Petworth House wouldn’t look out of place in a lavish Jane Austen adaptation. In fact, this 17th century mansion which is home to a huge array of internationally famed paintings from the likes of Anthony van Dyck and William Blake, was the only ‘real’ Turner location to feature in Mike Leigh’s award-winning 2014 film Mr Turner.
JMW Turner famously had a run of the house when he visited his greatest patron, George Wyndham, third Earl of Egremont, who owned Petworth from 1763, and during his time there was commissioned to create 20 paintings which are still on display today.
As much as the rich tapestry of artwork and neo-gothic sculptures at Petworth are fascinating, there is something far more pleasing to a four-year old boy… and that’s the vast 700-acre sprawling park across West Sussex.
Before even reaching the mansion, we slowly meandered on the paths through Capability Brown’s Pleasure Ground – filled with blankets of spring flowers, Monkey loved the Doric Temple, while we enjoyed the views from the Ionic Rotunda – designed and placed to become key focal points among the trees.
After finally reaching the impressive property, we knew dragging Monkey around the art exhibition would invite tedium, but we still opted to look around the servant’s quarters and the historic kitchens – which has remained unchanged since the Victorian era. It was mind-boggling to learn that back in 1829 the kitchens served some 30,000 guests.
The main kitchen is home to some 1,000 copper pots and pans, as well as a traditional roasting range, bain-marie and gas stove. Much to our dismay Monkey decided to road test some of these items. Luckily, no one saw him…
Once outside, we headed towards the Upper Pond and enjoyed watching the bird life flocking around the water but not before Monkey spied a huge hill which he insisted we had to race up.
I’m glad we did, though. The views from up high of the whole estate were spectacular – and it’s easy to understand why Turner was so inspired to paint the landscapes when he came to stay.
The ancient woodland filled with giant chestnut trees, a 1,000 year-old oak as well as some of the oldest limes in the UK meant we had a natural playground in which to keep us entertained for some time.
We just wished we’d brought our bikes as we were only able to explore a small part of Petworth’s substantial lands. We didn’t even come across the estate’s 900 fallow deer, which graze in all parts of the park.
Filled with ramblers, families, art lovers, history fans and dog walkers, Petworth Park has something for everyone. It would be impossible to feel claustrophobic wandering the grounds – there’s just so much space for all to enjoy. Meanwhile, there are several organised activities and talks from antique fairs, guided walks and craft workshops throughout the year.
We’ll definitely be returning and aiming to explore much more of Petworth Park’s wonderful grounds, and perhaps next time, we’ll even be able to spy a deer or two…
Petworth House and Park, Petworth, West Sussex, GU28 9LR; Tickets: Adult £13.50; Child £6.75