The Petworth lands in Sussex, where we went yesterday, first came into the Percy family as a royal gift from Adeliza of Louvain, the widow of King Henry I, to her brother Joscelin of Louvain. He later married into the Percy family and adopted the surname; his descendents became the Earls of Northumberland, the most powerful in northern England.
The Percy family, whose primary seat was at Alnwick Castle near Scotland, intended for Petworth to be for occasional use. However, in the late 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I grew suspicious of the Percy's allegiance to Mary, Queen of Scots, and confined them to Petworth.
In 1670, Josceline Percy, 11th Earl of Northumberland died without a male heir, leaving his considerable fortune and estates of Petworth House, Alnwick Castle, Syon House and Northumberland House to his 2-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. In 1682, already twice widowed at age 16, Elizabeth Percy married Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset. The pair became one of the wealthiest couples in England.
The current site was previously occupied by a fortified manor house founded by Henry de Percy, the 13th-century chapel and undercroft of which still survive. For the past 250 years the house and the estate have been in the hands of the prominent Wyndham family.
The house and deer park were handed over to the nation in 1947 and are now managed by the National Trust under the name Petworth House & Park.
The Leconfield Estates continue to own much of Petworth and the surrounding area. The contents of the house, in particular the paintings and sculptures, are now the property of the National Trust having been taken in lieu of accumulated death duties.
Lord Egremont and his family live in the south wing, allowing much of the remainder to be open to the public. Lady Egremont has restored the gardens.
Today's building houses an important collection of paintings and sculptures, including 19 oil paintings by J. M. W. Turner (some owned by the family, some by Tate Britain), who was a regular visitor to Petworth, paintings by Van Dyck, carvings by Grinling Gibbons and Ben Harms, classical and neoclassical sculptures (including ones by John Flaxman and John Edward Carew), and wall and ceiling paintings by Louis Laguerre. There is also a terrestrial globe by Emery Molyneux, believed to be the only one in the world in its original 1592 state
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