Monday, 17 December 2012

Getting technical - Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) in Petworth Park

As part of the Petworth Park Archaeology Project we have been looking at a range of different images of the park in order to identify archaeological features.  This has included historic maps and aerial photography, and also LiDAR data.

LiDAR is a form of airborne laser scanning which allows us to build up a 3D model of the landscape. Pulses of infra-red light are scanned across the landscape from an aircraft – the pulses reflect off the ground and are received by sensors on the plane which calculate how long it took for the pulses to return.  Using this information, and knowing the precise location of the plane from GPS we can calculate the position in the world where the pulse hit the ground (±15cm) and represent it as a point in three dimensional space - the sensors can collect up to 100,000 of these points every second.

This gives us millions of point measurements across the landscape – like a blanket of snow.  We can then stitch these points together to create an accurate 3D model of the landscape which we can manipulate and interrogate in all sorts of ways to identify and measure the humps and bumps which might represent archaeological features.

The video below shows a form of processing called Polynomial Texture Mapping.  This allows us to place an artificial light source (a virtual sun) above the landscape and move it around to draw out features through the play of light and shadow.

Often these features are very difficult to see on the ground because they are so slight, or due to vegetation cover. The dense beams of infrared light used for LiDAR data, however, are able to penetrate through vegetation, allowing us to ‘filter’ out the trees and taller plants to look at the landscape underneath.

An aerial photo (left), ‘unfiltered’ lidar (centre) and ‘filtered’ lidar (right) for Arbour Hill in Petworth Park, possibly the site of Henry VIII’s banqueting house.  By filtering out the vegetation, the lidar allows us to see the square earthwork enclosure and central mound (circled in red)

As part of the Petworth Park Archaeology Project, throughout December and January we will be ‘ground-truthing’ the sites we identify in the LiDAR data, historic maps and aerial images, photographing and recording them.  This will help to inform the later stages of the project in 2013 which will see volunteer Assistant Archaeologists undertaking geophysics and excavation of specific features.

If you’re interested in volunteering with the project, or want to find out more, get in touch with or call 01798345525, and keep an eye out for more posts in the future.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Servants' stories

So far we’ve heard form Phyllis, an under-maid who worked at Petworth in the 1930s and Dorothy whose father was a scullery man and this week we’ve found an extract from Horace Arnold remembering his time as a Junior Footman.

‘I started work for Lord Leconfield in 1929 at his London home in Bryanston Square. He did have another house in London but like many people of his social set he rented a house for the ‘season’. The salary was £30 a year and after nine months in London, I came down to Petworth. I was junior footman, sometimes referred to as stewards’ room boy. My basic task was to attend to the senior staff, an elite among the servants, Mr Wickham the butler, Mrs Cownley the housekeeper, Mr Coddington, his lordship’s valet and Florence Roper the head housemaid. Whether in London or Petworth my job was to take care of their meals and their dining room. I was only sixteen or seventeen. I’d be up at 7.30am to start the fire; I wore clerical grey morning suite but for this early part of the day an old worn one, my ‘scruffs’ as I called it. The breakfast was always cooked and I collected from the kitchen, the food was excellent.’

‘The chef was a woman at this time but I also seem to recall a Belgian chef but maybe he was only brought in for special occasions. The senior staff had a set menu, which I would need to know in advance so I could lay up the table, I would serve in formal manner at table, over the left shoulder. Dinner for the steward’s room would be eaten before dinner in the main house. When there were guests in any number I would go over to the house to help. The meal would be served in the Square Dining Room or if it were a very large party it would be in the Carved Room. Full livery uniform was worn by the footmen, - a yellow and blue stripped waistcoat, white shirt front, jacket of navy blue with silver buttons, smooth ‘doe-skin’ trousers and black patent leather shoes with a buckle.’

