Enveloped by the South Downs, and with cobbled streets lined with quaint wisteria-draped period cottages, presided over by one of Britain’s greatest stately homes, it’s no wonder Petworth is one of the best – and most expensive – places to live in Sussex.

Home to just 3,000 well-heeled residents, picturesque Petworth is the size of a village rather than a town, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in heritage, culture and character.

Along with the ubiquitous teashops and upmarket boutiques, you can’t move for antique stores and one of the country’s finest art galleries Newlands House Gallery, leading to the judges of The Sunday Times' Best Places to Live 2021 list to remark: ‘Nowhere does posh better than this old-fashioned Sussex market town.’

Petworth House, the Grade 1-listed stately home called ‘that house of art’ by John Constable has long been the star attraction of this West Sussex enclave – housing one of the National Trust’s most impressive collections of paintings and attracting the attention of Netflix smash hit Bridgerton as a filming location for the risqué Regency drama.

Sat within 700-acres of parkland, complete with roaming fallow deer, and landscaped gardens designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, the house boasts landscapes by frequent visitor JMW Turner, Van Dyck, Titian, Reynolds and Gainsborough.

One of the earliest editions of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is also part of the collection here along with carvings by Grinling Gibbons and the Molyneux Globe, the earliest English globe in existence, which dates back to 1592.

The stunning interiors have features in hit films including Maleficent, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Mr Turner and the upcoming epic Napoleon starring Joaquin Phoenix and Vanessa Kirby.

There’s also Petworth Festival, a three-week arts and musical event in July, and the Petworth Festival Literary Week every autumn (25 October – 5 November, 2023), with a stellar line-up of authors celebrating the written word including Philippa Gregory, astronaut Tim Peake, Isabella Tree, actress Sheila Hancock and Alan Titchmarsh. Petworthfestival.org.uk

Food and drink

Beware all cheese lovers: keep away from The Hungry Guest delicatessen. Along with chocolate brownies and home-made jam, the award-winning market town institution has a glass box cheese room – a glass box where visitors can try new cheeses as part of their ‘taste first’ policy.

Step back in time at The Angel Inn, which was named the best pub in Sussex 2022 and boasts medieval floorboards and inglenooks, though it’s so popular it’s best to book ahead to avoid standing room only. Delicious local dishes are on offer at this charming coaching inn with meat from the local Goodwood Estate served with wines from Nyetimber. In the summer guests can relax in the stone-walled garden while now, in the cooler months, they can enjoy a hearty meal by the roaring fire. Stay over in one of the rooms bursting with character at the sophisticated country pub which has been hosting travellers since the 1700s. petworthplaces.com/book-to-eat/

Sip a cocktail in style at E.Street Bar & Grill, set in a restored 17th century heritage building and recommended in the Michelin Guide. It’s perfect for dinner with loved ones, an aperitif on the patio or celebrating a special occasion in one of the private dining spaces.

Famous Faces

Dame Maggie Smith – who played Professor Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter movies –lives in Petworth, while the late fashion designer Mary Quant, singer Brian Ferry and swimmer Duncan Goodhew all live nearby. Comedian Alex Horne, the creator of BAFTA award-winning Taskmaster, was born here but it’s JW Turner – such a frequent guest he managed to paint some of his most iconic landscapes here – that is the most famous name attached to the town.

Must See

Great British Life: Petworth House is a star of the small and big screen. (c) John MillerPetworth House is a star of the small and big screen. (c) John Miller

Petworth House has so much to offer it’s almost impossible to do it all in one day. Marvel at the incredible works of art, the stunning interiors and get a glimpse of life downstairs in the servant’s quarters.

Visitors can enjoy a Deer Rut Guided Walk or discover the views that inspired England’s greatest landscape painter on a Turner Walk strolling around the lake where the artist fished and captured the vistas in Dewy Morning and Sunset, Fighting Bucks. During October half-term, there is a Halloween Trail in the Pleasure Garden Families for all the family. Nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/sussex/Petworth/events

Must Do

‘Meet’ Mrs Mary Cummings at the Petworth Cottage Museum as she puts on the kettle at 346 High Street and takes us back to 1910 to reveal all about the humble lives of estate workers. The Leconfield Estate worker's cottage has been restored and is furnished as it would have been back then when the seamstress lived there. Entry is free, open Tuesday – Saturday, 2-4.30pm until 31 October. petworthcottagemuseum.co.uk/

Boutique Shopping

A treasure trove of antiques shops, it’s no surprise that Petworth has been voted Best Antiques Town in the county. Start at Petworth Antiques Market on East Street where a collection of more than 40 local dealers sell everything from bric-a-brac to heirlooms under one roof, before browsing at Rountree Tyron Gallery on Market Square which has a Royal Warrant and specialises in art from the 18th century to present day. Check out New Street Decorative for antiques and vintage furniture before strolling down Lombard Street to The Kevis Gallery where works by taxidermist-turned-artist Tabitha McBain can be found, or to Augustus Brandt on Pound Street where there’s an eclectic mix of treasures to be pored over. If it’s antique glass, ceramic, or rare sculptural primitive furniture and folk art you’re after head to Wakelin & Linfield (wakelin-linfield.com) who are recognised as one of the leading UK Antiques partnerships.

For antiques along with quirky finds, stunning homeware – we love the iconic furniture from the 60s and 70s - and amazing gifts, visit Bear (bearpetworth.com). If you need a rug, or carpet, to go with those retro classics, Rugs of Petworth (rugsofpetworth.co.uk) have a beautiful selection from around the world.

After all that browsing, get your cultural fill at the agenda-setting Newlands House Gallery, which opened in 2020, in an 18th century converted townhouse and focuses on the ‘great artists’ of the 20th century including exhibitions of Lee Miller, Joan Miro, Pablo Picasso and Eve Arnold. Newlandshouse.gallery/

All shopped out? Pamper yourself at Ashavan Beauty Salon (ashavan.co.uk) where facials, massages, and myriad relaxing treatments are the order of the day.


Just 49 miles from London, and in the heart of the country with access to the coast, Petworth has a plethora of properties available – at a price. The town was named the most expensive place to buy a home in West Sussex in 2020 thanks to those Chocolate Box cottages, Georgian town houses and historic farmhouses.

The average price of a property here averaged £757,086 last year, with detached properties fetching on average £1.15m, while semi-detached houses sold for £611,550 and terraces selling for £471,885. Prices were down eight per cent on the previous year and six per cent up on the 2020 peak of £714,614, according to rightmove.