Petworth House: Home to 20 Turner Paintings and More

Blossom S By Blossom S, 18th Mar 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Europe>England>Surrey, Kent & Sussex

Petworth House: Home to 20 Turner Paintings and More

Petworth House: Home to 20 Turner Paintings and More

Last April we had a beautiful sunny month which encouraged me to get out and visit places. On Good Friday (22 April 2011) I visited Petworth House for the first time.

Petworth House is located in Petworth, West Sussex. It took me roughly 80 minutes to get there by car. The car park was not very big and the footpath up to the entrance of house was dusty and terrible.

Walking a short distance I arrived at reception where a National Trust staff checked my membership card and gave me a simple guide to Petworth House. Then I walked for about 10 minutes to reach the house. Because the views along the footpath were very beautiful it didn’t seem such a long walk.

Petworth House principally consists of two buildings. The larger one was used by the owners of the house, whilst the smaller one was used for their servants and for catering and storage. Before I started my tour I stopped at the coffee shop, which was in the Servants’ Hall. I was pleased with the food choices and quality when compared to my last experience in the Standen National Trust restaurant. After my break I made a quick visit to the adjacent gift shop.

The Ownership of Petworth House:

Guided by a National Trust staff member I entered the lobby, where I gained some idea about the history of Petworth House. The house has been owned by the Earl of Northumberland and his successors since 1341. You can see Petworth House has had a strong relationship with British royalty and been deeply involved in the history of the United Kingdom. Henry VIII visited the house in 1526, and Elizabeth visited in 1563 and again in 1583. Leaving the lobby I walked into a chapel.

The Pethouse Rooms

The Chapel:

The Chapel was built in the 14th century and is one of the oldest surviving parts of the house. The panelling is a Baroque style and thought to date from the time of the 6th Duke of Somerset (in the late 17th century). To me the most impressive part of the room were the windows that show the coats of arms of the Percy heirs from the Norman Conquest to the seventeenth century. Moving on from the medieval chapel I entered the North Gallery.

The North Gallery:

The North Gallery was built between 1754 and 1825 to house the family’s paintings and sculpture collections. My first impression was of a huge public gallery rather than a private collection. It was not possible to see all of the exhibits when on a day trip so I focused my attention on viewing the Turner paintings. Turner was a regular visitor to the house. There are 20 of his paintings and 13 of them are in the North Gallery. One other memorable exhibit was the earliest English terrestrial globe in existence. It was made by Emery Molyneux and is dated 1592. Next to the Gallery it is Red Room.

The Red Room:

The Red Room was used as a retiring room for ladies of Petworth House. It was painted red during the 3rd Earl of Egremont’s alterations, but over time went through various changes of colours scheme. However today the room is returned to the 3rd Earl’s red scheme, which you can see in one of the Turner paintings entitled the Red Room. It was really interesting to compare Turner’s painting with the room as it is today. From the Red Room I moved on to the Carved Room.

The Carved Room:

The Carved Room is a large, bright square room. On the east wall I saw 4 Turner paintings. One National Trust staff kindly told me where to stand to appreciate these great paintings. Above one of Turner’s paintings I saw a portrait of Henry VIII which is similar to one I saw in the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The windows in the room were in a very low level. It is said the 3rd Earl had the windows lowered so he could sit in the middle of the room to appreciate Turner paintings as well as enjoy the views in the garden. In a corner there was a large beautiful Chinese vase made in the Kang Xi Qing Dynasty. As a Chinese visitor it was wonderful to see such an exquisite piece. Next to the Carved Room it is the Little Dining Room.

The Little Dining Room:

The Little Dining Room has had many different uses over time. Today it remains much as it was in the time of the 6th Duke of Somerset. Here I saw many pieces of beautiful porcelain.

The Marble Hall:

The Marble Hall was the principal entrance to the house and is described as ‘The Hall of State’ in the 6th Duke of Somerset’s accounts. The main feature of the room is a magnificent carved marble fireplace and in one corner you can see an 18th century inlaid mahogany organ made by John England. The Marble Hall is an airy spacious room. It provides a good vantage point from which to admire the beautiful parkland and vast ornamental lake designed by Capability Brown.

