I have been exploring the deer park at Petworth ever since I was a little girl. It was a Sunday treat to visit with groups of family as we took dog walks and picnics and tried to spot the fallow deer grazing amongst the trees. As I have aged my interest spread to the house of which the grounds belong and a year or two ago I took my first tour of the grand building itself.
Constructed in 17th century, Petworth House has passed through generations of one family with the current descendants living in the private apartments today. Full of artworks and stunning interiors, the family’s fondness for the arts is evident as guests walk through the house’s beautiful rooms. Everywhere you look there is something to take in, with the collection including pieces from many world-famous artists and crafters.
Learn of the everyday life at Petworth by uncovering the secrets of the both the richly decorated rooms upstairs and the functional servants quarters downstairs. The servant rooms have been restored and opened up to the public with corridors displaying antique artifacts once used around the house. The aga in the historic kitchen is a popular draw, with its sheer size indicating the grandeur of past meals prepared here. Guests will also find the cafe, facilities and well-stocked shop at this level.
Venture outside to cross over the quiet courtyard for a look at the private chapel. Then follow the trail around the side of the house to take in a first glimpse of the parkland beyond.
Created by Capability Brown, the park is maintained in a way that lets the nature speak for itself. No matter what the season, you will be rewarded with fantastic views of the landscaped valleys and ponds along with the surrounding South Downs. The deer roam the park as they choose and are fairly content to be observed by walkers passing by. For many I spoke with, the combination of the grounds and fresh air seem to provide an inescapable sense of freedom. The feeling that you could choose a direction and walk on and on.
Turn back and follow trails to the right of the Upper Pond and gaze upon the lovingly restored view of Petworth House that was inspiration for Turner’s painting ‘Dewy morning’. Whilst the painting is now housed in the Tate gallery, seeing the view at sunset in person is something that is not easily forgotten. This was no doubt Mr Brown’s plan when he shaped this part of the park, to showcase the house built to contend with Europe’s finest palaces.
Petworth House and park are now managed by the National Trust, further increasing the location’s visibility and opening added doors to exhibitions and experience days. 2019 sees a spotlight being shone on the nicknamed “Wizard’s globe”, thought to be the earliest terrestrial globe in existence and one of the magnificent pieces on permanent display at Petworth House. Prized possessions is an exhibition of Dutch artwork loaned from properties around the UK and runs until 24 March 2019.
“On my last trip to Petworth House, my mum gave us a glimpse of her past as a seamstress, explaining that she made some of the curtains for the current Lady of the house and still has the thank you letter she received in return. This not only makes me immensely proud of mum but makes me feel lucky to have this distant connection to a place I have such fond memories of” – Emma Woodman, 2019.