nd Earl of Egremont) is responsible for one of the most important collections of antique marble sculpture statues in the country. The 3rd Earl obtained many works by English Romantic painter J. M. W. Turner. He also expanded his collection of contemporary art from other artists.

 

Things to see at Petworth House, Sussex

 

1. Fire Ladder

The 3rd Lord Leconfield purchased this fire escape ladder in the 20th century. He bought it because he wanted to have a means of escape from the first floor of the house in the case of a fire.

Before you explore the house, find Fire Ladder in a small room on the left-hand side near the Petworth House. The 3rd Lord Leconfield purchased this fire escape ladder in the 20th century. He bought it because he wanted to have a means of escape from the first floor of the house in the case of a fire.

However, the main reason why you should not miss the Fire Escape Ladder is that there is a room where you watch a short video about Petworth House. It lasts only 6 minutes, but it is worth seeing because you can learn more about Petworth House before your visit.

 

2. Servants’ Quarters

Afterwards, continue to the courtyard, which you can find only a short walk from here. Once there, you need to decide where to go first – to Servants’ Quarters or the Petworth House. We recommend you start at the smaller Servants’ Quarters.

As the name suggests, this is where the servants lived. The service wing contains a second-hand bookshop (once the old Lower Servants Dining Room), a seasonal art gallery and a gift shop. There are also the toilets, a seasonal art gallery and a café in the old Audit Room (originally a sculpture gallery and later a large hall for the staff and servants).

FUN FACT:

You are quite right to think that Petworth House used to entertain on a grand scale. This busy house had over 50 indoor servants living at Petworth in 1819. By 1834 there were 135 servants.

 

The main attraction in the Servants’ Quarters is the Historic kitchen from the 18th century. The Historic kitchen displays cooking styles that span over 500 years. The highlights are the open-fire Tudor roasting range and the Victorian steam oven.

The main attraction in the Servants Quarters is the Historic kitchen from the 18th century. The Historic kitchen displays cooking styles that span over 500 years. The highlights are the open-fire Tudor roasting range and the Victorian steam oven.

 Did you know that during the 19th century, the kitchen at Petworth House produced, on average, 100 meals a day? It was comparable in scale to a hotel.

 

GOOD TO KNOW:

The Historic kitchen is open between 10.30 am – 1.45 pm.

 

Afterwards, make your way to the Petworth House and explore the State Rooms. Over the centuries, the Percy, Seymour and Wyndham families have gathered together an impressive collection of fine art.

 

3. Somerset Room at Petworth House

Petworth House Sussex: The Somerset Room is one of the best things to see at Petworth House because it showcases European paintings by famous artists, such as Titian, Claude, Teniers and Bellotto. The room was named after the 6th Duke and Duchess of Somerset, who renovated Petworth House in Sussex together in the late 17th century.

The first room you can visit is the Somerset Room. This room got its name after the 6th Duke and Duchess of Somerset, who renovated the house together in the late 17th century. In this room, you can find Petworth’s Old Masters collections. The Somerset Room showcases European paintings by famous artists, such as Titian, Claude, Teniers and Bellotto.

The highlights of the Somerset Room at Petworth House are An Unknown Man in a Black Plumed Hat by Titian and Three Younger Children of Charles I by Sir Peter Lely. Also, do not miss the Adoration of the Magi by Bosch and Teniers’ The Brussels Picture Gallery of the Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria.

Petworth House Sussex: A portrait of An Unknown Man in a Black Plumet Hat is one of the best things to see at Petworth House because the famous Renaissance artist Titian painted it. You can find it in the Somerset Room at Petworth House, Sussex.

One of Titian’s early portraits

 

4. Square Dining Room

Square Dining Room

As the name suggests, the family used this space for formal dining. If you look closely, you can see that the Square Dining Room has large glass mirrors which used to reflect the candlelight. In this room, you can see the portraits of nine generations of the Percy, Seymour and Wyndham families.

Once here, do not miss the portrait of Henry Percy. He was the 9th Earl of Northumberland, known as the Wizard Earl, because of his interest in alchemy. The 9th Earl spent many years imprisoned in the Tower of London because he was involved in the Gunpowder Plot.

Once here, do not miss the portrait of Henry Percy. He was the 9th Earl of Northumberland, known as the Wizard Earl, because of his interest in alchemy. The 9th Earl spent many years imprisoned in the Tower of London because he was involved in the Gunpowder Plot.

Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland

 

Other highlights in the Square Dining Room are Macbeth and the Witches by Sir Joshua Reynolds and the painting of the 10th Earl of Northumberland, his first wife and their daughter by the famous artist Van Dyck. Also, do not miss pottery imported from Greece. These two vases with red coloured figures are from around 420 BC.

