Norfolk Adventures: Felbrigg Hall.

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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.

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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).

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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?

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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).

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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).

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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).

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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.

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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.

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Things To Do In Norfolk: The Museum of Norwich.

IMG_1826When the history of the building is as interesting as what’s now housed inside, you know you’re in for a treat – as is the case with the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell.

You’ll find it tucked away down a little alley, just a short walk from other attractions such as the castle.

It started its long life as the home of a wealthy merchant in about 1325 and changed hands (and was updated) several times until the 1580s when it was sold to the city.

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Part of it was then converted into a Bridewell – or prison for women and beggars, who were occupied with manual work or, in some cases, taught a trade.

By all accounts, life inside was harsh and, on occasions, barbaric – indeed, the threat of being sent to the Bridewell was supposed to act as a deterrent.

When fire broke out in 1751, destroying much of the building, it apparently had a rather famous (or infamous) inmate, Peter the Wild Boy.

Infamous resident refuses to leave.

He was a child found living wild in the forests of Hanover, in northern Germany, in about 1725 and brought to England by King George I as a “curiosity” for his daughter-in-law Caroline, the Princess of Wales.

The boy could not talk and instead of walking preferred to scamper on all fours – apparently picking the pockets of courtiers and stealing kisses.

While he initially caused quite a stir (Jonathan Swift was among those to write about him), he was eventually sent to live on a farm in Herfordshire, from where he would regularly escape.

You can find out more about him here but his time in Norwich is commemorated by the nearby Wildman pub in Bedford Street and a blue plaque on the side of the building.

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Museum life.

After the fire, the Bridewell was rebuilt as a prison and stayed in use for another 77 years before it then served as a tobacco factory, leather warehouse and shoe factory.

Given the stories the walls could tell if they could talk, it seems rather fitting that the building should eventually be turned into a museum, which first opened its doors in 1925, focusing on a city at work and play.

Refurbishment.

In 2008 the museum was granted £1.5m for a major revamp, which included a new entrance, enhanced displays and better access for visitors.

It reopened in 2012 and, as soon as you enter, you can see the money has been very well spent.

A fantastic history wall – a huge mosaic created with mainly donated photos on a lightbox, is one of the first points of interest – and that high standard is maintained throughout the museum.

The galleries are full of interesting, often quirky, displays with plenty of things to touch and smell, audio to listen and videos to watch – all the while learning about the people who lived and worked in our Fine City.

There’s a guide to the various areas of the museum here.

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Credit: Museum of Norwich.
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Credit: Museum of Norwich.
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Credit: Museum of Norwich.
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Credit: Museum of Norwich.
What we thought.

I have a major soft spot for this museum and, whenever possible, always take visitors to Norwich there – and I still feel like I haven’t seen it all.

There’s so much to look at and get involved in. I always find something different every time. It’s also all so accessible and I genuinely feel more connected to the city and its people – even though I wasn’t born here – when I’m inside.

My favourite area is the pharmacy, full of colourful bottles with lotions and potions for all sorts of ailments. It’s behind floor to ceiling glass (my photos really don’t do it justice) but still provokes a “wow” as most people enter.

While I think Freya is perhaps still a bit young to really appreciate the museum, entry was free last week (thank you to the Freemen of Norwich) and so I knew it wouldn’t matter if she got fed up after 30 minutes (as three-year-olds do) and we had to leave.

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As it happened she had a great time trying on wigs and hats, looking at maps, sniffing various things and discovering sparkly red shoes to clomp about in (it was hard to get her to leave the shoe drawer).

Even if you’re not local, I would suggest it’s worth a visit (my visitors have all loved it). I can also see it being a regular haunt for us as Freya grows up.

Costs.

Adult £5.70
Concession £5.40
Child (4-18) £4.55

For full information about prices (there are also family tickets and a twilight ticket) and opening times please click here.

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Suitcases and Sandcastles

 

 

My Sunday Photo – July 30th, 2017.

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We went on an adventure to the RSPB’s Buckenham Marshes, which is a new one for us – although it’s just down the road from one of my favourites, Strumpshaw Fen.

It’s a short walk to the “wildlife watchpoint” and we spent quite a while there (as we were the only ones, it didn’t matter if Freya was a bit loud). After our first visit to Strumpshaw we put together a little nature bag for her with things such as a magnifying glass, mini insect and bird guides and some children’s binoculars.

While she enjoyed using them, I was snapping away…

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This feels like ‘the one that got away’. If only it was in focus!

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To see what other people have captured for My Sunday Photo this week please click on the camera below.

Also, don’t forget you can follow me on Instagram for lots more photos.

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