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Petworth – Description

From Kelly’s Post Office Directory of Essex, Herts, Middlesex, Kent, Surrey and Sussex, 1867

PETWORTH is a railway and telegraph station, and union, market town, parish, and polling place for the Western division of the county, 55 miles by rail and 49 by road from London, 14 from Chichester and 12 from Arundel, in the rape of Arundel, hundred of Rotherbridge, diocese and archdeaconry of Chichester, and rural deanery of Midhurst. It is situated on a considerable eminence, on the high road from London to Chichester, near the navigable river Rother. The union comprises 5 parishes, viz.: – Billinghurst, Kirdford, Petworth, Rudgwick, and Wisborough Green. In the “Domesday Survey” Petworth, or as it is there written, Peteorde, is. described as having, during the latter part of the Saxon era, been held by the Countess Eddeva: after the Conquest it was held by the Earls of Arundel, one of whom, Robert Montgomery, in 1102, rebelled against the Crown, in consequence whereof his estates were forfeited, and Petworth became royal property: on the marriage of Adeliza, dowager queen of Henry I., with William de Albini, the earldom of Arundel was revived and conferred on her husband, and this manor was given to her brother Josceline de Louvaine, to be held of the house of Arundel: with the house of Albini the estates remained until 1243, when, Hugh de Albini dying without issue, the inheritance passed to Isabel, his second sister and co-heiress, whose son, styled John Fitzalan, became, in 1267, Earl of Arundel. From this family, by marriage, the manor of Petworth passed to Henry de Percy, a descendant of whom was created Earl of Northumberland; this Henry de Percy was succeeded by his son, who was present at the siege of Dunbar: at the battle of Nevill’s Cross in 1346, he was chief in command, and took prisoner David Bruce, King of the Scots; he was succeeded by his son, who was engaged during the whole of his life in the Scottish wars: the son of this Lord of Petworth was the renowned Baron Percy, of Alnwick, who contributed so materially to the raising of Henry Bolingbroke to the throne of England: his elevation to the peerage as Earl of Northumberland, his revolt and execution, are matters of history: his son was the “Hotspur” immortalised by Shakespeare, whose death on the battle-field of Shrewsbury, under the revolted Earl of Worcester, made way for his son, who became second Earl of Northumberland: this nobleman was slain at the battle of St. Albans, in defending the House of Lancaster: he was succeeded by his fourth son, also slain in battle: his son and successor, after being confined in the Tower for eight years, was restored to the title and honours; but met with an untimely death at the hands of an infuriated mob at Thirsk, in Yorkshire; this occurred in 1489 and a period of unusual tranquillity appears to have followed, nothing noteworthy occurring until Thomas, the seventh Earl, was beheaded for engaging with the Duke of Norfolk to effect the release of Mary Queen of Scots: his brother and successor fell under the suspicion of Elizabeth as espousing the cause of Mary, and, being committed to the Tower, died by his own hand in 1585. The next Earl appears to have commenced his career in a most prosperous manner; he was in high favour with the Queen: this prosperity continued unabated during the early part of the reign of James I.; but upon the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, the Earl was heavily fined and condemned to imprisonment for life: he passed sixteen years in the Tower, but in 1621, obtained his release: he retired to his lordship of Petworth, where he died tn 1632: he was succeeded by his son Algernon, who in turn was succeeded by his son Josceline, who died abroad without male issue, and the earldom of Northumberland became extinct: his daughter, Lady Elizabeth, sole heiress to the vast estates, contracted three marriages, the last whereof was with Charles, Duke of Somerset, by whom she had issue six children, but two only survived – Algernon, seventh Duke of Somerset, and Catherine, who married Sir Wyndham Wyndham, whose son. Sir Charles, became Earl of Egremont, and Secretary of State in 1761: he died in 1763, and was succeeded his son the late Earl, from whom the estates passed to Lord Leconfield, their present owner.
In the centre of the town is the market-house and courtroom, a stone building, having at the north side a bust of William III.: this structure was built at the sole expense of the late Earl of Egremont: in the court-room are held the Epiphany and Easter quarter-sessions for West Sussex; also the petty sessions, the first and third Saturday in every month. The market is held on Saturday, and there are three fairs held annually, on the 1st of May, 4th of September, and 20th of November. The London and County Bank has a branch here, and there is a Savings Bank in the Town Hall.
