The historic market town of Petworth dates back to at least the Domesday Book. With cobbled and narrow streets lined with beautiful architecture, Petworth is overlooked by the imposing figure of Petworth House and the magnificent and ever regal South Downs. Not far from Chichester and Midhurst, it makes a great stop-off point or a final destination for the Sussex explorer, and with that in mind, this month we’re going to be out and about sampling what’s on offer. But before we go on a deeper dive into Petworth, here are 10 reasons to jump in your car and head to this little corner of West Sussex.
Things to Do In Petworth
Wine strikes me as a good a reason as any to visit a town and Petworth won’t disappoint. There are two vineyards almost immediately to the west of the town, namely Upperton Vineyards and the Roebuck Estates, with others within easy reach. Both produce excellent sparkling wine. Upperton are currently out of stock (gasp) but expect their wines to be available once more in April 2022. They also offer vineyard tours and tastings. Roebuck have their own wine club and are producers of an award-winning sparkling wine, a bottle of which happens to be chilling in my fridge as I type. Well, when in Rome. And if you don’t have time to go to the vineyards themselves, fear not, because there is also an excellent wine merchant in Golden Square, Hennings.
2. Coffee and cake
Another excellent reason to visit somewhere is the potential for some people watching over a good cup of coffee and locally made cake. And what sounds better than the Coco Café and Sugar Lounge, Tiffins Tea Rooms and Cherry’s. I was half expecting Miss Marple to emerge from one of them. And let’s not forget the award-winning deli, The Hungry Guest. Dive in through their doors to the smell of freshly baked bread and enjoy! This is an emporium of local, edible delights.
3. Ghosts and good grub
When I stumbled into The Angel Inn, I wasn’t expecting ghosts but they apparently have two: a small boy who runs around the corridors and a lady who has been seen and felt by staff and guests in one of the rooms and by the fire near the stairs. She apparently lived here many years ago and died falling down the stairs. Ghosts are not the only reason to visit The Angel. They have an excellent menu with lots of local dishes and a dreamily romantic covered terrace – with blankets for cold days! Winston Churchill is also supposed to have stopped here for a drink as allegedly did the Pilgrim Fathers on their way to Southampton to board the Mayflower – and it is they who are supposed to have given the inn its name as a reflection of the hospitality they had received.
You may not visit a town with spirituality in mind, but Petworth is surely paving the way to another realm. There is St Mary’s church at the top of the town (parts of which date back to 1350), the Sacred Heart Catholic church (if I have to be buried, let it be here as their graveyard has fantastic views!), the United Reform Church in Golden Square, the Ebenezer Chapel, formerly a Baptist chapel and now a spiritual retreat, yoga, astrology and meditation centre, and the chapel at Petworth House. I may have missed one, to be honest, but Petworth definitely provides ample potential to stop and reflect.
5. Art and antiques
Petworth is perhaps best known for its many antique shops and art galleries and personally, a good rummage around Petworth Antique Market and some of the many shops is a fine way to spend a few hours. There are some 43 dealers at the Antique Market and a fantastic collection of everything from antique walking sticks, silver and glass, books, lace and linens. In May, the Petworth Park Antiques & Fine Art Fair 2023 is a unique opportunity to see over 60 exhibitors of fine art and antiques and some rare, unique and incredible items – all in the stunning grounds of Petworth House.
6. Fetes, festivals and fairs
Petworth claims to hold the oldest street fair in the south of England. It takes place in front of Leconfield Hall and is held on the 20 November, the Feast of St Edmund the King. It allegedly dates back to 1273, or even earlier. For summer frolics, Petworth Festival is a music and arts extravaganza. Then there’s the Petworth Festival Literary Week which normally takes place in October and welcomes a host of writers, directors, and presenters and the Petworth Sessions are now hosting a year-round Petworth Fringe!
7. Great local walks
Being so close to the South Downs means there is always going to be great walking here. And if you’re looking for things to do, Petworth Park is an obvious starting point and whenever I’ve been, I’ve been lucky enough to spot some of the deer. Then of course there are glimpses of the house, lakes, the Rotunda, the Doris Temple, ancient trees, the Boat House, and the Dog of Alcibiades to discover. Back in Petworth town and whilst skirting around the back of the Sacred Heart church recently, I also discovered a short walk that takes you across the valley which is particularly stunning at sunrise! Or, if you want a hearty morning walk before an afternoon spent in Petworth, head slightly south and try Graffham Common.
8. A farmers’ market
As a market town, you would expect it to have a market and it does. Petworth Farmers’ Market is on the 4th Saturday of the month and we’ll be heading there later this month to check it out.
9. Petworth Museum
Petworth has its own small but perfectly formed cottage museum open from April to October. It’s the home of a former Leconfield estate-worker, Mrs Cummings, a seamstress at Petworth House. It’s furnished as it would have been in 1910 and is just up the road from The Hungry Guest.
10. Petworth House
You can’t visit Petworth and not visit National Trust property Petworth House. We’ll be writing about this next week but of all the National Trust properties I’ve visited of late, this one blows my mind and is worth more than one visit! If you don’t know it, Petworth House is a 17th century stately home with grounds designed by Capability Brown. The house is also home to a prestigious art collection including many works by Turner, Gainsborough, Blake and Van Dyck.
A thoroughly pleasant perambulation
You don’t always need a specific reason to visit somewhere. But if you fancy cobbled streets, interesting architecture, a pub lunch, some independent boutiques, a dash of history, and a drive through the beautiful Sussex countryside then Petworth should go on your list!
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