Podcast: Petworth Explored

The Stonemansons Inn, a little long North Street, Petworth.

As part of our research into a video episode of the Bald Explorer I always like to visit a place and get a feel for the location. I love to take photographs and look for the unusual. I took Jimmy with me to Petworth in West Sussex this time and we tramped the streets impressed by the old houses and wonderful architecture.  This recording was the second podcast we made that day and towards the end we are in search of the rather grim sounding Petworth House of Correction, the local prison.

I used to live in Petworth some thirty years ago. I wasn’t interested in history then being only a young man of eighteen. I was a member of the local youth theatre and was lodged in one of the oldest streets in Petworth, Lombard Street. It is a beautifully preserved cobbled street leading down from the parish church, St Mary’s, to the market square.

Little really has changed in Petworth I am pleased to say. Perhaps there are a few more antique shops than I remember and a couple of the businesses have changed, pubs closed and now I see they charge for parking in the main car park. (Only a pound for the whole day, so it doesn’t break the bank I suppose.)

There are some lovely public houses, Inns and drinking places in the old town, but one that I had never visited in my youth was the Stonemansons Inn along North Street a little out of town. It stands close to where the old boy’s school once stood, before a stray bomb destroyed it during World War two. (See our other podcast about Petworth).

One of the remaining buildings of the Petworth House of Correction.

The Stonemasons Inn is made up from a small row of 17th Century timber framed cottages with each room named after previous owners. It is a fabulously atmospheric building, complete with low beams,  charming fire places and plenty of character. Better than all that they also sell local real ale and produce rather lovely food.

Close by was where the old Petworth Toll House would have stood and collected the money from travellers coming and going to the market town.  Luckily, these days, you can drove your sheep or heard your cattle along this busy road for free.

One of the notorious places in Petworth and not generally known about is the old House of Correction. It was opened in 1788 and mainly used to house petty criminals, but its treatment was harsh and draconian. The prisoners were given forced hard labour, including many hours on a treadmill (1o hours in the Summer and 7 hours in the Winter) and it was known ‘grinding the wind’ for it achieved in practical terms, absolutely nothing. There was also a handcrank which was turned against pressure for another period of 10 hours.  I hope to explore more about this cruel institution in the Bald Explorer episode.

An overlay showing where the old prison used to stand in 1875, thanks to Jimmy for this.

Meanwhile do have a listen to preliminary exploration of this delightful town.

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