Here’s a ‘servant’ ready to serve dinner at our The 3rd Earl’s Christmas event last year.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The deer rut

It's pretty much over now, and the sounds of antlers clashing and the calls of the males (bucks) can no longer be heard across the park as the bucks in our herd of fallow deer try to assert their dominance over each other. It’s an amazing sight, and here are some of the great pictures we’ve been sent…

 Tim Cook

 Dave Vadis via Twitter

                                           Film and photos from Tim Holyoake via Facebook

During the rut the most dominant buck will take up position of the centre of the rut surrounded by females (does), he’ll then work to keep his position and group of does as other bucks challenge him. Not all the bucks will challenge, some take up positions further out and simply wait to see if does move toward them, and other bucks will break out into smaller groups.

It can look brutal, but they’re aiming to show their strength rather than cause injury. You might also see them walking in parallel to size each other up before rutting and often one will decide to back down if the other looks a lot bigger!

If you’re going to watch the deer, make sure to give them plenty of space and please keep dogs on leads.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Digging up the past…

Hello everybody!  There’s exciting things afoot (and under foot) at Petworth this year.  My name's Tom and I’m the National Trust’s archaeologist for West Sussex and the South Downs.  This year I feel very lucky that alongside my other work I will be taking a closer look at Petworth Park, unearthing the secrets and stories that lie preserved in the landscape and beneath the ground – and I’d like you to help me do it! I’m hoping there will be lots of opportunities for anyone who is interested to get involved.  But first, a bit more about Petworth, and why we are doing this in the first place… 

Petworth Park is very different from the original park which was created at least 750 years ago. Today the park is made up of gentle rolling slopes, tranquil shady glades of trees and grand vistas.  It looks natural but in fact everything we see is the result of careful crafting and moulding of the landscape over hundreds of years, to fit the fashions of the times and styles of the owners.  At one time or another, the park has included canals and formal gardens, rampart terraces and monumental stables, Henry VIII’s banqueting hall and a Second World War military camp – not to mention the original manor house! 

 A bird's eye view of Petworth Park, can you image a stable block and formal gardens stretching as far as the lake?
There are so many questions that remain to be answered, so many discoveries just waiting to be made. Over the next year we will be examining historic maps and documents, looking beneath the ground with geophysics and excavation and searching for traces and clues in the landscape to uncover the physical evidence of Petworth’s hidden past.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

An unusual thank you

We’re always grateful for the kind letters, emails, tweets and comments we receive from visitors and usually these relate to the great day they’ve had with us, but this week it was a thank you of a slightly different nature...

Yesterday we received some lovely cakes and a card from a member of the public, not praising an enjoyable day out, but for helping her when she suddenly became ill whilst driving and pulled into our Car Park.
‘To the ladies and gentlemen of Petworth House ticket office. Thank you all so much for your help and kindness last Sunday. I apologise for the disruption but am greatly appreciative of your assistance. I would also like to say an extra big thank you to your first aid officer (Geoff) for holding my hand throughout!’

We’re so proud of the quick action and first aid skills of our Visitor Reception team who looked after her and called an ambulance, whilst dealing with the large number of visitors we get on a weekend. We’re also proud that both our and the National Trust’s reputation meant she knew we’d be a safe place to stop for help.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Artist still in residence

Hi all, Samuel here. I promised you an update on our artist in residence, Wendy Norris who is currently copying a painting in the Marble Hall, and here it is… 

(you can find out all about the project and see the first pictures here)

Isn’t it coming along nicely? I did offer to help out and do a few strategically placed paw prints, but apparently that’s not quite the look Stowe School are after. I also suggested it could be improved with the addition of a handsome spaniel sitting next to George Grenville, but sadly my creative genius isn’t always appreciated.

You can see how the layers of paint have built up and are now far more like the original. It’s also a great chance to see how the original painting might have looked over 200 years ago, before the pigments had darkened and George Grenville started looking a bit grey and ghostly.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Servants' stories

In the second instalment of our ‘Servants’ stories’ series, we hear from Dorothy Digby whose father Fred Baigent was a scullery man at Petworth House in the 1930s.

