Day out: Felbrigg Hall, Gardens and Estate, Norfolk
Felbrigg Hall is spectacular country home in Norfolk. Full of art, it also has gorgeous gardens and acres of parkland to explore.
Enjoy a day out exploring the historic Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk with our travel guide.
History of Felbrigg Hall
The National Trust owned, Felbrigg Hall, was acquired by the Wyndham family in the 1450s, neither looks nor feels like a haunted house. The Jacobean south front, formed from an original early Tudor building, is more inviting than imposing, and I can imagine getting comfy in the Great Hall, with its salvaged stained glass windows and 1840s wooden ceiling (think inverted meringues).
But it’s a different story in the Gothic-style library; a room of dusty gloom. It’s here that the ghost of bibliophile William Windham III (1750-1810) is said to appear, seated by a roaring blaze. In fact, books were to blame for Windham’s demise: attempting to rescue a friend’s library from fire, he sustained injuries that ultimately proved fatal.
Legend has it that Windham’s spirit can now be summoned if a certain combination of tomes is set out, although with more than 5,000 to choose from – including some from the library of Samuel Johnson, another friend of Windham – my hunch is he’ll remain undisturbed.
Many books returned with William Windham II (1717-61) from his travels, and it is he whom Felbrigg has to thank both for its elegant interiors with their Rococo plasterwork, and its substantial Grand Tour art collection. Treasures include charming Italian landscapes by the gouache artist Busiri, as well as the maritime paintings that dominate the opulent drawing room.
But don’t forget to look up: the ceiling here, dating from 1687, is like a harvest festival in plaster, showcasing produce from this bountiful estate.
According to the estate’s forester Richard Daplyn, William III isn’t Felbrigg’s only ghost. If you go down to the ancient Great Wood – 400 acres of oaks, sweet chestnuts and conifers planted as protection from North Sea blasts – you might just encounter the coach of Mad Windham. Born in 1840, this heir not only enjoyed imitating station guards, he also drove passengers to Norwich free of charge for his own amusement.
The haunting cries of passing pink-footed geese are, however, are a more likely source of chills, as is the autumn mist that builds up against the Holt-Cromer ridge, spilling across the gardens. Look out for the Victory V, a golden arrowhead of beeches planted as a memorial at the end of the Second World War, and watch for a wealth of fungi, including earth tongues, corals, waxcaps and brittlegills, which attract colourful lemon slugs to feed.
How to get there
Felbrigg Hall is two miles south-west of Cromer on the B1436. The nearest stations are Cromer and Roughton Road.
Cley Windmill, Holt
Dine by candlelight in this delightful 18th-century windmill, which also offers accommodation. cleywindmill.co.uk
Blickling Hall, Blickling
The design of 17th-century Blickling is similar to Felbrigg. nationaltrust.org.uk/blickling-estate