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Petworth House  England 
Petworth, West Sussex, England

Circa Date: 1688-96

Status: Fully Extant


Special Info / Location/ Date

Special Info
Phonetic Pronunciation of House Name

District Today
West Sussex
 Historic County
 City / Town / Village

Start Date
Completion Date
Circa Date

From The Curiosities of Great Britain; England and Wales Delineated, Historical, Entertaining and Historical by Thomas Dugdale, London, circa 1840

Click on thumbnail for a larger view

From The Curiosities of Great Britain; England and Wales Delineated, Historical, Entertaining and Historical by Thomas Dugdale, London, circa 1840
The West Front
The Grand Staircase
The Doric Temple
The Rotunda

Designed   Landscaped 700-acre park, added temples, and Orangery.
Date   1752

Designed   Replanned and rebuilt Southeast part of House
Date   1869-72

Designed   Gothic style folly house
Date   1828

Designed   Altered nave of Church, rebuilt Tower.
Date   1827

Designed   Modified West Front
Date   1774-79

Designed   Lodge adjoining Gates; facade for Stables.
Date   1756-63

Designed   Formal Baroque gardens for Proud Duke of Somerset
Date   1688-93

Extant / Listed / References

Extant Type
Fully Extant
Extant Details

House Listed As 
Grade I
Gardens Listed As  
Grade I
Country House:  Yes

Vitruvius Britannicus
Vitruvius Scoticus
J.B. Burke (Burke's Visitation of Seats)
Country Life
XXII, 826, 1907. LVIII, 818, 862, 899 [Pictures], 928, 936 [Pictures], 966, 974 [Turner], 1925. LIX, 247 [Furniture], 1926. CI, 422, 1947. CXV, 325 [Treasures], 1954. CLIII, 1870, 1973.
J.P. Neale (Neale's Views of Seats)
Vol. IV, 1821.
Access / Ownership / Seat

Open to Public Please note: Houses listed as being open "By Appointment" are usually country house hotels, B&Bs, or schools.
Historic Houses Association Member
Phone Number If calling from the U.S., delete the first "0" in British numbers.
Fax Number

Current Ownership
Current Ownership Type
The National Trust
Primary Current Ownership Use
Visitor Attraction
Current Ownership Use / Details
House is owned by The National Trust. Most of the contents are owned by the Nation, on loan to the Trust. Petworth is also the seat of Lord and Lady Egremont.

Seat ("Seat" is loosely defined as any family that occupied the house for a period of 2 years or more)
Today Seat of
John Max Henry Scawen Wyndham, 2nd Baron Egremont & 7th Baron Leconfield
A Past Seat(s) of
Henry de Percy, 14th century. Earl of Northumberland, Percy family. Duke of Somerset, Seymour family. Earl of Egremont, Wyndham family.
Possible (Unsure) Seat of
History / Gardens & Park / Movies

