Archives for posts with tag: Petworth House

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