‘Dad would peel all the staff potatoes and carrots. Another job of his was to make ice cream using a big wooden bucket with a handle. The chef would prepare the mixture, put it into a cylinder in the centre of the bucket and cram ice and saltpetre round it. He would then let it stand for three hours, turning the handle occasionally. After the ice cream had been made it would be covered with a stiff meringue… then Dad would bring in the salamander, a long iron pole with a metal square set diagonally on its head. He’d get the metal square hot in the fire and hold it over the meringue. It was desperately hot work for him but the result was –Baked Alaska!’

Making the ice cream would have looked something like this... cream being made in the Historic Kitchens last year as part of our monthly ‘What’s Cooking?’ event.  

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Artist in residence!

Hi all, Samuel here. I had a quick wander round the house this morning and on my travels I happened to spot something rather out of the ordinary happening in the Marble Hall. A fantastic artist  working on a painting of a painting! It all looked very curious so I headed straight up to the office to see Andy our House and Collections Manager and find out more…

Morning Andy, so what’s going on in the Marble Hall today?
Andy: Well today and for the rest of the 2012 season you’ll be able to see the artist Wendy Norris copying a portrait by the studio of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) from the Petworth collection.

What prompted the copy?
Andy: The subject is the Rt. Hon. George Grenville (1712-1770), represented in the robes of Chancellor of the Exchequer – he later became Prime Minister. The modern copy has been commissioned by Stowe School in Buckinghamshire, who are building a collection of portraits of figures associated with Viscount Cobham of Stowe. While Stowe House has been home to the School since 1923, its landscape is now maintained by the National Trust.

So why is the portrait of Grenville at Petworth in the first place?
Andy: In 1749, he married Elizabeth Wyndham, sister of the 2nd Earl of Egremont; the painting was commissioned by their brother, the Earl of Thomond, and was inherited by the 3rd Earl of Egremont. It can usually be found hanging in the North Gallery.

It’s certainly great to be able to see the original close up - when your legs are a short as mine most paintings are far too high. But why is Wendy not working in a studio?
Andy: We wanted to give visitors the opportunity to see how paintings were made in the 18th century – meticulously built up in layers. You can see at the moment the colours are much lighter than the original and this will change as more and more layers are added. The original has also suffered over time as Reynolds was notoriously carefree in his choice of materials, and here the red carmine pigment he often used to represent skin complexion has typically faded to leave Grenville with a ghostly pale face.

We’re looking forward to seeing how the painting changes over time and will blog regular updates on its progress, but don’t forget you can also pop in and see for yourself Monday - Wednesday.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Servants’ stories

With quite possibly the nation’s favourite period drama back on ITV and Petworth itself starring in a few history programmes over the coming weeks (look out for us tomorrow night at 8pm on Yesterday channel in ‘Secrets of the Manor House’!), we thought you might like to hear a few stories from the servants’ who lived and worked at Petworth.

Today we have an extract from Phyllis, an under-maid who worked at Petworth in the 1930s…  

‘Ern, the footman, had a pantry just across the way and I’d see him in his livery, whistling away. Smart trousers, short jacket, waistcoat and white shirt. A footman had to (and did!) look the part. Sometimes I’d snatch a word with him on the stair but such levity was certainly not encouraged.

He’d take the food through the tunnel at meal times. It was then they’d come rushing into the kitchen with their trays, no time to waste or the food would be cold. By this time Ern and I were meeting when we could… time off was just one afternoon a week to be back by nine. Sundays off? Crumbs no, not in the kitchen. Yes, I must say I liked it there. It was hard work, at times it was very hard work but it was interesting.’

 I wonder what Phyllis would make of the cooking demonstrations we hold in the Historic Kitchens today? 

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

It was pandemonium!

Hi all, Samuel here! I learnt a new word this week – ‘pandemonium’. Do you know what it means? Sadly it has nothing to do with pandas; it’s another word for chaos and describes a place or situation that is noisy or chaotic. It also describes last Thursday at Petworth House.

