VISITORS to number 346, High Street, Petworth, are transported into a world described as a ‘little well-preserved gem’.
This season, which opened on April 1, marks the 19th anniversary of the Petworth Cottage Museum, which was the brainchild of Ann Bradley along with fellow trustee and architect Raymond Haris and current chairman Gordon Stevenson.
“We wanted to show working-class life and this cottage was perfect – it has never been modernised very much,” said Gordon.
The cottage has been vacant since the last tenant died in 1992, and reflects the period in which former tenant Mary Cummings lived in it – 1910.
The property came into the ownership of the Leconfield Estate in 1854.
There are no surviving descendants of Mary, except for Agnes Phelan – a close friend of her granddaughters, who returned to the cottage in 1997 to help trustees in their bid to make the property as authentic as possible.
Some of their home life has been documented by Petworth photographer Walter Kevis.
Visitors immerse themselves in early 20th-century cottage life, making their way around the rooms, under the glow of gas lights.
Staffed by around 40 volunteers through its open season (April-October, Tuesday to Saturday), more than 1,000 people can pass through the doors and into the ‘tardis-like’ building every year, marvelling at how deceptively large it is.
Day trips are catered for, as are the regular WI groups and tourists from as far afield as Germany.
On heritage open days, Gordon runs a tour around the town which can see up to 50 people in the cottage at one time.
“The essence of the experience is to get totally immersed – step back in time and see a personal history, not just a cottage, but somebody’s home,” said Gordon.
For further information, visit the website www.petworthcottagemuseum.co.uk
The museum is open 2pm-4.30pm Tuesday-Saturday.