An article in which Lucy and The Chap enjoy a day out in Norfolk, exploring the history of Felbrigg Hall in north Norfolk
Last week was a bore. Fact.
I was struck down by the lurgy and all I wanted to do was sleep.
By the time the Sunday rolled around I had hellish cabin fever and couldn’t wait to get outside. So, seeing the sunshine beaming down on Norfolk, we decided to break out the National Trust membership and get ourselves to a stately home.
Poring over the NT map, The Chap and I realised that we’d never been to Felbrigg Hall near Cromer and investigated further.
Turning to the appropriate page in this year’s guide, we discovered that it has gardens, it has a house and it has a café.
What more could we want?
Getting to Felbrigg Hall from Norwich
It took us around 40 minutes to get from Norwich to Felbrigg by car and the route was pretty straightforward. We followed the A140 most of the way and there are signposts for the last bit of the route.
The estate has a large car park and, even though it’s off-road, the ground is nice and even, so it’s highly accessible. And even though it was busy (most of Norwich had a similar idea to us) there was still plenty of room for more cars.
Having parked my wagon near the entrance to the walled gardens, we decided this was as good a place as any to begin.
And I’m glad we did.
It was such a peaceful start to the day. We ambled around and marvelled at the plants, with no rush to be anywhere or do anything. In fact, there were times when all we could hear were cows lowing and sheep bleating in the nearby meadows.
After all of last week’s rain, the gardens looked stunning. The flowers were in bloom and the grass was green and verdant. I just wish we’d seen passionfruit flower though – it was covered in buds and will look stunning in a few days’ time.
Read more: Oxburgh Hall
During our walk, I was particularly taken by the herb and vegetable gardens. There were multiple types of mint, sage, thyme, lavender… all sorts, growing alongside with onions, leeks, kale, apples, pears…
It was also a haven for bees, which I love, while chickens roam around, enjoying dust baths in the shade. I’d recommend a visit to families with children; it’s a great way to learn about where food comes from and what it looks like while it’s growing.
There are some key architectural features in the garden too, including a Victorian dovecote and a beautiful pond filled with pink and white water lilies.
These are joined by a couple of small hothouses, filled with exotic species, such as cacti and succulents. And while it’s not that glamorous, there’s a beautiful, vivid geranium in one of them and it’s completely stunning. It’s hard not to be impressed by the bright-red blooms.
After a good hour or two roaming the garden, we decided we’d earned our lunch and ventured to the small tea room. When we arrived, I was pleased to discover that there were several vegetarian options available, including sandwiches and salads.
To be honest, the veggie sausage roll wasn’t to my taste, but the jacket potato with plenty of cheese and beans was spot on. There was also a good selection of cakes available and we can vouch for the quality of the carrot cake.
Suitably nourished, we made our way to the Hall itself, pausing to admire the exterior before entering. There’s a lot going on architecturally and it looks quite confusing, with blocked-up windows and extensions. Thankfully the National Trust guide explains that this is because of ongoing renovation and changes to the layout and structure through history. Dating back to 1620, the hall has been added to and altered for centuries.
Once inside, it quickly becomes apparent that the Wyndham family were fans of art. The walls in most rooms are covered with paintings and sketches. The first room on the tour – the Morning Room – is lined with portraits of the family. The second room, the Great Hall, is equally covered, while marble busts dominate the corners. That said, Great Hall itself is like a work of art, with huge pendant decorations hanging from the ceiling and bosses inlaid in the cornices.
The Cabinet was the room that fascinated me most. It’s only a small space but it’s absolutely crammed full of artefacts and artworks collected by William Windham II during his Grand Tour of Europe. But it’s not just the artworks that make it magical, but the damask wallpaper, the plasterwork on the ceiling and the imposing crystal chandelier. It’s a sensory overload and a real insight into the glamour of The Grand Tour.
As a book lover, I enjoyed visiting the Library too. Filled with leather-bound volumes, ladders to reach the high shelves and globes for exploring the world, it reminded me of the library in Beauty & the Beast (which, incidentally, is my dream library…). I wanted to spend the rest of my Sunday afternoon there reading in a big armchair. There is a handily placed chamber pot hidden behind a false wall in case of emergencies too…!
Read more: Houghton Hall
The Chinese Bedroom was also a highlight for me. With hand-painted Chinese wallpaper dating from the 1750s lining the walls, it’s a beautiful, light and airy room. A National Trust volunteer explained that there had been some damage to the wallpaper in the and it had to be taken down, repaired and repainted before returning to the room.
A friendly welcome
This actually seems like an opportune moment to mention the volunteers at Felbrigg Hall. They were wonderful throughout our visit. Whether we were in the café, the hall or the shop, they always paused to chat and impart a little nugget of useful information.
It’s also worth noting that there’s a small second-hand bookshop on the way out. While it’s not quite on the scale of Blickling Hall’s bookshop, it still had a reasonable selection to choose from.
So, all in all, it was a great day out. We’ll be returning to Felbrigg Hall to explore the larger estate and the wooded areas later in the year!
Entry: £11.60 adults / £5.80 children