Sometimes overshadowed by Midhurst, the market town of Petworth is becoming a magnet for good living in the South Downs National Park, finds Arabella Youens
Once known primarily as a destination for antique hunters and home to the National Trust’s Petworth House, Petworth has been undergoing something of a renaissance over the past few years, with a burst of interesting shops, restaurants and boutiques joining the clutch of antiques houses lining the pretty high street.
‘Petworth is alive at the moment,’ enthuses Philip Harvey of Property Vision (01344 651700). ‘Although it’s long been known for its antique shops—Richard Gere once famously bought the entire contents of one— many of these have been replaced by boutiques, resulting in the town becoming rather trendy.’ Nick Ferrier of Jackson-Stops & Staff in Midhurst (01730 812357) agrees. ‘The town grew up around Petworth House and park, home to a sumptuous collection of art and a deer park that’s riddled with superb footpaths. Now, this is being reflected in the shops springing up in the town centre, many of which offer distinctive one-off pieces.’
Part of the growth of new interest around the town can be attributed to a trio of businesses, all under the helm of the same owner: the award-winning deli and cafe the Hungry Guest, the Leconfield restaurant and Augustus Brandt, an emporium of interesting pieces for the home. ‘They have breathed new life into Petworth,’ says Philip. ‘A few years ago, I wouldn’t have thought that there was enough of a demand for such businesses, but they’re thriving.’
The internationally known festivals held on the Goodwood estate as well as the polo season that takes place at nearby Cowdray help to attract visitors to the town, but home-grown events such as the annual Petworth Festival in July and the Petworth Literary Festival, in November, are also ‘helping to put this area on the map and underpin the emerging restaurant scene,’ adds Nick.
The challenge, say local agents, is finding a house for sale within the town. ‘Due to the area’s increasing popularity and the dominance of large family-owned estates, good houses trickle into the market and people then understandably wish to stay,’ says Nick. The centre of the town is dominated by a number of Georgian and heavily timbered buildings and popular streets include the cobbled Lombard Street, Golden Square and both Angel Street and North Street, which overlook the Shimmings valley. James Heroys of Alexander James (01730 816171) is currently offering North House, a Grade II*-listed property situated in the heart of the town.
At 7,000sq ft, it’s one of the largest houses in Petworth and stands in a garden of half an acre with a swimming pool. ‘Another attraction is that it comes with garaging for three cars, so, if you have friends coming to stay for Goodwood or the polo, there’s room for them to park their cars— a rare commodity in the town centre.’
Interest so far has been primarily from people moving out of London ‘They’re used to big London houses that have modest gardens, but the bonus is the fantastic views towards the Shimmings valley.’ With a guide price of £2 million, North House comes in as one of the most expensive properties in the town. Jackson-Stops & Staff are selling The House in Pound Street, an attractively renovated town house of 2,899sq ft within just a few minutes’ walk of the centre of the town with a guide price of £765,000. It has five bedrooms and a rear garden with a stone outbuilding currently used for storing garden equipment. ‘A detached family property will sell for about £80,000 and a smaller traditional cottage starts at about £450,000,’ adds Nick.
‘The only problem with Petworth is that there just aren’t that many houses and some of the large ones are blighted by the main Chichester road that runs through the town,’ warns Philip. ‘But there are plenty of good surrounding villages, such as Tillington, Upperton, Byworth and Sutton, which all brim with good-quality houses. Everyone knows everyone in and around Petworth, so there’s a real village feel that shouldn’t be taken for granted.’