Petworth HouseAlthough we live in more democratic times these days, Petworth continues to be dominated by Petworth House, the Leconfield Estate and the large walls that separate the aristocracy from the rest of us.
Nowadays Petworth House is run by the National Trust. Although there had been a fine house and estate at Petworth since the 12th century, most of the House that can be seen today was built in the 1690s by the 6th Duke of Somerset - the so called "proud Duke".
The 3rd Earl of Egremont (1751 - 1837) made a further huge mark on Petworth, extending the estate's lands and its notable art collection, some of which is owned by the state and some of which is owned privately. The Petworth art collection contains paintings by Holbein, Reynolds, Gainsborough and Rembrandt and hundreds of other paintings and statues of distinction. Petworth House also has a close association with JMW Turner who spent quite a lot of time working here.
Another big Petworth attraction is Petworth Park - the grounds of Petworth House - which were partially paid out by famous garden design guru Capability Brown in the 1750s.
Petworth antiquesPetworth has a strong reputation as an leading antiques town and it seems as if every other shop in the town is an antique dealer of one type or another.
In fact there around 30 or so antique dealers based in the town, many of them selling pieces of a very high quality indeed - I once asked about a piece I liked and told it was "only 50,000 pounds". Many of the dealers have strong links to the London antiques world and well heeled customers and many of the shops contain interesting, exquisite and ancient items. A morning wandering round the antique shops can be very pleasant and there are plenty of dealers with more affordable items for sale.
If you add all the antique shops in Petworth together, apparently it amounts to an aggregate 35,000 square feet of retail space. That's effectively an antiques megastore - only with character.
The Petworth dealers have their own association called, unsurprisingly, the Petworth Antique Dealers Association. Petworth has been voted "Antiques Town of the Year" in the British Antique Collectors' Awards and deserves its title.
Petworth historyLike many of the West Sussex market towns, Petworth is in touch with its history and is mostly well-preserved. Although the town could do with a by-pass, years of searching have produced no satisfactory route and the lorries and cars continue to rumble through the town centre and along the great wall to the Petworth Estate.
There are some good old houses in the Town. Some are really grand like Dainty House with a Georgian facade built onto the pre-existing Elizabethan house. Other houses are cute and slightly rickety in appearance and many are tile hung in the traditional Sussex way. The overall effect is very attractive and makes Petworth a pleasant place for tourists to spend a few hours.
Petworth Cottage Museum is an interesting attempt to portray an Edwardian estate worker's life by recreating their house and belongings in time.
Other Petworth attractionsRecently the grounds of Petworth House have hosted a season of open air summer concerts, which are one of the highlights of the Petworth International Festival.
Petworth Fair is one of the oldest in the south of England and takes place early each winter in the town's main square. Nowadays the square is filled with all the usual fairground equipment and musical performances take place in Leconfield Hall. The fair dates from the times when Petworth was an important cloth weaving centre in the middle ages.
Look out for the Petworth Hidden Gardens weekend too and the Coultershaw Beam Pump on the River Rother a mile or so south of Petworth.
Where to stay in PetworthIf you're looking for somewhere to stay in Petworth or the surrounding countryside, why not check out our guide to the best bed and breakfast establishments and hotels in the Petworth area.
There are also good hotels in Midhurst, which is only ten minutes or so by car from Petworth and plenty of smart bed and breakfast accommodation around Midhurst too.
Petworth's cobbled streets - Lombard Street
- Wisborough Green
- West Sussex antique dealers
- Local Petworth clubs, societies and community organisations
- The Gardens of Petworth Park
- Local sports clubs