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Visit to Petworth House
Sunday, 14th July 2013

Picture of Petworth House

Pictured above - Petworth House

 

In glorious sunshine we arrived at Petworth House in West Sussex.

We heard the fascinating history of the estate which was gifted to the Percy family for support to William the Conqueror.  Centuries later, the family was moved from its northern ancestral home to be confined at the southern backwater of Petworth in punishment for their support for Mary Queen of Scots.  Later they just survived a brush with the Gunpowder Plot.  Then in 1682, a wayward 16 year old was pushed into her third marriage.  The husband was Charles Seymour, 6th Earl of Somerset, and they became the wealthiest couple in England.  "The Proud Duke" set about renovating the existing property to make the fabulous Petworth House and Gardens that you see today.

The house contains the National Trust's finest collection of pictures, with works by Turner, Van Dyck, Reynolds and Blake, and wood carvings by Grinling Gibbons (not grinning gibbons, as misheard by one member of the party who really should know better).

In front of the house, seven trenches had been dug as part of an archaeological excavation to locate what is thought could be a missing north wing of the house.  The archaeologists from Sussex Archaeology/UCL kindly told us about their work and allowed us to handle some of the finds from the dig.

Also on hand were people from Four and Twenty Blackbirds (www.4and20blackbirds.co.uk), medieval cookery experts, who were dressed in period clothing and had set up their kitchen in the grounds.  Their recipe book was fascinating.  While many of the ingredients and methods looked quite familiar, the names of the dishes were less so.  An egg custard pudding my not seem out of place on any menu today, but ordering it by the name of Creme Bastarde might cause some consternation.

Many thanks to Sue who drove the minibus, and Peter, our borrowed driver from ESAB, who made it possible for the large group to enjoy such an interesting visit.

Report by Jonathan Dutton

Petworth House Website

 

 

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