Inside its slab-like exterior Petworth House contains a collection of art treasures that make it well worth a visit, writes Jenny Ford
Petworth House was chosen by the Art Appreciation group for its autumn trip and the day proved to be fine and dry, which was fortunate as the house can be cold and gloomy. Built and extended by three different owners it is a rather ugly building, although the west front has a certain classical grandeur.
However, the real beauty of Petworth lies in the treasures that it contains, as it holds the National Trust’s finest collection of art. The extensive artefacts include pictures, furniture, sculptures and the superb wood carvings of Grinling Gibbons.
We had time to examine the recently reopened old kitchens before meeting our guide for a tour of the house. A National Trust volunteer, he explained the history of the house and pointed out some of the most valuable pictures, including a superb Titian and an early Nativity scene by Bosch as well as works by Lely and Turner. Turner stayed in the house on various occasions as a guest.
After the tour we walked in the woodland through carpets of sweet chestnuts and admired the Doric temple.
Petworth is a charming, old-fashioned town with a teashop on every corner and a great number of antique shops. We found a little courtyard with tables and chairs set out and had lunch in the sunshine.
There was then time to visit the church next to Petworth House and admire the beautiful stained-glass windows. Two flower ladies told us that a bomb had dropped on a school in the town in 1942 killing 28 children and two teachers. They were creating floral displays for a service of remembrance in the church to mark 75 years since the disaster.
Petworth House is primarily a museum rather than a home but, as such, for art lovers it is immensely rewarding.