Petworth House in the parish of Petworth, West Sussex, is a late 17th-century Grade I listed country house, rebuilt in 1688 by Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset, and altered in the 1870s to the design of the architect Anthony Salvin. It contains intricate wood-carvings by Grinling Gibbons (d.1721). It is the manor house of the manor of Petworth. For centuries it was the southern home for the Percy family, Earls of Northumberland. Petworth is famous for its extensive art collection made by George Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont (1751-1837), containing many works by his friend Turner. It also has an expansive deer park, landscaped by Capability Brown, which contains the largest herd of fallow deer in England.
The manor of Petworth first came into the possession of the Percy family as a royal gift from Adeliza of Louvain, the widow of King Henry I (1100-1135), to her brother Joscelin of Louvain. He later married the Percy heiress and adopted the surname Percy. His descendents became the Earls of Northumberland, the most powerful family in northern England. The Percy family, whose primary seat was at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, bordering Scotland, intended Petworth to be for their occasional residence only. However, in the late 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I grew suspicious of the Percy family's allegiance to Mary, Queen of Scots, and confined them to Petworth. In 1670 Josceline Percy, 11th Earl of Northumberland (1644-1670) died without a male heir, and thus his considerable fortune and estates of Petworth House, Alnwick Castle, Syon House and Northumberland House were inherited by his 2-year-old daughter and sole-heiress, Lady Elizabeth Percy (1667-1722). In 1682, at the age of 16 and already twice widowed, she married the 20 year old Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset (1662-1748), whose family seat was Marlborough Castle in Wiltshire. They became one of the wealthiest couples in England.
The site was previously occupied by a fortified manor house built by Henry de Percy, 1st Baron Percy (1273–1314), the 13th-century chapel and undercroft of which still survive. Since 1750 the house and estate have been owned by the prominent Wyndham family, descended from Sir Charles Wyndham, 4th Baronet (1710-1763) of Orchard Wyndham in Somerset, a nephew and co-heir of Algernon Seymour, 7th Duke of Somerset (1684-1750). As part of the inheritance and splitting-up of the great Percy inheritance, which had been a source of contention between the 7th Duke and his father the 6th Duke, in 1749, after the death of the 6th Duke, King George II granted the 7th Duke four extra titles in the peerage, including Baron Cockermouth and Earl of Egremont, which latter two were created with special remainder to Sir Charles Wyndham, the intended and actual recipient of Petworth, Cockermouth Castle and Egremont Castle. The 7th Duke's only daughter Lady Elizabeth Seymour and her husband Sir Hugh Smithson, 4th Baronet (d.1786), received the other Percy estates, including Alnwick Castle and Syon House, together with the titles Baron Warkworth of Warkworth Castle and Earl of Northumberland, created also in 1749 with special remainder to Smithson. The 6th Duke had "conceived a violent dislike for Smithson", the husband of his granddaughter, and wrote to her stating "You are descended by many generations from the most ancient families in England and it is you who doth add ancient blood to Sir Hugh Smithson’s family. He adds not so ancient blood to your family".
The Duke was determined to prevent Smithson from inheriting any of the Percy lands and wished to make as his sole heir his grandson Sir Charles Wyndham, whose ancient family originated at Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk and had married into the nobility, for example his ancestor Sir John Wyndham (d.1503) had married Lady Margaret Howard, 4th daughter of John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk, KG, Earl Marshal (c.1425-1485). As part of his plan he petitioned the king to grant him the additional title of Earl of Northumberland, with special remainder to Wyndham. The plan was opposed by his son the future 7th Duke, who petitioned the king against, and succeeded at least in delaying the drawing up of the necessary letters patent. The 6th Duke died in 1748 before the letters patent were drawn up and the 7th Duke put into effect a similar scheme, which split the Percy inheritance between his own son-in-law Smithson and his late father's choice of heir, Sir Charles Wyndham.
In accordance with the wishes of his father-in-law the 7th Duke, in 1750 Smithson changed his surname by Act of Parliament to Percy, adopted the Percy arms, and in 1766 was created Duke of Northumberland and Earl Percy. It had been a stipulation before the marriage in 1682 of the 6th Duke to Elizabeth Percy that he and his descendants should adopt the surname Percy, but this was not binding on the couple who were minors, and in 1687 the Duchess having reached the age of 21, dispensed with the agreement. Today Smithson's descendant Ralph Percy, 12th Duke of Northumberland (born 1956) still owns the said Percy estates.