 

5. Marble Hall at Petworth House

Petworth House: One of the best things to see in Marble Room at Petworth House is a statue of Artemis because it dates from the Hellenistic era. The sculpture of the Greek goddess of the hunt, with a dog at her feet, comes from 323-31 BC.

The statue of the Head of a Greek Athlete on the left and the sculpture of Artemis on the right

 

The next State Room at Petworth House is the Marble Room. After Lady Elizabeth Percy married Charles Seymour (6th Duke of Somerset), they transformed Petworth into a grand baroque palace. The Marble Room with the glass door was their new entrance to the formal gardens. In the 18th century, Lancelot Capability Brown designed the naturalistic park and lakes.

Petworth House: Seeing the Marble Room is one of the best things to do at Petworth House because you can find the portrait of an Unknown Cardinal by the famous Italian Renaissance artist Titian here.

BBC Four’s Britain’s Lost Masterpieces (2018) has recently confirmed that this is the work of Titian.

 

The highlights of the Marble Room are the portrait of an Unknown Cardinal by the famous Italian Renaissance artist Titian. There is also a statue of Artemis with a dog at her feet. The sculpture of the Greek goddess of the hunt comes probably from 323-31 BC. Also, do not miss the Head of a Greek Athlete (1-99 AD) and decree honouring women who worked on the robe for Athena (108-107 BC).

 

free travel planner for National Trust

 

6. Beauty Room

Petworth House Sussex: The Beauty Room at Petworth House in Sussex got its name after the so-called ‘Petworth Beauties’. In this room, you can see a series of female portraits of the friends and relatives of the 6th Duke and Duchess of Somerset.

As you already know, the Duke and Duchess of Somerset modified the Petworth House in the 17th century. After that, Petworth House could compete with other grand palaces in Europe. The Beauty Room was one of the main rooms. They used it for dinners and ceremonies of aristocratic and royal life.

 

FUN FACT:

Did you know that the Duke and Duchess of Somerset hosted the King of Spain and Prince George of Denmark at Petworth House in 1703?

 

You are quite right to think that the Beauty Room got its name after the so-called ‘Petworth Beauties’. In this room, you can see a series of female portraits of the friends and relatives of the 6th Duke and Duchess of Somerset.

The Somersets displayed their influence through large female portraits and costly mirror-glass. In the 19th century, the 3rd Earl of Egremont decided to shorten the painting to three-quarters length. Conservators discovered the lower sections. The National Trust restored them because they were tackled up behind each picture. Now you can see them in their full-length glory.

The Somersets displayed their influence through large female portraits and costly mirror-glass. In the 19th century, the 3rd Earl of Egremont decided to shorten the painting to three-quarters length. Conservators discovered the lower sections. The National Trust restored them because they were tacked up behind each picture. Now you can see them in their full-length glory.

 

7. The Grand Staircase at Petworth House

Petworth House: The Grand Staircase is also one of the best things to see at Petworth House in Sussex because it has ornate Baroque paintings. These murals illustrate scenes from the mythological stories of Prometheus and Pandora.

Your next steps will lead you to the Grand Staircase. It is also one of the best things to see at Petworth House. After a fire destroyed the original staircase, the family commissioned a French mural painter to create ornate Baroque paintings. You got that right – these murals illustrate scenes from the mythological stories of Prometheus and Pandora.

The highlights are the Story of Prometheus and Elizabeth, Duchess of Somerset, riding in a triumphal carriage. There is also a painting of Pandora receiving gifts from the gods. At the top of the stairs on the North Wall, you can see the mural of the moment when Pandora’s jar is open.

The highlights are the Story of Prometheus and Elizabeth, Duchess of Somerset, riding in a triumphal carriage. There is also a painting of Pandora receiving gifts from the gods. At the top of the stairs on the North Wall, you can see the mural of the moment when Pandora’s jar is open.

Elizabeth, Duchess of Somerset, riding in a triumphal carriage in the top picture, and Pandora receiving gifts from the gods at the bottom.

 

8. The Little Dining Room

Petworth House: When exploring Petworth House, find the Little Dining Room. This room had many different uses over time. The family used it as a sculpture gallery and an orchestra pit for musicians who entertained guests dining in the Carved Room at Petworth House.

After that, find the Little Dining Room, which you can find right next to the Marble Hall. This room had many different uses over time. The family used it as a sculpture gallery and an orchestra pit for musicians who entertained guests dining in the Carved Room.

Petworth House: Find the statue of Emperor Nero as a boy in the Little Dining Room at Petworth House. This marble statue of the Roman Emperor Nero is one of the best things to see at Petworth House because it is one of only three examples of Nero still in existence. It dates back to 51 - 54 AD.

