Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk, 2014
Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk, near Cromer, was the family home of the Windham family. William Windham II inherited the house in 1749 when his father Ashe Windham died. Now owned by the National Trust, the house retains a lot of the characteristics and features of William’s time there. On his inheritance he undertook a fair amount of renovation on the building, and he used the building’s walls to hang the vast number of pictures he seems to have bought on his grand tour.
It was a lovely home, and home is the right word to use, because despite its grand scale and lavish decoration, Felbrigg feels more like a home than a great many country houses that I have seen over the years.
Elizabeth Windham, William II’s illegitimate daughter, was raised by him, and lived here with her father and the rest of the family. In Ketton-Cramer’s book on Felbrigg, he quotes a passage from a letter by a family friend who spent a Christmas there, about being entertained by Elizabeth and her step-sister. It captured a truly domestic moment, and points to Elizabeth living apparently on equal terms with the legitimate children of the household.
In the dining room there are a number of portraits of family members which hange on the walls. It is an odd feeling to stand there and see these silken and bewigged people and realize that they are really and truly related to me. It is very unreal and slightly odd. Of course my cousin Susan and I had to pose under a photo of Ashe Windham, our mutual 8 times great grandfather. There isn’t much of a resemblance really. I am not sure if this is good or bad, because he might have been handsome under all that hair.
The house itself is not that large, and most of the rooms on the main floor are open. There are several rooms on the second floor where the bedrooms are that are closed, but in total there aren’t that many places to sleep. (The floor plan was pretty helpful) I am totally mystified as to which room Elizabeth slept in. Did she share with her step-sister?
I absolutely fell in love with William Windham III’s library. Oh the lovely books and the places available to coze up and read! There was even a small hidden room behind a bookcase to take a wee, if you were taken short. Seriously, if you plan a library to include a place for pit stops, you intend to linger long hours there.
While at Felbrigg we also went to see the church on its grounds. A great many ancestors were buried here. It is a lovely little church which retains the old style pews, with the high walls and doors. It was charming.