Quite often when I visit an historic home I admire the grandeur on display, ponder how much it costs to heat in the winter and perhaps imagine myself flouncing up a sweeping staircase in a long silk dress but very rarely do I ever think “Yes, I could live here”.
I’m not sure what it is about Felbrigg Hall because it’s as opulent and impressive as the others but as soon as I entered I just felt…welcome.
It possibly had something to do with the volunteers, who were all so friendly, and the fact that there’s a lovely treasure hunt-style activity for children involving a magnifying glass and a photo book but I think it’s more to do with the feel of the place.
It’s just homely. I felt like I could sit in the library and read a book in my PJs (not when it’s open to the public) or happily enjoy a family Christmas dinner in the dining room (hopefully cooked by someone else).
The 17th century house and the estate were left to the National Trust following the death of the ‘last squire’, biographer and historian Robert Ketton-Cremer, in 1969.
A descendent of the Wyndham/Windham family, who owned Felbrigg for some 500 years, he inherited the house on the death of his father in 1933. There’s a well written history of the hall and some of its fascinating past inhabitants here.
I was quite taken by the tales of William ‘Mad’ Windham (1840 – 1866) who apparently had a bit of a thing for uniforms. Not only did he dress up as a train guard at local stations, which caused a few problems, he also presented himself as a policeman and ‘patrolled’ in London. He seems to have remained quite the character – in later life even buying himself a coach and pinching customers from established routes by offering free lifts between Norwich and Cromer.
He was far from the only intriguing person attached to the house and it was fascinating to discover more as we explored.
There was some controversy (link to a story in The Guardian) surrounding Felbrigg earlier this year but when we visited last month, on a day that started slightly damp, all seemed well.
What can you do there?
Everywhere you look there is something interesting to see at Felbrigg and Freya loved trying to match the photographs to the various rooms. You can tour downstairs and upstairs rooms, including the great hall, with its stunning stained glass, dining room, lovely library and several bedrooms, including the Chinese Room with wallpaper hand painted in China (which required a costly specialist to put up).
We stopped for a bite to eat in the cafe before heading outside to the wonderful walled garden. Because our party had a variety of different ages we only got to see a small section of the garden but what I did see was stunning (my camera was very happy).
There is a fabulous play area for smaller visitors, which includes sandpits to dig in, miniature wheel barrows, forks and what I think might be a willow house with a tree stump table and small wooden benches (here’s Mark enjoying it).
Should you want to go a bit further afield, the estate also has 520 acres of woods, with rolling parkland, a lake and buggy-friendly paths.
What did we think?
Our trip included four generations and they all loved it. Freya was the one I was most worried about but almost as soon as we arrived (and she found some hobby horses to trot around on) she was happy. She loved exploring inside and outside too (as we all did). A great family adventure.
How much does it cost?
A standard charge for an adult (without gift aid) for the whole property is £10.40 and £5.50 for a child. You can also just pay for the gardens and there is a family ticket available. Full details here. Don’t forget to check opening times before you go.