Petworth explores the history of a great house, its collection, surrounding estate and the contribution made to British history by its illustrious owners.
From the Middle Ages Petworth was part of a landed empire stretching from West Sussex to Northumberland. It has been lived in by successive generations of Percys, Seymours and Wyndhams, who have played a prominent role on the national stage, as well as being prolific collectors and patrons. The estate was given to the National Trust in 1947 by Charles Wyndham, 3rd Lord Leconfield, and is still lived in by his great-nephew, Lord Egremont, and his family.
After 1688, Petworth was transformed from medieval castle to Baroque palace, and the master-carver Grinling Gibbons was commissioned to create what is now recognised as his masterpiece, the famous Carved Room. Its picture collection was founded in the reign of Charles I, and together with antique and modern sculpture, represents the National Trust's largest gathering of fine art.
As well as numerous portraits by Van Dyck, landscapes by Turner, Old Masters and British pictures, Petworth displays superb 18th-century London-made and Continental furniture, including a remarkable commode chest-of-drawers by Louis XIV's royal cabinetmaker, André-Charles Boulle.
Petworth House is set within a historic park, laid out by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown in 1753-65, and immortalised in the landscape paintings of J.M.W. Turner, who was a regular guest of the 3rd Earl of Egremont in the 1820s and 1830s.
Christopher Rowell is the National Trust's Furniture Curator. He has published widely on country house collections, including Petworth, over a number of years.
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