England has many beautiful stately homes that look straight out of Jane Austin novel, but Petworth House seems to be the best choice for a last-minute weekend escape from London.
It is slightly less popular than the famous Blenheim Palace or Chatsworth House (although not less impressive!), and I found it easy to book a visit just a couple of days in advance.
How to book a visit to Petworth House
You can book your timed entry on the National Trust website here. National Trust Members can get in for free, while for non-members, tickets cost 10£.
How to get to Petworth from London
If you don’t have a car, you can easily reach Petworth by public transport. My friend and I took a train from London Bridge to Pulborough (the closest station to Petworth) and then the Stagecoach bus no. 1 to Petworth. The bus stop is just opposite the Pulborough train station. The whole journey took us less than 2 hours.
We got to Petworth a couple of hours before our allotted entry time slot to Petworth House, and had plenty of time to visit the town, pop into some local shops (if you love antiques and interior design, this place will be your paradise!), and go for a delicious English breakfast and tea at the lovely Tiffins Tea Rooms.
Following our stroll around the town, we went to explore Petworth House.
You might have seen this beautiful 17th-century Baroque-inspired mansion house in famous movies like Maleficent, Elisabeth: The Golden Age or Mr Turner. And even if you haven’t, you may feel inspired to watch these movies after your visit (just like me!).
Once you step into this beautiful mansion house, you feel as if you were transported to a different time. You are surrounded by beauty, art and history. Whether you are an art lover or not, it’s hard to stay unimpressed by the myriad of artworks.
Thomas Hay Sweet Escott described Petworth House so beautifully:
“The desolation of magnificence, an infinite vista of chambers, passages, and halls opening out of each other apparently peopled only by human forms carved in marble”
The magnificent rooms and halls feature an impressive collection of classical sculptures and paintings by famous artists like Van Dyck, Reynolds, Turner or Blake. One room is more beautiful than the other. Be prepared for a visual feast for your heart and soul.
As fun as it was to analyse the paintings in my own way or read about them online, I enjoyed listening to the room guides the most. They shared with us exciting and fun stories behind different artworks.
I especially liked an anecdote about Kitty Fisher painted by Reynolds. She was a bright and beautiful 18th-century courtesan. The story about her life was so enthralling that out of all the paintings, this one fell into my memory most 🙂 Ask the guides, and they will reveal many secrets to you.
There was something special about each room we visited, but I particularly liked the Curved Room and the Marble Hall.
The Curved Room is famous for the wood carvings by Gibbons and a copy from Holbein’s studio of the full-length portrait of Henry VIII.
The Marble Hall with beautiful Roman statues was once the main entrance to the House. It’s so stunning that the guests visiting Petworth House for the first time must have been instantly impressed. The Marble Hall offers fantastic views across the park.
After nourishing our spirits, we nourished our bodies with coffee and brownies at the Audit Room Cafe’ located in the Servent’s Quarters. From there, we went to explore the Historic Kitchens.
You can see here how nearly 40 live-in servants worked to support the estate. The kitchens haven’t changed much since Victorian times.
Petworth Park and Pleasure Grounds
We ended our visit with a long stroll through Petworth Park and the woodland garden known as Pleasure Grounds.
The garden lies to the north side of the house. It was designed in the 18th century by English famous landscape architect Lancelot “Capability” Brown.
We could stay there for hours relaxing on a bench, eating Jude’s ice-creams, listening to birds singing, and enjoying alluring aromas of the summer (that scent of roses!). We were impressed by many ancient trees and beautiful vistas.
The best time to visit the garden is in the summer when the flowers are in full bloom, and you can enjoy beautiful wildflower meadows.
You can take some fantastic photos and enjoy the best panoramic view from the Ionic Rotunda. The Rotunda and the Doric Temple are the two focal points in the garden.
Petworth Park consists of 700 acres. It’s so huge that you could spend a whole day exploring it, with its beautiful walking trails, lakes, and a herd of deers.
Having limited time before catching our return train to London, we just walked around the Upper Pond, relaxing, and observing wildlife. I will definitely get back here to see more.
Have you been to Petworth House yet? If so, what did you enjoy the most?