Emperor Nero as a boy

 

Once here, do not miss the statue of Emperor Nero as a boy. This marble statue of the Roman Emperor Nero as a young boy dates back to 51 – 54 AD. You probably do not know, but it is one of only three examples of Nero still in existence. This is one of around 70 sculptures obtained by Charles Wyndham (the 2nd Earl of Egremont).

Petworth House: In the Little Dining Room at Petworth House, you can a portrait of the elder daughter of Phillip II of Spain – Isabella. This painting is one of the best things to see at Petworth House because Isabella was one of the most powerful women in 17th-century Europe.

Isabella Clara Eugenia – one of the most powerful women in the 17th century in Europe

 

In the Little Dining Room, you can also see numerous portraits, such as the portrait of Elizabeth Percy (Duchess of Somerset) and the painting of the elder daughter of Phillip II of Spain – Isabella. There is also an image of Saint Sebastian and the portrait of the 1st Earl of Strafford by Van Dyck.

 

9. Carved Room at Petworth House

Petworth House: It is easy to see why the Carved Room is one of the best things to see at Petworth House, Sussex. The Carved Room has outstanding decorations: the leading 17th-century artist Gibbons decorated its walls with delicate carvings. You can even find a portrait of Henry VIII here.

After restoration, the room you can see today looks like it was during the 3rd Earl’s time.

 

It is easy to see why the Carved Room is one of the best things to see at Petworth House. The Carved Room has outstanding decorations: the leading 17th-century artist Gibbons decorated its walls with delicate carvings. But originally this room was about a third of this size. The 3rd Earl of Egremont extended this space and created this large formal dining room.

Dutch-born sculptor decorated the East Wall of the Carved Room with lime wood carvings. Other highlights are large portraits and 4 landscapes by J. M. W.  Turner. You can find here a portrait of Henry VIII. Unfortunately, it is not the original painting because the fire destroyed the original one at Whitehall in the 17th century.

Petworth House National Trust: Petworth House is one of the best National Trust attractions because this palace has a portrait of Henry VIII. Even though it is not the original painting, it is one of the highlights of this famous palace.

Henry VIII – possibly the most famous King of England, ruled England for 36 years. He is world-famous for his six wives and the splitting of the Church.

 

In the Carved Room, you can also see a painting of Queen Henrietta Maria by Van Dyck. She was the youngest daughter of Henry IV of France and Marie de Medici. Also, don’t miss the portraits of Elizabeth Percy and her son and a painting of Charles Seymour.

The Duke and Duchess of Somerset commissioned these large paintings as a declaration of their status in society.

 The Duke and Duchess of Somerset commissioned these large paintings as a declaration of their status in society.

 

10. Red Room

Petworth House: The Red Room is also one of the best places to visit in the Petworth House because this room contains one of the oldest objects in the collection. The must-see in this room is undoubtedly the Head of Aphrodite, dating from the 4th century BC. One of the greatest sculptors in ancient Greece, Praxiteles, is responsible for this work of art.

The Red Room is also one of the best places to visit in the Petworth House because this room contains one of the oldest objects in the collection. The must-see in this room is undoubtedly the Head of Aphrodite, dating from the 4th century BC. One of the greatest sculptors in ancient Greece, Praxiteles, is responsible for this work of art.

Other highlights in the Red Room are Van Dyck’s portraits of Lord and Lady Shirley and other family portraits and pictures from Turner and others.

 

11. North Gallery at Petworth House

Petworth House: Petworth House North Gallery

If there is one more room you do not want to miss when visiting Petworth House, it is the North Gallery. This large gallery space displays the family’s collection of paintings and sculptures. Charles Wyndham (2nd Earl of Egremont) and his son, 3rd Earl of Egremont, are responsible for this outstanding collection of artworks.

Petworth House: You are right to think that you can recognize the North Gallery at Petworth House from Bridgerton from Netflix.

You are right to think that you can recognize the North Gallery at Petworth House from Bridgerton from Netflix.

 

The North Gallery is home to numerous paintings by J. M. W. Turner because he spent some time here. Other must-see works are Vision of the Last Judgement by William Blake and a portrait of the 3rd Earl of Egremont. From the statues, do not miss An Athlete (5th century BC), which is a Roman copy of an earlier Greek bronze original.

Other must-see works are Vision of the Last Judgement by William Blake and a portrait of the 3rd Earl of Egremont. From the statues, do not miss An Athlete (5th century BC), which is a Roman copy of an earlier Greek bronze original.

 

One of the highlights of the North Gallery is also the Molyneux Globe from the 16th century. Maybe you do not know, but this is the first terrestrial globe made in England. It records the English geographical knowledge of the world during the reign of Elizabeth I.

