Petworth Stately Mansion & Extensive Grounds

While still in West Sussex we went to visit Petworth, another National Trust property. As we walked the “extensive grounds” from the car park to the stately mansion I was reminded of a line in Jane Austen’s novel Emma: “People who have extensive grounds themselves are always pleased with any thing in the same style.” Well, I don’t have extensive grounds but still appreciated the 700-acre deer park surrounding the mansion that was designed and transformed by noted landscape architect, Lancelot “Capability” Brown.

As we walked on the sinuous path to Petworth we had views of an Ionic Rotunda; rolling park lands; a Doric Temple; a variety of trees, shrubs, and flowering plants (too many to name); and eventually the mansion and domestic rooms. The buildings that are open to the public were built in 1682 when “heiress, Elizabeth Percy, daughter to the 11th Earl of Northumberland, married Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset,” and were remodeled by a few other owners whose names I do not remember. However, I do remember the names of the artists whose works are on exhibit in the mansion—Turner, Reynolds, Blake, Titian, and Van Dyck. When taking photographs of the sculpture, paintings, and carved walls, I attempted to give a sense of scale, which was massive and quite imposing. I was not surprised to learn that this part of the home had never been lived in, but was designed to showcase the 3rd Earl of Egremont’s art collection.

The small, unadorned servant’s quarters contrasted greatly to the grand rooms; only the room where they hung meat and the kitchen were large. I was most impressed with the large sink-like looking piece of equipment used to keep food warm—like a giant chaffing dish for pots.

Although I have read all of Jane Austen’s novels, the images and dialog in my head are from the wonderful BBC film adaptations I have seen on PBS. As we left the mansion walking towards the lake and I looked back at the impressive building and surrounding gardens I was reminded of the scene in Pride and Prejudice when Jane asks her sister Elizabeth how long she has loved Darcy, and she responds, “It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley.” Now I understand how extensive grounds could make a girl fall in love with the man that owned them.

Leave a Reply