Earlier House(s) / Building(s)
Several houses have existed on the site, the last of which was a fortified manor house founded by Henry de Percy.
House Replaced By
Built / Designed For
The current House was rebuilt in 1688 by Charles Seymour, 6th (Proud) Duke of Somerset.
House & Family History
Petworth has a long and glorious history. Originally a 13th century house of the Percy family (the 13th century Chapel and undercroft survive within the current house), a license to crenellate was granted in 1309 and the existing house was expanded. In the 17th century it was a seat of the Earls of Northumberland. The 8th and 9th Earls enlarged the House and built the Stable Court (demolished). The 9th Earl spent 16 years in the Tower of London under suspicion of complicity in the Gunpowder Plot. He was released in 1621 after paying a fine of £11,000 (approximately £1.7 million in 2011 inflation-adjusted values using the retail price index) and spent his remaining years at Petworth, involved in alchemical and scientific experiments, earning the nickname of the “Wizard Earl." The House as it appears today is primarily the work of Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset (the Proud Duke). In 1688 he started rebuilding the ancient house of the Percy family that he acquired through his marriage to the daughter and heiress of the 11th and last Earl of Northumberland. The Proud Duke’s alterations included the 21-bay West Façade, built of Portland stone and the local green sandstone, and the dome, now removed. Petworth is unusual for its time in that it has many French influences, among them the murals painted for the 6th Duke by Louis Laguerre, still an amazing site today. The 6th Duke received the moniker “the Proud Duke” because of his inordinate pride and obsession with his lineage. He is believed to have insisted on his children always standing in his presence; once, when he fell asleep and awoke to find one his daughters seated, he removed her from his will. He was, however, a major benefactor to the University of Cambridge and helped found the University Press in 1696. In 1703 the Duke and Duchess of Somerset hosted Prince George, husband of Queen Anne, and the King of Spain at Petworth. The Proud Duke’s Marble Hall is the only 17th century interior to have survived the disastrous fire of 1714 that destroyed most of the center part of the House. The Grinling Gibbons Room (The Carved Room) contains what many believe to be the most technically perfect work ever produced by the artist. A two-year restoration project of the Carved Room was completed by The National Trust in 2004, during which Gibbons’s magnificent 1692 carvings were conserved and re-mounted on their oak panels using the original nails. In addition, four landscapes by Turner, commissioned for the Carved Room by the 3rd Earl of Egremont, were returned (they were removed in the 1870s). In 1750 the Estate passed by marriage to the Wyndham family, Earls of Egremont. The 3rd Earl of Egremont was, by all accounts, a remarkable man. He was a supreme patron of the arts, kind, humane, and cultured. The painter Benjamin Haydon wrote that “his greatest pleasure was sharing with highest and humblest the luxuries of his vast income. The very animals at Petworth seemed happier than in any other spot on earth.” He was generous to his tenants and always provided a helping hand to those in need. Turner was a close friend who spent a great amount of time at Petworth. The 3rd Earl also supported many other contemporary artists, allowing them to live and work at Petworth as his guest. In 1947 the 3rd Lord Leconfield (descendant of the Earls of Egremont) gave the House to The National Trust. It was largely through the efforts of the 6th Lord Leconfield that the nation acquired the immensely important collection of paintings at Petworth in lieu of death duties. John Wyndham, 1st Lord Egremont and 6th Lord Leconfield, was the private secretary and confidant of Harold Macmillan. He served with Macmillan at the Ministry of Supply, the Colonial Office, Allied Headquarters, and the Air Ministry. It has been said that “their friendship and collaboration, that of statesman and private secretary, had no counterpart in modern history.” J.M.W. Turner was engaged by Jack Fuller of Brightling Park to capture the East Sussex landscape in drawings and watercolors. It’s possible that Turner and Fuller met at Petworth (Fuller knew the 3rd Earl of Egremont through their mutual involvement with the Sussex Yeomanry Cavalry). It's likely that Fuller became involved with Turner because he wanted illustrations for a history of East Sussex he at one time considered writing. This project did not come to fruition; however, between 1810 and 1818 Turner created approximately 13 watercolor landscapes in and around Fuller's estate, Rose Hill (now called Brightling Park). Many of the sketches are in notebooks now in the collection of Tate Britain, London and can be viewed on their website. Fuller hired a number of Turner's sketches for 100 guineas and had them made into prints. (This information on Jack Fuller by kind permission of Annette Lloyd Thomas).
Collections This field lists art objects that are currently or were previously in the collection of the house.