Petworth House: One of the highlights of the North Gallery at Petworth House is the Molyneux Globe from the 16th century because it is the first terrestrial globe made in England. It records the English geographical knowledge of the world during the reign of Elizabeth I.

the Molyneux Globe

 

12. The Chapel at Petworth House

Petworth House: Petworth House Chapel dates back to the early 1300s and is the best-preserved example of the medieval period of the house. According to the National Trust, the Chapel is one of the most complete Baroque interior schemes in England.

The last room you can visit when you explore Petworth House is the Chapel. The Chapel dates back to the early 1300s and is the best-preserved example of the medieval period of the house. The highlights are the carved wooden curtain, the ceiling and the wooden stalls. According to the National Trust, the Chapel is one of the most complete Baroque interior schemes in England.

TIP:

Find Pieta in the Chapel Passage. This sculpture is a smaller copy of Michelangelo’s famous Pieta, which you can see in St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

 

13. Pleasure Garden

Pleasure Garden: Pleasure Garden is also one of the highlights when visiting this famous National Trust attraction. There are 3 trails you can choose from - the main path, woodland walk or lower path. Do not miss the iconic Rotunda and the Doric Temple during your walk in the Pleasure Garden.

Pleasure Garden is also one of the highlights when visiting Petworth House in Sussex. You can explore this garden before or after your visit this famous National Trust attraction. There are 3 trails you can choose from: the main path, woodland walk or lower path. Do not miss the iconic Rotunda and the Doric Temple during your walk in the Pleasure Garden.

GOOD TO KNOW:

You should know that dogs are welcome in the Pleasure Garden on a short lead. However, you cannot bring them to Petworth House and Servants’ Quarters. Entry to Pleasure Garden is free only for National Trust Members.

 

14. Petworth Deer Park

Petworth deer park: Petworth deer park and the Pleasure Garden are Grades I listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. Views at Petworth Deer Park inspired some of J.M.W. Turner’s works here at Petworth. Stroll through the park and see the artificial lakes and the ancient trees – some of which are almost 1,000 years old. There is plenty to discover, such as the herd of over 900 fallow deer.

If you have any energy and time left, stroll across the Petworth Deer Park. Did you know that this 17th-century house lies next to the 700-acre landscape park? An English gardener and architect Capability Brown landscaped Petworth Deer Park. Today Petworth Deer Park and the Pleasure Garden are Grades I listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.

As you already know, views at Petworth Deer Park inspired some of J.M.W. Turner’s works here at Petworth. Take a stroll through the park and see the artificial lakes and the ancient trees – some of which are almost 1,000 years old. There is plenty to discover, such as the herd of over 900 fallow deer.

 

GOOD TO KNOW:

There are two walks you can choose from. The Upper Pond Walk is approximately 1.5 miles long. This shorter walk offers beautiful views of the Petworth House. It will take you around 40 minutes to complete it. The Long Walk is approximately 3 miles long, and you will need 2 hours to complete it.

 

Petworth park map

 

Things to know before your visit to Petworth House, Sussex

 

Opening times at Petworth

  • PETWORTH HOUSE: every day, from 10.30 am – 4.30 pm. Servants’ Quarters and selected State Rooms close at 3.30 pm between 1st January – 31st January and 1st November and 24th November.
  • PLEASURE GARDEN: open all year round from 10 am until 5 pm (closes at 4 pm between 1st January – 31st January and 1st November and 24th November).
  • PETWORTH DEER PARK: open all year round from 8 am – 8 pm. You should know that it closes at 6 pm in winter.

GOOD TO KNOW:

Petworth House is a National Trust attraction. Its rooms may close at short notice, including during the winter, for conservation. You should know that the State Rooms are usually not open during winter months (November – the beginning of March). Check the website before your visit to avoid disappointment.

It is possible to visit the Petworth’s private rooms used today by Lord and Lady Egremont if they are not staying at Petworth (check website for dates).

Sometimes you can also visit the Petworth House guest bedrooms. You can do that on Wednesdays (10.30 am – 1.45 pm) between 15th March 2023 and 27th September 2023. The White and Gold Room and the White Library at Petworth are open only on Mondays from 10.30 – 1.45 pm (13th March – 25th September 2023).

Petworth House National Trust: Petworth House is one of the most famous National Trust attractions in West Sussex. Make sure you do not miss it when exploring this part of England.

Prices:

You can visit Petworth House for free if you are a National Trust Member. Members also have free parking – scan your membership card on the car park machine. The entry fee to Petworth House for non-members is £17 per adult or £ 8.50 per child. If you visit as a family, you need to pay £ 42.50 for your tickets. Also, non-members need to pay for a car park £4 all day.

 

Now you know what to see at Petworth House, Sussex!

Petworth House National Trust

Pin Petworth House National Trust for later!

 

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