Teams from neighbouring National Trust places and other local attractions came for 'Pandemonium' a day of activities and team building. The seven teams took part in three different challenges...  

The Park challenge – a race around the parkland collecting materials to make a Sudan chair, which was then used to carry a team mate to the finish line. It looked like jolly hard work.

The Craft challenge - to recreate an object from the house in a mystery material, these included leaves, rice and biscuits! 

The Mental challenge – using historical records to trace current title holders.

The day finished with a BBQ in the courtyard and the presentation of the prizes – congratulations to the Petworth Portfolio team for winning the box of vintage sweets! (I had a good sniff, but I think I’ll stick to dog biscuits). 

Here's a few more of my pictures from the day.

Chairs from the park challenge

 A few of the Petworth team with their masterpiece - made out of biscuits!

 Judging the craft challenge.

You can also see pictures from last year here

Which challenge would you like to have taken part in?

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Heritage Open Days

This Saturday (8th September) we’re participating in Heritage Open Days, an annual event where the doors are thrown open to the public for free. By kind permission of Lord and Lady Egremont the private guest bedrooms, which are normally only open to the public on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, will be on show.

Here are a few things to look out for on your visit…

  • The State Bed in Mrs Wyndham’s Bedroom, an English rococo masterpiece, was made in the 1750s for the 2nd Earl of Egremont. Exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1984, it underwent restoration work as the Dowager Lady Egremont used to keep a pet owl which nested in the gold tree at the top!
  • Matching full-length portraits of King George III and Queen Charlotte by Studio of Alan Ramsay in Mrs Wyndham’s Bedroom.
  • A pocket book (purse) given to the Countess of Egremont by Queen Charlotte in 1785.
  • The Chippendale bed in the Belzamine Bedroom dates from the 1770s and is one of four identical beds commissioned by the 3rd Earl of Egremont. The story goes that he wanted to sleep in a familiar bed whenever he stayed at one of his four houses!
  • The William Morris wallpaper and curtains in Mrs Wyndham’s Dressing Room.
  • A medal awarded to a member of the family by the Royal Humane Society for saving Winston Churchill from drowning at Harrow School in 1889.
The bedrooms will be open 11am to 4.30pm on Saturday. On your visit, why not also pop into the Historic Kitchens and sample some of our historic cook’s food made to traditional country house recipes?

 The State Bed in Mrs Wyndham's Bedroom

Thursday, 30 August 2012


Hi all, Samuel the spaniel here! As it’s raining today I thought  I’d let you know about the Treasure Chests located inside the house, they're especially for children (but I’ve seen lots of ‘big kids’ having a go too). There are six chests and each is filled with a fun activity, for example in the Red Room you can design your own miniature room, complete with chairs, tables, a piano and even paintings to hang on the walls! I think this one is my favourite. 

Another popular chest (or in this case wardrobe) is in the North Gallery. Specially made costumes inspired by some of the portraits in the gallery hang in the wardrobe, children are invited to dress up then find themselves in a painting. Once found children can then pose for pictures next to their masterpiece counterparts. Why not send the pictures to us and we’ll put them on the blog?

I’ve only given you a sneak preview into two of the boxes, there are still four more ‘OPEN ME’ treasure chests waiting in the house, come and have a look for yourself Saturday-Wednesday!  

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Nasty Nibblers

If you peer under furniture and into corners at Petworth House, you might spot some green plastic boxes. These are our insect traps, designed to catch creepy crawlies as they move around the edges of rooms munching on our collection. Welcome to the wonderful world of pest management and conservation at Petworth House…

An insect trap tucked away in the bedroom corridor upstairs

The pest traps have a sticky pad in them which the bugs get stuck on, and we use these to record insect numbers and monitor for infestations. We have 89 traps spread throughout 34 rooms, including the showrooms, servants’ quarters and store rooms. During the winter when the house is freezing the traps only get checked every few months, but at this time of year the insects are much more active and the traps are checked every few weeks!

