Petworth is not just for Christmas – but Laura Cartledge discovers the historical town is particularly magical at this time of year.
Brimming with picturesque charm and a wealth of independent businesses, Petworth is like opening an advent calendar – as each door, and turn, reveals another treat.
“People come to Petworth for something different,” agrees Alex Rees, owner of Rugs of Petworth and member of the Petworth Business Association. “It has a lot of small businesses and a lot of the time you will be talking to the owner which is good because they will have a lot of information and are passionate about what they are offering.
“You see a lot of large chain stores are now entering many rural towns, but Petworth is still a unique market town with
a genuinely eclectic mix of independent businesses,” Alex adds. “There’s no pressure in Petworth – it’s a delightful, relaxing, experience almost of days gone by.”
While the retail on offer is certainly therapy from the average high street, the appeal of Petworth doesn’t end there.
“I think the pull is threefold,” says Alex. “You have got Petworth House, the interiors, with antiques etc, and the lifestyle – shopping, eating, drinking.”
Known internationally for its reputation as a leading antiques centre, when it comes to Petworth this is the perfect place to start.
Numerous antique shops can be found dotted across the town but do not be mistaken, this is not a case of quantity over
quality – in Petworth you get both.
While for gorgeous gifts and stylish furniture Follit, at 10 New Street, is a must. It also sells needlepoint felt animals – which have made my Christmas list – and beautiful children’s clothes, dresses and rompers.
I’ll also be asking Santa for the bespoke interior pieces found at Tallulah Fox, recently opened on Lombard Street.
Fashion lovers will feel their hearts flutter at the huge amount of choice, from Twenty Petworth to Therapy, described as ‘a contemporary ladies fashion emporium with the values of a bygone era’, plus designer labels can be found at Sloanes Boutique and Eternal Dress Agency.
Food and drink
If all that shopping leaves you hungry, there is something to suit every taste.
Tiffins Tea Room, on the high street, is ideal if you like delicious food and amazing customer service – and who doesn’t?
Owned by Jackie and Nikki you are sure to be made to feel special. The only problem will be choosing what to eat from the array of great options, including afternoon tea, which are all served in style.
Award-winning The Hungry Guest has everything to look after you whether you want them to do all the hardwork or you
want to pick up something to take your home cooking to another level – Petworth boasts both a Hungry Guest café and shop.
With butchery and a fantastic cheese room there’s no better place to pick up ingredients for a festive feast.
The bakery and kitchens are even planning its own range – including Christmas puddings, Stollen, Scandinavian biscuits and of course mince pies.
Speaking of raising the bar when it comes to cuisine, The Leconfield has recently begun an exciting new collaboration with French chef Pascal Proyart of One-O-One restaurant fame in Knightsbridge, making its already mouthwatering menu one not to be missed.
Others to add to that list are the The Halfway Bridge, found in Lodsworth just outside Petworth, and The Star, which has
been recently taken over and transformed to become a traditional public house with a twist.
Those with a sweet tooth should head to the Coco Cafe and Sugar Lounge. With its rows of old-fashioned jars it offers the choice to order a bag of your favourites to go or the option to sit in and relax.
You can’t talk about Petworth without mentioning Petworth House so it seems fitting they are leading the festive celebrations.
This year the events are inspired by traditions – the old being the Christmas fair and the new a festive feast.
The first boasts more than 120 artisan stalls brimming with gifts – from unique jewellery to jams and homemade chocolates to luxury accessories.
The feast promises to be a “visual spectacular” and sees the house’s historic kitchens play host to culinary scenes brought to life thanks to characters in costumes.
A boar roasts on the spit in front of the crackling fire, the chef is snoring in the pantry, in the frosted dining room frozen floral arrangements catch the light while in the centre of the kitchen sits a show stopping model of Petworth House itself – made from gingerbread.
“When faced with the challenge of creating a month-long ‘spectacular’, I must admit I took a small mental gulp,” admits Petworth’s event co-ordinator Ian Pearce. “Once I started thinking about it though, the ideas came thick and fast.
“I had to overcome some very weird conundrums, such as how to safely flood an historic area, and fix a brace of stuffed
pheasants into a two-foot high wig,” Ian adds, “but it’s been terrific fun, and the result is going to be amazing.”
There certainly seems no doubt about that, with workshops giving children the chance to ‘Make Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ and the chance to win golden tickets to the launch party on December 3 with special guest Heston Blumenthal.
All tickets booked for the feast before November 22 will be entered into the draw to win. Meanwhile, the town itself will also be putting on a show with the lights switch on and something a little different.
“All the shopkeepers enjoy putting all the live window displays on the first Saturday of December,” agrees Alex. “It gives us a chance to do something a bit crazy. I have got a couple of ideas but at this stage it is all very, very, secret.”
So is competition rife? “There is a lot of appreciation for other people’s ideas,” Alex smiles. “I think this will be the fourth year we have done it and people are getting to know and love the live windows – they bring their families to come and see them.
“It is about being welcoming,” he adds. “Visitors are more than likely to have a glass of mulled wine thrust in their hand when they come into a shop.”
Rugs of Petworth- www.rugsofpetworth.co.uk
Follit – www.follit.com
Tallulah Fox- www.tallulahfox.co.uk
Twenty Petworth– www.twentypetworth.com
Therapy – www.therapypetworth.co.uk
Sloanes Boutique– www.sloanesboutique.com
Eternal Dress Agency – www.eternal-petworth.com
Tiffins Tea Room- www.tiffinstearooms.co.uk
The Hungry Guest – www.thehungryguest.com
The Leconfield – www.theleconfield.co.uk
The Halfway Bridge- www.halfwaybridge.co.uk
The Star – www.starpetworth.co.uk
Coco Cafe and Sugar Lounge- www.facebook.com/cococafeuk
Christmas Fair, November 23 and 24
A Feast for the Eyes, November 30 to December 22
Countdown to Christmas outdoor trail, November 30 to December 22
Merry little Christmas workshops, December 14, 15, 21, 22, 11am
For times, prices and booking information please visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/petworth-house or call 01798 343929.