The Wyndham Earls of Egremont soon died out in the male line but before that event George Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont (1751-1837) bequeathed Petworth and Cockermouth Castle to his illegitimate son and adopted heir Col. George Wyndham (1787-1869), created in 1859 by Queen Victoria Baron Leconfield, who adopted a differenced version of the Wyndham armorials. The 3rd Earl's heir male was his nephew George Wyndham, 4th Earl of Egremont (1786-1845), the last Earl, who under law inherited the earldom, but had been stripped of the Percy inheritance of Petworth, receiving instead the (not inconsiderable) entailed Wyndham estates including Orchard Wyndham, still owned today by the Wyndham family. He attempted to make up for the loss of Petworth by building his own stately home in Devon called Silverton Park, which was widely deemed hideous and was demolished in 1901. The future 6th Baron Leconfield was in 1963 created Baron Egremont, in a sense a regaining of the name of the Earldom denied to his great-grandfather Col. George Wyndham (1787-1869) due to his illegitimacy.
The house and deer park were handed over to the nation in 1947 by Edward Wyndham, 5th Baron Leconfield (1883-1967) and are now managed by the National Trust under the name Petworth House & Park. The Leconfield Estates continue to own much of Petworth and the surrounding area. The contents of the house, in particular the paintings and sculptures, are now the property of the National Trust having been taken in lieu of accumulated death duties. Lord Egremont and his family live in the south wing, allowing much of the remainder to be open to the public. Lady Egremont has restored the gardens. Today's building houses an important collection of paintings and sculptures, including 19 oil paintings by J. M. W. Turner (some owned by the family, some by Tate Britain), who was a regular visitor to Petworth, paintings by Van Dyck, carvings by Grinling Gibbons and Ben Harms, classical and neoclassical sculptures (including ones by John Flaxman and John Edward Carew), and wall and ceiling paintings by Louis Laguerre. There is also a terrestrial globe by Emery Molyneux, believed to be the only one in the world in its original 1592 state.
The 283-hectare (700-acre) landscaped park, known as Petworth Park, has the largest herd of fallow deer in England. It is one of the more famous in England, largely on account of a number of pictures of it which were painted by Turner. There is also a 12-hectare (30-acre) woodland garden, known as the Pleasure Ground. Petworth House is home to the Petworth House Real Tennis Club (many such private estates held real tennis courts). Petworth Park was also a cricket venue. As was usual for a mediaeval manor house, it was built in its original form next to the parish church (to provide the lord of the manor with enhanced spiritual benefits), around which developed a village, now grown to a sizeable town. Such position is unusual for a country mansion of its size and date, which were frequently later re-built on new more private sites away from the original manor house, or the church and village were on occasion demolished to provide the desired privacy. Petworth House and Park are thus today situated immediately adjacent to the town of Petworth, with its shops and restaurants.
Mobility parking in main car park. Initial slope from car park to house quite steep. Mobility vehicle runs between car park and house, this route is wheelchair accessible. Limited designated parking at Church Lodge entrance (next to servants' quarters). There are adapted toilets inthe car park and servants' quarters. There is a wheelchair to borrow. There are Braille and large print guides available as well as an Induction loop. Partly accessible grounds, some slopes and undulating terrain. Good path surfaces. Assistance dogs are welcome. Restaurant serving seasonal homemade food. Guided tours available - please contact them before you visit.
Petworth Cottage Museum, at 346 High Street, Petworth, West Sussex is a Leconfield Estate worker's cottage staffed by volunteers and manged by a charitable trust. It has been restored and furnished as it might have been in about 1910 when the occupier was a Mrs. Mary Cummings, an Irish Catholic. Mary worked as a seamstress at nearby Petworth House and at home. The museum comprises of the garden, scullery, living room, bedroom, sewing room, attic and cellar. Owing to the historic nature of the building only the ground floo is accessible to the mobility impaired. The Garden is planted with cottage garden plants appropriate to the period of the museum. The garden contains the outdoor lavatory (the cottage has never had an indoor toilet or bathroom).
346 has no front door, and the back door leads into the scullery, which contains a stone sink, wash copper, laundry equipment, and period kitchen furniture and utensils. The living room has been restored with a "Petworth" range, which is lit whenever the museum is open, as it would have been needed every day for cooking and hot water. The table is set for tea. The bedroom contains a small fireplace and leads to the steep stairs to the attic. In restoring the cottage some of the timber framing of the building has been left undecorated here and shows how the first floor and attic were added to an originally single storey and roof space.