A close-up of one of the insect traps in the Little Dining Room

The information we collect gets entered onto a spreadsheet and sent off to our conservators. This is then used to build up a pattern of insect activity over time – not only at Petworth House but across the country, as other properties participate too.

As with many properties we get a large variety of insect pests at Petworth House, including clothes moths, various species of carpet beetles, booklice, silverfish, and even one or two of the dreaded death watch beetle - named after the ticking sound they make!

Although this insect trap predominately contains case-bearing clothes moths, there is also a woolly bear (carpet beetle larva) and a black ground beetle in the top left corner

If you fancy getting up close and personal with some of Petworth House’s bugs, we are having a ‘Nasty Nibblers’ event on Tuesday 21st August. There are samples of the insects we find here and the materials they’ve munched on, and even a pest quiz for you to have a go at!

Conservation Assistant

Monday, 13 August 2012

A group of Gromits!

We had great fun last Wednesday making Gromits with the help of Jim Parkyn from Aardman. Here’s a shot of the Gromits in progress… 

And here are some of the finished Gromits, Jim’s excellent one is in the middle but I think the others look pretty good too! If you’d like to come and make your own, there are still spaces left on the last two workshops with Jim this Wednesday 15th August. See our website for all the details.

As well as Gromit making, come along tomorrow to make a puppet and then help us put on a Petworth puppet show. I can’t wait; someone definitely needs to make a Samuel the spainel puppet for me.  

Monday, 6 August 2012

Open Air Opera

On Friday and Saturday evening we were treated to two fantastic Open Air Opera performances by Opera Brava. Despite a whole week spent practising my very best spaniel howl, I wasn’t deemed good enough to join them, so I took the role of chief photographer instead!

Here’s Saturday’s performance of Madame Butterfly taking place in the Pleasure Grounds

It was such a nice evening that during the interval I trotted off to take some pictures of the sunset in the park… 

…and by the house. Finally some blue sky!


Monday, 23 July 2012

It was certainly an experience!

Hello everyone, Samuel the Spaniel here! This week I’ve been following Ellie Foster on her adventures while she’s been doing her work experience with us at Petworth House. Ellie is from Bishop Luffa School in Chichester.

Our week started with the Olympic Torch Relay passing across the West Front of Petworth House - a very exciting and unique first day of work! Since then we have had experience of several different areas both in front of house and behind the scenes, I took her on a tour of the house and park as well as going up to the attics to see where the servants would have stayed all those years ago. She then went up onto the roof to see the beautiful view, something I’ve never been brave enough to do before! 

 The view from the roof

On Wednesday morning we helped out in the shop, cleaning shelves and collecting new stock; and then on Thursday I watched on as Ellie got absorbed in cleaning and conservation in the House and Historic Kitchens, hoovering, buffering and polishing as well as moving some very heavy silverware. I would have got involved myself, but I’m far better at making muddy paw prints than I am at cleaning! 

 Judy our Conservation Assitant doing some hoovering

In the afternoon we helped the staff set up for the volunteer’s summer party, which I heard was pretty wild! I helped Ellie to turn the restaurant into an indoor street party and had a good sniff of all the different puddings that the volunteers had brought in, all in the name of research you understand! I did try to stay awake for the party but I was such a tired spaniel that I must have fallen asleep and missed it, at one point though I could have sworn that I heard loud Rock 'n' Roll music coming from the Square Dining Room but I’m sure it must have just been a dream! 

 Maria a member of the Volunteer Steering Group putting up the bunting for the indoor street party!

It’s been a very exciting, tiring and busy week for us and I’m sure Ellie will join me in thanking everyone who helped to make it so great.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Olympic Torch comes to Petworth House

Hi all, Samuel here. I’m a very tired spaniel today, because yesterday we had a very exciting morning as the Olympic Torch Relay passed across the West Front of Petworth House! We even made the local news; have a look at some of the fantastic pictures...

