‘Tis already the season at Petworth House

With many National Trust houses preparing to close for winter conservation work, have you ever wondered what else the National Trust gets up to over the winter? Well, the contents of Petworth House will soon be covered by individual, handmade dust sheets, but the same cannot be said for the rest of the property. With more winter events than ever we are entering one of our busiest times of year, read on to discover the highlights of our winter event calendar, the surprising preparations that are taking place and what to expect from the National Trust over the coming months…

© Petworth House - Petworth House looking magical in the snow

The 3rd Earl’s Christmas

Despite it being mid-October, we are already brimming with Christmas spirit, or should I say 19th-century Christmas spirit. The 3rd Earl’s Christmas, set in the 1830s will see the Oak Hall, Somerset Room and Square Dining Room adorned with holly, ivy and mistletoe from the Pleasure Grounds and the table dressed for a spectacular Christmas feast. Meanwhile the Historic Kitchens and servants’ quarters will be a hive of activity as finishing touches are put on the traditional Christmas dinner. Christmas at Petworth would have been a grand affair, the family and extended family would descend upon Petworth to find lavish decorations including a Christmas tree and greenery from the Estate decorating the House. In contrast, the servants’ Christmas was long and stressful, often extra servants were employed from the town to assist the kitchen staff in creating the Christmas feast and various other duties.

In an attempt to avoid any long, stressful days in the office, Christmas preparations have already begun and we are starting to bring the 3rd Earl’s Christmas back to life. Event plans have been drawn up, finer details worked out and yesterday volunteers were measured for their costumes, to be made by some of our very talented staff and volunteers.  My contribution will hopefully be knitted mittens (assuming I can learn to knit in time) to keep the costumed volunteers warm in the house, where temperatures can drop to around freezing in the winter!

It’s a good job then that today the fireplace in the Square Dining Room was lit and tested before its role in the Christmas events, meaning the House should be slightly warmer for our visitors. Also taking place this week is a photo shoot. As the event is the first of its kind, we need some beautiful images to publicise it, the results of which you can see opposite. What do you think?

Across the country, Christmas preparations are occurring at many other National Trust places, but winter does not just mean Christmas. You can also take advantage of the chance to discover more about history, or spend some time outdoors.

Tasty talks

Tasty Talks (sometimes known as Lecture Lunches) are on offer at Petworth House and many other National Trust places over the winter. They offer the opportunity to learn more about a specific area of history from an expert, with as you may have guessed, a tasty lunch afterwards. Our Tasty Talk topics this year range from ‘Turner in Sussex’ with our House and Collections Manager, Henry VIII with the ‘King’ himself, to ‘Up and Down Stairs’, the story of the country house servant with historian, writer and presenter Jeremy Musson.

Rambles and ambles

Autumn and winter are the perfect opportunity to explore the great outdoors. Many parks, estates, gardens and arboretums are open all year round. You can also look out for guided walks which often take place over the winter and offer the chance to learn more about our outdoor heritage.

So, as you can see the National Trust is far from quiet over the winter, with traditional Christmas celebrations, interesting and informative talks and a vast expanse of outdoor spaces to walk and explore, come and join us. Just be sure to wrap up warm!