‘That House of Art’ : Petworth House

On Sunday last week I took one of my American friends (and fellow book group member) to Petworth House in West Sussex. I’d picked her up the day before from a Charlotte Bronte Conference at Chawton House Library near Alton in Hampshire; taken her back to Godalming where we walked with Oliver Pug to Munstead Wood (just a glimpse) and dropped her at her Ewhurst B&B after a pub supper nearby.

Alton Church

Alton Church

Chawton House Library

Chawton House Library

JA's House

Petworth is truly a ‘House of Art’ (as John Constable described it in 1834). It’s owned by the National Trust and really needs several visits to do it justice. We had barely four hours but we still managed, without feeling under pressure, to wander round the house which is home to countless significant works of 18th century art, including 20 Turners;  to eat a sausage and mash lunch in the cafe; to browse in the shop and to walk out to the lake and almost into the Capability Brown landscape. And Diana even spent time (and made a purchase) in the Petworth Antique Market (while I fetched the car) in the estate village.


With the vast array of art, and more, to see the National Trust have come up with an assortment of leaflets to help one choose a selection of the ‘best’. These include ‘Mr Turner at Petworth’ which highlights just 8 of his paintings. JMW Turner (1775-1851) was the most famous figure associated with the house. He was a regular guest of Lord Egremont, who bought 20 of his paintings. These now form the largest group of Turner oils outside Tate Britain. Please excuse my photos. My camera is not good inside and the lighting makes the pictures even worse but maybe you get the idea.

Marbel Hall

Turner’s Billiard Players in the Marble Hall at Petworth is part of The Tate Gallery’s Turner Bequest

Marble Hall

The Marble Hall

Petworth Park

Petworth Park by JMW Turner


Brighton From the Sea

The Petworth Park painting reflects the 3rd Lord Egremont’s keen interest in agriculture, rare breeds, fallow deer and the fact that he generously allowed free use of the park for sports and recreation.

The ‘Petworth Park’ and ‘Brighton from the Sea’ paintings above hang in the Carved Room which is full of ornate and intricate carvings mainly (but not all) the work of Grinling Gibbons. In this room, also, hangs a copy from Holbein’s studio of the portrait of Henry VIII, almost certainly commissioned by Edward Seymour (brother of Jane, Henry’s 3rd wife).

Carved room

The Carved Room

GG and carvings

Grinling Gibbons’ own Portrait in the Carved Room

GG work

Amazing Carving by Grinling Gibbons

Henry VIII

Henry VIII

The Carved Room is also the home of a series of paintings of scenes from Shakespeare’s plays. The 3rd Lord Egremont also owned some very early editions of the plays.


Here’s Falstaff

The World-Class Objects included :

Boulle Commode

Sarcophagus-shaped Commode by André-Charles Boulle


Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Manuscript (not the best pages!)


Thomas Chippendale Giltwood Sofa


Claude Passavant Exeter Carpet

There was still a mass of art on the walls of the Sculpture Gallery besides the sculptures themselves.

sculpture gallery

Believe me I have here only tipped the iceberg of Petworth and I look forward to many more visits in future.

Before I take you out onto the estate (next post) here is one of my favourite paintings The Card Players by Jan Matsys.

card players

And when Diana saw the Turner’s ‘Hulks on the Tamar‘ she was reminded of the song ‘Fields of Athenry’. She serenaded me with a rendition once we were out in the estate. Here it is performed (topically) by The Dubliners.


6 comments on “‘That House of Art’ : Petworth House

  1. dianabirchall says:

    What a real thrill, after reading so many of your posts, and wishing numberless times that I could share one of your adventures, it has happened, and here is the post, about all the things we did and saw. I’m writing this from the plane going home (over Hudson’s Bay now) and I think I was moving from one place to the next on this trip, too fast and tired to remember to share my pictures with you! Yours are great though, and bring it all back potently! When I get home I’ll send some from the park. It was a wonderful, wonderful day, and you are (as I’ve always suspected) the best travel companion, imaginative arranger, and cicerone anybody could have! I’m so grateful, will never forget it, and will only say – more, please, next year!

  2. Fran says:

    Petworh is certainly worth visiting several times. I never tire of looking at the wood carvings, or walking in the park. Very happy to join you there should you think about a revisit!

    • Sounds like another plan to add to the ever-lengthening list, Fran. We’ll sort out our ‘priorities’ after the summer. Can’t wait to see you again and join you for walks and explorations on your ‘home ground’.

  3. Tuba says:

    Loving that floor on Marble Hall!

  4. […] year, transformed the 700 acre estate at Petworth into the one we see, and can walk in, today. As we stepped out from the small formal area behind the house  into the larger, grander landscape Diana […]

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