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Petworth contains The National Trust’s finest and largest collection of pictures, with numerous works by Turner, Van Dyck, Reynolds, and Blake, as well as ancient and Neoclassical sculpture, and fine furniture. In 1984, the ownership of the 20 Turner paintings at Petworth were transferred from the Treasury to Tate Britain, London (in-lieu of inheritance tax). In 2002, a Turner exhibition was marked by the book "Turner at Petworth" by David Blayney Brown. The 6th Duke of Somerset (the Proud Duke) engaged Louis Laguerre to paint the murals for his enormous Grand Staircase. The Grinling Gibbons Room contains what many believe to be the most technically perfect work ever produced by the artist, carried out in 1692. The Turner Room contains a large collection of Turner's work. Charles Wyndham, 2nd Earl of Egremont, assembled at Petworth, between 1750 and 1760, one of the largest and most important collections of ancient marbles (Classical sculpture) in Britain (the collection today also includes Neoclassical work by John Flaxman and John Edward Carew). The Earl commissioned Matthew Brettingham to design a Gallery to hold his collections, circa 1756-63. The collection was greatly enlarged by the 3rd Earl to become the superb assembly it is today. A marble funerary altar of Anthus, circa AD 50-70, formerly at Petworth, is now in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. On March 21, 1979 Paul Storr’s dinner service of 1806-07 from Petworth was sold at Christie’s for £260,000. The Mitford Collection of Firebacks, lent by Mr. W. Slade Mitford, is on display at Petworth. There is also today in the collection at Petworth a terrestrial globe by Emery Molyneux, believed to the only one in the world in its original 1592 state.
"As I lay in my magnificent bed, and saw the old portraits trembling in a sort of twilight, I almost fancied I heard them breathe, and almost expected they would move out and shake my curtains." -Benjamin Haydon (1786-1846) on Petworth.

Gardens & Park
Garden, Park, Follies and Outbuildings
The Elizabethan gardens were probably laid out circa 1575 by the 9th (Wizard) Earl of Northumberland. The 6th Duke of Somerset employed George London to create formal Baroque gardens around the House. Lancelot ''Capability'' Brown landscape the 700-acre park for the 2nd Earl of Egremont in 1752. The 30-acre Pleasure Grounds have remained virtually unchanged since the time of Capability Brown and contain a Roman Doric Temple and a Rotunda. Matthew Brettingham the Elder designed the Lodge adjoining the Gates and designed the facade for the existing Elizabethan Stables. Petworth has had real tennis courts since the 16th century; the present court was laid out in 1872 and is one of the last remaining courts in the country attached to a country house. Real tennis is still played here by the Petworth House Real Tennis Club. The huge Elizabethan Stable Court was begun by the 8th Earl of Northumberland; the building was destroyed circa 1725. Charles Robert Ayers designed a Gothic style folly in 1828 that is extant. The Park is inhabited by the largest herd of fallow deer in England. Leconfield Estates continue to own much of village of Petworth and the surrounding farmland.
Chapel & Church
The Chapel is the only complete room to survive from the earlier Percy manor. With the exception of the lectern, the furnishings are exclusively from the period 1685-92 and were commissioned by the Proud (6th) Duke of Somerset. In 1999 the Chapel re-opened to the public. It had been closed for three years for a £1 million restoration. During the restoration work evidence was uncovered of the medieval house, which was covered during the building work of the 1680s. In 1827 Charles Barry rebuilt the tower of the Church, added a spire, and altered the nave.

Location for Movies / TV
"Barry Lyndon" (1975). "National Trust: National Treasures" (2006 - one of a 10-part documentary series). "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" (2007 - the park was used for the horse riding scene with Elizabeth and Raleigh). "When Did You Last See Your Father?" (2007). "Maleficent" (2014). "Mr. Turner" (2014 - as Petworth House, where Turner lived and painted).

Author   NA
Year Published   NA
Reference   Spring 1999, pg. 13

Author   Colvin, Howard
Year Published   1995

Author   Sayer, Michael
Year Published   1993

Author   Adams, Mark
Year Published   2000

Author   Pevsner, Nikolaus; Nairn, Ian
Year Published   1973
Reference   pgs. 301-307

Author   Jackson-Stops, Gervase (Editor)
Year Published   1985
Reference   pg. 302

Author   NA
Year Published   NA
Reference   Nov 1985, pg. 674

There are no documents associated with this house.

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