Mary Cummings worked as a seamstress at Petworth House and at home. The workroom in the museum is set up as a sewing room. The treadle sewing machine dates from the 1890s and is complete down to the instruction manual. The sewing materials are also of the period and the room reflects the kind of work and fashions that she might have encountered. The attic is furnished as a children's spare bedroom. Mrs. Cummings's granddaughters, Veronica and Blanche, and their close friend, Agnes Phelan slept here when they stayed in the cottage in 1919. The Cottage Museum Guide Book records Agnes's memories and her comments on the restoration. The small window gives a rooftop view of the town. The cellar has a coal hatch to the street and contains a workbench and tools. Preserved food is stored in the cool stairwell. The timber framed wall dividing the cellar from next door is unusual below ground level.
The Petworth Goss China Collection comprises over 40 various pieces. Goss China was produced by the Falcon Pottery from the 1880s to the late 1930s. William Henry Goss, the owner, was a keen collector of antiques - which in the 19th century meant Greek and Roman vases. He passed along this interest to his sons. When his son, Adolphus, joined the firm in the early 1880s, he suggested that the firm take advantage of the seaside souvenir collecting craze and produce miniature copies of Greek and Roman vases decorated with the coat of arms of coastal towns to be sold as souvenirs. The idea proved popular and by the turn of the century, most cities and towns had their own Goss products. It is believed that by 1910, 95% of British homes had some crested china. Besides Greek and roman vases, Goss china came in hundreds of designs, from animals to novelty items, such as cannons and a man in the stocks. The Petworth crest is the one adopted when the Petworth Parish Council was formed in 1894 and shows Gog and Magog. In the Bible, Magog was one of Noah’s grandsons and Gog was the grandson of Jacob. In Revelations, they are mentioned as enemies of the people. Despite their negative description in the Bible, since the time of Henry V, these two giants have been considered guardians of the City of London and images are carried in the Lord Mayor’s Show. They were obviously considered guardians for Petworth too and statues depicting them are now on top of the Petworth House gates.
Mary Cummings was born Mary Gilgeish in Manchester. Mary’s mother was born in Co. Galway in Ireland. Michael Thomas Cummings was born in Clerkenwell. He signed on to serve in 8th (King’s Royal Irish) Hussars, under age, in August 1854 and rose to the rank of farrier sergeant-major. He served in Crimea (after the charge of the Light Brigade) and in India. Mary and Michael Thomas married in Gort, Co. Galway in 1873. Michael Thomas was then a widower aged 36. Mary was then 20 and is described as a milliner. Michael Thomas left the army in 1876 after 22 years service. The couple came to Petworth with their first child, Saint Michael Angelo, in 1877 and took the tenancy of 328M Percy Row. Michael Thomas was employed as a shoeing smith at Petworth House from 1877 to 1884. They had three further children, Arthur, Alfred and Edith. By the early 1880s the marriage was in difficulty, and Michael Thomas moved away from Petworth. He died at Wimbledon in 1917. Mary lived in Egremont Row where her son, Alfred died in 1901. She was then the tenant of 346 High Street and remained so until 1930, when she moved to Somerset Hospital, a Leconfield Estate almshouse, where she died in 1935. Mary, Alfred and probably her mother were buried at Duncton Roman Catholic church. Saint Michael Angelo had two daughters, Veronica and Blanche, who came to 346 for a fortnight in 1919, with a friend Agnes Phelan. Shortly after the opening of the museum in 1996, Agnes visited the cottage again and her memories have been carefully recorded in the museum’s guide book. Agnes died in September 2011, aged 102.
Location : Petworth House and Park, Petworth, West Sussex, GU28 9LR
Location : Petworth Cottage Museum, 346 High Street, Petworth, West Sussex, GU28 0AU
Transport : Pulborough (National Rail) then bus (No. 1 Stagecoach). Bus Routes : 1 Stagecoach, 75 and 99 Compass stop nearby (in Petworth). No bus service Sundays or Bank Holidays.
Opening Times : Daily 11:00 to 17:00; Pleasure Ground opens at 10:00.
Opening Times Petworth Cottage:Tuesday to Saturday + Bank Holidays, April through October 14:00 to 16:30.
Tickets Petworth House: Adults £13.50; Children £6.75.
Tickets Petworth House: November + January - March 17, Adults £7.20; Children £3.60.
Tickets Petworth House: Christmas Masquerade, December to January 3rd, Adults £10.90; Children £5.40.
Tickets Petworth Cottage Museum: Adults £4.00; Children £1.00.
Tel. : 01798343929