I love visiting old houses.
The National Trust alone manages over 500, all over the UK.
It doesn’t matter how many thresholds you cross, you will find something different and exciting in everyone of them, and Felbrigg Hall is one such property near Cromer in Norfolk.
Reflecting the personal stories of four families who secured their wealth through agriculture and gained political and social status, the hall has been greatly added to over the years.
Sir John Wyndham who died in 1645 and his son Thomas set about rebuilding the Felbrigg that started it’s life in 1620.
Robert Wyndham Ketton-Creamer was the last squire of Felbrigg who bequeathed the House, Gardens and Estate to the National Trust following his death in 1969.
In common with other houses like this one, the walls are covered with portraits of family members down the ages. One in particular caught the imagination. His name was William, known as “ Mad Wyndham” who married Agnes Willoughby, a lady of ill repute, and who often moved in very dubious circles. His uncle tried and and failed to have him declared a lunatic. Heavily in debt, he was responsible for losing Felbrigg.
He apparently had a thing for dressing up in uniform and causing chaos. I addition to posing as a London policeman and rounding up dubious women after closing time, he would often pose as a steam train guard whose unauthorized whistle blasts caused some confusion on the platforms.
Agnes, who married Mad William for his money in 1861, eventually ran off with an Italian Opera Singer, when the money ran out.
There are many rooms open to the public including the Great Hall. Here you can see a portrait of the last squire, Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, who devoted his life to preserving Felbrigg. A biographer and historian, he wrote much of his work from the desk in this room. There are some very unusual ceiling drops in this room that were added in the 1840’s.
The Dining Room is a delight to the eye. The table is laid out for the second course of an 1860’s Dinner Party. During the shooting season there would have been a steady stream of visitors to the hall to entertain. An unusual feature on the table are small jugs of ice blocks with a wine glass resting on the ice. A friendly and knowledgeable volunteer guide informed us that at the time, people preferred their Claret to be cooled rather than today when it is served at room temperature.
The Drawing Room has an interesting and unusual artifact which is a teapot which was given to the lady of the house by Queen Mary who had a reputation of taking them rather than giving them!
The Cabinet is a room that is jam packed with pictures collected by William Windham the second and brought back from his Grand Tour. It is a rare survival of an 18th Century collection made on such a tour. These pictures were the forerunner of picture postcards.
The Library and Book Room includes more than 5000 books. The servants library contains just seven books which are devoted to subjects such as how to be a better servant! It has an interesting secret cupboard which contains a chamber pot!
We were reliably informed that the other chamber pot was situated at the other end of the hall which was a bit of a hike if you were desperate!
The Bedrooms were quite interesting and I learned an interesting fact. A west corridor was added in the 1750’s but before that, everyone had to walk through each others bedroom before reaching their own. This is why beds at this time had curtains around them. Now I can understand why!
In the Grey bedroom you can see plaster work from the original 1680’s staircase, and in the Chinese bedroom you can see a complete wall covered in a very expensive and beautifully hand painted wallpaper that has survived from 1752. Everything was so colourful then. Unfortunately for us, everything that survives is often faded and dull. As an example, there are some leather dining chairs that were once a bright green. Now they have returned to the colour of a brown cows backside!
This house is full of unusual treasures, so it is well worth a visit. My favourite individual item was a hand written book, full of different recipes, written in the finest handwriting dating from around 1650 along with some ancient food stains.
Unfortunately our tired legs and dodgy knees didn’t allow us to take the separate guided tour of the attic and cellars. Nor did we have the time to visit the gardens which by all accounts are quite spectacular.
No worries. Another time perhaps.