The Beauty Room:

Compared to other rooms in the house the Beauty Room was small, but to me much more interesting. The room was devised by the 6th Duke of Somerset as a tribute to Queen Anne and the ladies of her court. The room is decorated with portraits of them. The interesting thing is you can’t see them wearing any jewellery. This is because Queen Anne didn’t wear jewellery as she was in a permanent state of mourning due to the sad loss of all her children.

The room is also a shrine to the Duke of Wellington. There is a Wellington bust on a marble-topped table, on either side of which there are pictures of two famous battles in British history: Battle of Vittoria (1813) and Battle of Waterloo (1815). A portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte hangs just above the bust. It’s a bit weird for me to see a British hero and their enemy in a display like that. In China we would display them in separate rooms or put the victor above the vanquished.

The Grand Staircase:

The Grand Staircase was created by the 6th Duke of Somerset after the original was devastated by fire in 1714. It was conceived as a palatial transition from the state apartments on the ground floor to the bedrooms upstairs. There is a dramatic panorama of mural paintings on the ceiling, which was painted by Louis Laguerre and traces the mythological story of Prometheus and Pandora. I was stunned to see such large and beautiful mural paintings.

The Square Dining Room:

The Square Dining Room is not as big as I imagined. It is mostly referred to as the ‘family photograph album’. On the walls of the room are portraits featuring nine generations of family members. In the centre of the south wall there is a large dark painting that depicts the dramatic encounter between Macbeth and the three witches. In the centre of the room you can see a mahogany dining table supported by tripod pedestals. Around the table there are eight mahogany dining chairs covered in red Morocco leather.

The Somerset Room:

The Somerset Room is next door to the Square Dining Room. It was used as a place to keep food warm before it was taken into the dinning room to be eaten. The style of decoration is very simple and reflects how the room looked in the Regency period. In the centre of the room there is a table, on which an illuminated manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury tales has been placed in a glass box. It was produced in the 1420’s by a single scribe and is one of the earliest surviving texts of Chaucer’s work.

The Oak Hall:

Since 1743 the Oak Hall has been used as the main entrance to the house. Now it’s the exit to end my trip in the larger building of the House. Under the staircase of the hall there is a door that leads to underground tunnels, which were used by the servants to take the food from the kitchen to the House. Unfortunately it’s not open to visitors.

The Historic Kitchens

The Historic Kitchens:

The Historic Kitchens are in the smaller building of the House. They date from the mid-eighteenth century and the layout of the kitchens is much the same today apart from some innovative gas and electrical appliances in the main kitchen. There I saw a copper batterie de cuisine of more than 1000 pieces.

I missed the daily cooking show, but a National Trust staff member kindly showed me and other visitors how the roasting range works. The roasting range dates back to the seventeenth century when the spits would have been turned manually by a kitchen boy.


All in all, it was a fabulous day out. I was delighted to explore a famous house in British history, and particularly to be able to view so many Turner paintings. Due to time limitation I didn’t have the chance to walk around the park, which is very beautiful and worthy of another visit. I hope I can visit Petworth House again and spend more time.

For more tourist sites in the UK please visit my articles below:

Chartwell------the home of Winston Churchill

Bateman’s-The Home of Rudyard Kipling

Seven reasons to visit Charles Darwin's Home


Elizabeth, Henry Viii, Petworth House, The 6Th Duke Of Somerset, Turner Paintings, West Sussex

Meet the author

author avatar Blossom S
Blossom S is a writer and economist from the United Kingdom. She likes writing and travelling.

Her articles are published on ciao and dooyoo under the username of happysh2009;

Share this page

moderator johnnydod moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know


author avatar Mikey.
19th Mar 2012 (#)

Lovely write Blossom.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Delicia Powers
20th Mar 2012 (#)

How very wonderful, I just loved this visit to the Petworth House...thank you Blossom..

Reply to this comment

author avatar Buzz
20th Mar 2012 (#)

Great read, Blossoms. Thanks.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Ivyevelyn, R.S.A.
30th Mar 2012 (#)

You give a very picturesque page and detailed account of your visit. I enjoyed reading this, Blossom. Thank you.

Reply to this comment

Add a comment
Can't login?