Saturday, November 9, 2013

Petworth House and Park

Petworth House is National Trust property the COG and I visited this week.  It has the largest collection of art of all the National Trust houses, so is sometimes called The Art House.  (picture from the National Trust site). The Park was designed by Capability Brown, of course.  Frankly we were a little disappointed in it, but that might have been because it was pouring down rain intermittently so we couldn't really enjoy it.

The house itself is probably the grandest interior I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of grand country homes. Only the downstairs rooms were open to the public, and so there were no bedrooms which was a little disappointing. And the downstairs rooms were mostly a gallery for the art.  Having said all that, both the COG and I gasped audibly when we entered the first room, of which this is only a small adjoining alcove:

Turner and Constable lived in residence there for a while and so there's lots of their work. And there are several things by William Blake. There's a lot of classical statuary, as well as some 18th century statuary. But there are also Titians and Van Dykes and a Lely and at least one Claude and many many many more.  There was also one of the earliest volumes of Canterbury Tales, hand copied and beautiful. And, perhaps, the oldest globe of the world from the 1500's.  So. Many. Treasures.

There is a room, called The Carved Room, with carvings by Grinling Gibbons. All of the carving is done to set off the paintings as if the entire room were the frame. The paintings themselves were amazing - I think they'd been recently cleaned because they were so bright and clear. The painting of Henry VIII looked almost 3D, really quite an effect.

As we arrived, the hunt was forming outside. I am against blood sports, but, it was still exciting to see all the beautiful people on beautiful horses. None of my pictures turned out, so you'll have to take my word for it.

Petworth is a lovely village with about a million antique stores and some lovely homes. The House is actually right next to the town - we entered right from the street into the servants quarters, where the shop, the cafe, and the old kitchens were. There was a cook baking there all day and it was truly interesting to see.  The staff had to take all the food through tunnels between the house and the kitchens/servants quarters.  The Trust has made a feature of the servants quarters, explaining a little about what happened Downstairs, how the servants lived etc. 

Petworth Village

I feel somehow that I should just mention that the house, in its oldest parts, is over 800 years old.  It belonged to the Percy family, who came over with the Normans and were one of the most powerful and richest families of England, and Europe for hundreds of years.  Maybe still are.  The current Lord Whatnot and family still live in the house, which was acquired by the National Trust in lieu of death duties, along with part of the art collection. Reading about the history of the family is like reading an historical novel. Someone in the family was there for every thing that happened since the Conquest. 


Kate said...

If you say it is the grandest interior you've ever seen, it must be astonishing. You've seen many. And with grounds by Capability Brown and wood carvings by Grinling Gibbons (two of the finest English names ever) it sounds as though Petworth was well worth the visit.

Kate said...
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