Archives for the month of: February, 2011

House Steward Sue Rhodes concludes her series on love, lust and romance at Petworth House on a happier note.

With wedding celebrations planned for 2011, I thought I would remember an important wedding at Petworth from 100 years ago.

In 1911 Lord Leconfield married Violet Rawson and the town celebrated in style. When the couple returned to Petworth, after honeymooning in Cranleigh, Surrey, they were greeted with such joy and warmth. About a mile out of town, as they drove to Petworth, they were met by about fifty tenant farmers and residents on horseback. They then climbed into a carriage drawn by a pair of horses, and were escorted into town.

On entering the town Lady Leconfield was handed flowers from the Petworth football, cricket, hockey and lawn tennis clubs. The horses were removed from the carriage and replaced by the Fireman from the local station who pulled the carriage through the streets of Petworth, with the Petworth town band leading the way.

The streets were decorated with flags and the family motto and filled with cheering crowds. In the market square the school children, Territorial Army and 230 employees of the Petworth estate wearing red, white and blue rosettes gave Lady Leconfield even more flowers.

The local Rector publicly welcomed the bride and groom, stating that Lady Leconfield was the first bride to be brought home to Petworth in 150 years. Lord Leconfield addressed the crowd, thanking them and said that it was the proudest moment of his life – even prouder than the actual moment he caught his first fox.

They then carried onto the house as the school children sang Home, Sweet Home, and entered amid rousing cheers and further celebrations.

Lord Leconfield and Violet prepare for a hunt - she was quite a character!

Petworth House has seen many family weddings over the years, even some very recently. This year the National Trust will be celebrating these with an exhibition called ‘Love is all around’, which highlights family and local resident weddings through the ages. Featuring textiles, mementoes, gifts and photographs, the exhibition will run throughout August.

Next week a new guest blogger will look at the National Trut’s work in the Surrey Hills.


This week, Sue Rhodes, from Petworth House, writes of another tale of love and lust that is tinged with sadness…

In his younger days the 3rd Earl of Egremont was known as a man of fashion. He was well travelled having made two Grand Tours between 1770 and 1772, and was also known for having a way with the ladies.

Painting of the 3rd Earl of Egremont

The 3rd Earl of Egremont

The 3rd Earl behaved no differently to most wealthy young men of his day, ‘taking women as frequently as they took snuff and changing lovers as often as they changed their linen.’ But the 3rd Earl pushed even the 18th century’s more liberal limits by installing his mistresses and children at Petworth. In 1813 Lady Bessborough wrote of Lady Spenser: ‘Nothing will persuade her that Lord Egremont has not forty-three children who all live in the house with him and their respective mothers; that the latter are usually kept in the background…’

Although the 3rd Earl reputedly spent his whole life chasing and catching pretty young women he did make one notable connection. In around 1784 he met Elizabeth Iliffe, the daughter of a teacher at Westminster School. She became his mistress; the relationship was to be a long-term one, resulting in seven children. The 3rd Earl installed her at Petworth, firstly as Miss Iliffe and later as Mrs Wydham. Elizabeth shared the 3rd Earl’s love of art; a painter herself she encouraged new talent and commissioned two paintings from William Blake (which still hang in the North Gallery). It must have been hoped that the 3rd Earl had finally found a women who shared his interests and he could be happy with. The couple married in 1801, 17 years after their relationship began, but unfortunately the marriage only lasted two years. Elizabeth left Petworth, sought a deed of separation and never returned.

Next week, Sue reveals the last in her series of romantic tales from Petworth House.


Quotes from: George Obrien Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont; Benevolent paternalist or arrogant patriarch? (National Trust, 2001)

To get you in the mood for Valentine’s Day we thought we would treat you to a series of romantic themed blogs from Sue Rhodes, House Steward at Petworth House.

Generations of people have lived, loved and lost here at Petworth House. As you walk around the house the faces of these people look down from the walls – it is touching to know that these distant lives were really no different to the trials of love today. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing a few of these romantic tales with you, starting with one from the 17th century.