The “Half Moon” and “Swan” are the principal hotels, whence an omnibus runs to meet all trains. The station is a mile and three quarters from the town. The new subscription reading-room is in the Town Hall, and is well supplied with daily and weekly papers, &c. There is also a Working Man’s Institute in the Town Hall. The lectures, the singing, the discussion, reading and writing classes are held in the Town Hall. The town is lighted by gas. The cemetery is close to the town. The county court is held monthly, and has jurisdiction over the following parishes:- Barlavington, Bignor, Bury, Burton, Coates, Coldwaltham, Duncton, Egdean, Fittleworth, Greatham, Hardham, Kirdford, Lodsworth, Lurgashall, North Chapel, Parham, Pulborough, Selham, Stopham, Storrington, Sullington, Sutton, Thakeham, Tillington, West Chiltington, Wisborough Green.
The Gaol, or house of correction for this division was built in 1787, on Howard’s plan, but has been altered to the prevailing system: the female part of the prison has lately been much enlarged, and an infirmary added to it; a new house has also been built for the governor. A commodious police station, with lock-ups for prisoners, &c., has been erected adjoining the gaol. The police arrangements are under the county constabulary,
The newly-erected Infant school stands in close connection with the gaol and police station, forming a very striking and handsome range of buildings.
The church of St. Mary was erected about the time of Henry VII.: it is in the Decorated style of architecture, and some years since underwent extensive repairs, and was materially altered and improved: three costly painted windows were added, the greater part of the tower rebuilt, and surmounted with a lofty spire, 180 feet high, under the direction of the late Sir Charles Barry, the whole expense, of more than £16,000, was defrayed by the late Earl of Egremont. Many of the Percys are interred in the chapel of St. Thomas, adjoining the church. The register commences in 1559. The living is a rectory, value £850 per annum, with residence, in the gift of Lord Leconfield, and held by the Rev. Charles Holland, M.A., of University College, Oxford.
There are Grammar, National, Infants’, Endowed, Dissenters’ and Sunday schools, and various charities, amongst which are the almshouses called the Somerset Hospital, built and endowed by Charles, Duke of Somerset, in 1746, for twenty-two poor widows, with a room for each, and £20 annually; also seven almshouses, built and endowed by Thomas Thompson Esq., in 1618, for twelve poor people of this parish, with £10 annually each; also four almshouses, built G O’Brien, Earl of Egremont, for four poor aged men. The boys’ school has been renovated by Lord Leconfield – it is now boarded: a large class-room and a good playground have been added, and it is capable of holding 150 scholars. There is an excellent girls’ school, also endowed by the late Earl of Egremont. and which is now placed, with the other schools, under the Government system. There is a very excellent school for girls at Byworth, and a new Infant school has been erected and endowed by Lord Leconfield. Taylor’s Charity clothes and educates ten boys and ten girls, and apprentices a boy and a girl each year.
The Independents and Calvinists have each a chapel here.
Petworth House, the seat of Lord Leconfield, was restored by Charles, Duke of Somerset, who married the sole heiress of the Earls of Northumberland: the frontage is 324 feet in breadth, and 62 feet in height to the parapet, having twenty-one windows in each of the three stories: the interior arrangements are on a proportionate scale, and are remarkable for magnificence and elegance, all the principal apartments being adorned with productions of first-rate artists. The sculpture gallery contains, among many antique statues and busts, the last work and chef-d’oeuvre of Flaxman; the Promethean group, by Carew, is in the tenants’ dining-room, and many works of modern artists, of whom the Earl was a noble patron. Petworth House is especially remarkable for the most complete collection of exquisite carvings in wood by Grinling Gibbons, to which were subsequently added some very well executed ones by. Jonathan Ritson: the sword said to have been used by Hotspur at the Battle of Shrewsbury is shown in the house. The park wall is twelve miles in circumference: the enclosure is beautifully undulating, and graced with trees of the noblest growth. The views which the park commands of the Downs of Surrey and Sussex and the intervening scenery are of singular beauty and grandeur. The park is open to the public, who are also allowed to view the house, on application at the lodge. The population in 1861 way 3,368, and the area 5,982 acres

Parish Clerk, Benjamin Arnold.