Petworth House: a poor man’s Dulwich Picture Gallery (West Sussex)

Credit: Angel Inn

Just over five years ago we visited Petworth House as one of the first National Trust houses we’d ever been to. I seem to remember being impressed by it and its separate kitchen block across the courtyard from the large house. I do, however, remember that the weather was cold at the time that I always said I wanted to return. As our trip to Vann left us 30 minutes away, we decided to drop into Petworth.

Credit: Country Wives

Vann had been almost deserted. We were only joined by two other groups of people visiting. In contrast, Perworth with was absolutely rammed and we were forced by 1130 in the morning to park in the overflow car park.

We made the long walk up to the house and were immediately tackled for our tickets: quite the contrast to the open-topped honesty box at Vann.

We decided we didn’t need to go and see the kitchens: Victorian kitchens are all very similar and we had seen this before.

The entrance to the house has changed slightly since we were last there. Overall, we were very disappointed at the lack of rooms to visit. In sum, I’d say Petworth is a picture gallery, not dissimilar but rather a lower grade than that found at Dulwich, even with the Turner’s.

Of course Petworth is famous for its association with Turner, the great artist. Turner’s patron was the owner of Petworth and therefore there are a number of his paintings in the collection. The 2014 film on the life of John Turner may have increased the popularity of Petworth. However I was not impressed. The only thing worth visiting for is the Grinling Gibbons carvings. They are truly spectacular.

Outside there are no formal gardens, those having been swept away in the 18th century.  Oh dear, Lord Egremont – he did rather well out of retaining rights to remain living in the house, which I think is why the NT have made this house a poor museum and any formal gardens are the family’s.  Please correct me if I’ve missed the formal gardens!

The most interesting thing I think about Petworth is that it used to be owned by the Percy family (the Dukes of Northumberland, who still own Syon House & Alnwick Castle).  Elizabeth I confined the family to Petworth due to her suspicions of them!  The female heir married the Earl of Somerset in 1682 (at 16 she had already been widowed twice).  It was then in 1688 that the current house was rebuilt on the site of the earlier house (although there were some late 19th century alterations).

Do not forget to go through the restaurant and exit out into the village of Petworth. The village is full of craft shops and antique shops and we enjoyed walking around and then having lunch. This National Trust visit, however, left a bad taste in my mouth and so we were very happy to leave and travel onwards to West Dean Gardens.


When visited: April 2015


4 thoughts on “Petworth House: a poor man’s Dulwich Picture Gallery (West Sussex)

  1. How interesting, and I am in complete agreement with you about Petworth. It is not the most exciting property to visit and having so few rooms open does not help. The lack of formal gardens is disappointing but the Deer Park is good for walking and very popular with dog owners and families, so if that’s not your ‘thing’ don’t bother. I saw both the Turner exhibitions at Petworth and came away disappointed (I did write blog posts about both my visits) and the more recent exhibition was really just a thinly disguised way of getting people to pay lots of money (NT members included) to see their 2nd rate Turners . I did read your post about Vann last week and have been really inspired to visit there as a result.

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