Painting of the 6th Duke of Somerset

The 6th Duke of Somerset

Above you can see a painting of the 6th Duke of Somerset who married Elizabeth Percy, the great Percy heiress, in 1682. The 6th Duke is better known as the Proud Duke, mainly for his arrogance: he docked £20,000 off one of his daughter’s inheritance for daring to sit down in his presence while he was asleep (so not a likely candidate for a romantic streak). His wife, Elizabeth Percy, died in 1722, which left him looking for a new bride.

The Duke turned his attentions to the widowed Duchess of Marlborough and began to send her feverish love letters, which showed another side to him altogether. Unfortunately for him, the Duchess of Marlborough was still loyal to her first husband, the Duke of Marlborough.

However, the 6th Duke and the Duchess of Marlborough continued to exchange letters regularly. The Duke never lost his passionate tone, even when writing about more mundane issues such as estate business. The last letter known from the 6th Duke to the Duchess is dated 1737, which showed that he continued writing, declaring his unchanged affections for her, even after marrying Lady Caroline Finch in 1726.

This obviously meant that the Duke’s second marriage was not a love match, and perhaps this is why his new bride was treated so poorly. He told her, after she had gently tapped him on the shoulder with her fan: ‘Madam my first wife was a Percy and she never took such a liberty.’ But that is another story…


The original letters between the 6th Duke of Somerset and the Duchess of Marlborough are in the British Library

Hello. This week David Elliot shares more about the design and materials for the new environmentally friendly building that Ben Law is helping the National Trust to build at Swan Barn Farm.

We have decided to call the new building Speckled Wood, after this butterfly that likes to frequent woodland rides and glades. They seem to be doing rather well here at Swan Barn Farm, thanks in some way at least to the work we have been doing here for the past few years.

Speckled Wood butterfly

Speckled Wood butterfly

The building will be based on a roundwood cruck timber frame. This construction technique produces attractive, functional buildings that can be sourced from the local woods. Exterior walls will be made of straw bales which will then either be rendered with lime or protected with oak boards. Interior walls will be wattle and daub with earth plaster. The roof will be made of chestnut shingles. We are very proud that pretty much all of the materials used in the building will be sourced in a sustainable way from woods within a couple of miles of the project site.

Sketch of new building

Sketch of new building

Above is a sketch of what the new building will look like, we have had a long haul to get the project off the ground and are still working hard on funding. Meanwhile we are also working hard in the woods getting the materials we will need for the project ready.

Felling chestnut

Felling chestnut

Here we are working in Ridden Corner Copse on Black Down felling and preparing the Sweet Chestnut which will be used for the timber frame of the building. The process becomes really fascinating when you start to think about which parts of the building the tree’s you are working with are going to be used for.

Working on oak

Working on oak

Above you can see me working on an oak in Witley Copse at Swan Barn Farm. The tree I am working on in this photo is destined for interior floorboards for the building. It will be sawn into planks and then air dried for a number of months before a final short spell of kiln drying.

Most of the timber for the building is coming from coppice woodlands. Coppicing is a traditional (and sustainable) form of woodland management which dates back many hundreds, if not thousands, of years. In a coppiced wood an area of the wood is felled each winter, but the trees don’t die, instead they re-grow from the cut stumps, the re-growth from the stumps can be harvested many times without any affect on the tree’s ability to grow again. Coppicing provides wood which is useful for a variety of purposes, but perhaps even more importantly it also provides the alternating cycles of light and shade, as well bare ground and dense shrubby thickets which are so vital to much of our precious woodland wildlife. Wild flowers grab the opportunity to grow and set seed in the light when the coppice is cut and woodland birds love to nest in the thickets as the woodland regenerates. There is nothing quite like a walk through a well managed hazel coppice in the spring, it is a vibrant place, bursting with life.

If you are interested in finding out more about this project you can visit the speckled wood blog at:

I am writing it as way of keeping a diary of progress on the project, telling its story I suppose, as well as letting people locally know about some of the other things that are going on at Black Down.

The project has been really interesting so far, and we are only just getting going, we have been lucky to have lots of local support and interest and we hope this will continue.

We have a busy year ahead of us, so wish us luck! If you are here in Haslemere this summer why not call in and see the building going up, there is easy access to Swan Barn Farm from the High Street, and the main footpath goes right past the project.