Felbrigg Hall was built in the 1620s and utilized the foundations of a Tudor house on the property in its construction. It came into the hands of the Wyndham family through an inheritance and remained their property for 300 years. Thus the contents of the house are original and the collections are mainly those of the same family over the centuries.
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Entry to the house is from a south porch, over which are the coats of arms of the first owner Sir John Wyndham, his son and their wives. The porch, window mullions, and parapet are of limestone but the rest of the south front is a mix of materials.
In 1682 the west wing was added to the house by William Windham I (the ‘y’ was changed to an ‘i’ in the name.) It is in a different style to the earlier part of the house, being more in the Italian classical type of architecture with precise brickwork. The restaurant and shop are now located in what was the stables, built in 1825.
The 520 acre park has a lake, woods and waymarked trails. In the woods are sweet chestnuts dating back to the 1690s. The walled garden grows produce used in the tea-room, herbs, pear and apple trees, and flowers. An octagonal dove-house in the garden was built in the 1750s.
Also in the walled garden are two glasshouses, one a vinery and the other a home for flowering plants. The path leading to it is flanked with western red cedars. The garden’s layout is still 17th century with 19th century changes.
An orangery was constructed c1705. It now houses camellias. Next to the orangery is the American garden named for the trees brought from America in the 1800s.
In the estate grounds is St Margaret’s church that once served a village in the Middle Ages. The village is long gone, but the church survived due to a rebuild c1400 by an estate owner Sir Simon Felbrigg. He also left his mark behind in the brass in the middle of the nave dedicated to his wife, a Bohemian princess. Also in the church are Windham family monuments.
A tour of the house takes in the state rooms, upper floor bedrooms, and the kitchen/service wing. In Jacobean times the present morning room was a kitchen and buttery. The room has a display of pictures. The great hall was the main room in Jacobean times, but only the coat of arms over the fireplace survives from that time in the décor. Oak doorcases, the ceiling with its pendant drops, and stained glass were added by William Howe Windham. Family portraits hang on the walls.
1756 Between 1749-1756 the west wing and other areas of the house were remodelled by James Paine. This included the dining room which commandeered the location of the old staircase. Rocco plasterwork is a feature of the room as are the portraits hanging in the frames. There are two original serving tables, a c1790 dining table, and c1830 chairs in the room.
Off the dining room is the drawing room that was the great parlour in the late 1600s. The decorative plaster ceiling dates from 1687. When James Paine redid this room he put red flowered paper on the walls as a background for the pictures. The gilded furniture was added in c1830. The cabinet room, off the present drawing room, was the drawing room in the late 1600s. It too was remodelled by Paine to hang pictures, some quite large ones, from Rome collected by William Windham II. This room had its damask walls added in the 1700s as well as a bay window and decorated cove. Two late 17th century pieces of Boulle French furniture set off the doorway.
The stairs in the stair hall were remade in 1752 and a balustrade of wrought iron was used. There are a number of portraits in the stair hall. The gothic style library is on the second floor and served as a great chamber in Jacobean times. Of special note is Dr Johnson’s dictionary. The collection of books belonged to the first three William Windhams and later owners. A book room has archival material and displays books from the collection.
Bedrooms include the grey, yellow, rose, red, and Chinese ones. The grey was a dressing room and has a Victorian slipper bath. The yellow was once a green bedroom and is now done in a 1920s style. The rose room once served as a dressing room for the yellow bedroom. The current rose bordered wallpaper is from the 1800s. The furniture’s upholstery was in crimson damask. There is a plaster cove with flowers and foliage dating from the 1750s. Two rococo white and gilt pier glasses date from 1752. The red bedroom has two rococo mirrors. The bed and hangings date from c1830. It was the main bedroom. The Chinese bedroom is named after the Chinese wallpaper dating from 1752. The armchairs are also in a Chinese pattern.
A west corridor was made in the early 1750s so the bedrooms could be reached without going through each other. Late 17th-late 18th century chests and bureaus are in the corridor. The stairs here are for the servants. A bird corridor, built to connect the kitchen and dining room, was built in 1831. It is so named because of the stuffed birds on display. The kitchen and service wing date from c1700. A collection of copper pieces remains from a larger collection. In this same area were a housekeeper’s room, still room, servants’ hall, steward’s room, tenants’ waiting room, and workshops. The steward’s room and servants’ hall have most of their original furniture. The workshops were used by William Windham II who was into a lot of hobbies including woodturning bookbinding, and boat building.
Felbrigg, Norwich, Norfolk
Tel. 0 1263 837444
Open: house—March-Oct, Sat-Wed, 11am-5pm; park—year round, daily, dawn-dusk; gardens, tea-room, shop—March-end Oct, daily, 11am-5pm; Nov-3rd week Dec, Thu-Sun, 11am-4pm; week after Christmas, daily, 11am-3pm
National Trust property; parking; tea-room; shop; plant sales; used book store; special events
Photos of dovecote, entrance door and Felbrigg Hall © by Barbara Ballard
Others courtesy of Geograph Britain and Ireland as follows:
Church brass by Evelyn Simak; Church exterior and orangery by Philip Halling; walled garden by Alan Walker; Beech trees by Chris Yeates; East wing by Nick Macneill; Service range by Humphrey Bolton; Gatehouse by DS Pugh