    Torchbearer Sara Tremlett pauses for a photo on her way to the West Front

Lord and Lady Egremont watch the torch approach, as the crowds cheer

      The exchange and photo opportunity in front of the house

Despite the slightly damp conditions, over 1,500 school children from 14 local schools came to celebrate the historic day with us. Lots of fun and excitement was had by all who attended, especially during our world record attempt for the ‘largest gathering of people blowing grass trumpets’! The noise was tremendous – well done to all those who practiced in advance.

You can make a grass trumpet simply by placing a blade of grass between your thumbs and blowing through the middle. I can’t demonstrate as unfortunately it’s not possible to do with paws!

 The children (and adults) showcasing their grass trumpet skills

We should hear in 4-6 weeks if we have set a new world record so watch this space. After the attempt several schools braved the rain and stayed to hold races in the park.

Do send me your pictures if you saw the torch, I'd love to see them.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Petworth 17th century biscuits

In honour of our 'What’s cooking?' event this weekend, I thought I’d share our recipe for 17th century Petworth biscuits. The traditional recipe is written first, see if you can follow it - it gets a bit tricky so I’ve included the modern translation too! We’d love to see a picture if you have a go.

500g flour
115g butter
115g sugar
1 egg
2tsp caraway seeds

To Make Bifkits (Biscuits)
To a quart of flour take a quarter of a pound of butter, and a quarter of a pound of sugar, one egg and what caraway –feeds you pleafe.
Wet it with milk as stiff as you can, then roll them out very thin, cut them with small glafs.
Bake them on tin plates.
Your oven muft be flack; prick them very well juft as you fet them in.
Keep them dry when bak’d.

Heat oven to 180 degrees.
Beat butter and sugar until fluffy.
Beat in egg to butter and sugar mixture. Add caraway seeds.
Beat in flour until stiff dough is formed. If it is too stiff, add milk until you get workable dough.
Roll out to 5mm thick and cut out circles either using a cutter or small glass as a guide.
Place on baking sheets leaving spaces between each biscuit, and prick each biscuit with a fork.
Bake in oven until golden brown, around 10-20 minuets, depending on your oven.
Keep in an air tight tin once baked.

Happy baking! Don’t forget to come along this weekend to see Mrs Brown making strawberry and gooseberry jam, shortbread and other traditional treats in the Historic Kitchens.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Spot the Spaniel

Hi all, I've been a very busy spaniel this week, but just wanted to share these pictures with you. They were taken at our 'Spot the Spaniel, event last Sunday; it was a fantasic day and lots of tail wagging fun was had by both dogs and people!

My favourite part was the fun dog show and the spaniel ear making for children. There was also spaniel face painting which was very good, it was difficult to tell the children and spaniels apart.

'Best looking spaniel' being judged by Robert Jackson our General Manager

Bella the Sussex Spaniel who won 'best looking spaniel' and 'best in show' with her prize, which is a cuddly toy of me!

The Just Springers Rescue stall

Having a go at the scurry

Thanks to everyone who came, it was a bit rainy but us dogs don't mind the rain!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

A mural for Her Majesty

Hi Samuel here, I’ve got two bits of very exciting news for you. Firstly, have a look at the amazing mural of Petworth House created by the families who attended our Diamond Jubilee picnic on Monday! We’re going to send one of the photographs below to Buckingham Palace for the Queen to see.

I think the finishing touch would be a mini Samuel the spaniel somewhere, don’t you? Although I might need some help creating one, as it’s quite difficult to do crafty stuff with these paws.

I’m also excited because this weekend there will be lots of dogs around for our ‘Spot the Spaniel’ event in the park! We’ve invited all varieties of spaniel (non-spaniels welcome too) to join us for a day of tail wagging fun. There will be games, a ‘search and sniff’ trail (I’ll be testing this out later today), a ‘paws in the park’ dog show and demonstrations from some very well trained dogs. It’s on Sunday 10th June from 11am – 4pm.