PUBLISHED: 12:00 17 August 2015
National Trust Images/John Hammond
Every visitor to Felbrigg Hall leaves with different memories of the wonderful collection of artwork and furnishings on display. The National Trust’s Louise Green, house and collections manager, tells Tom Dick about her favourite items in Felbrigg’s collection.
Wallpaper in the Chinese bedroom
“In the 18th century people were fascinated by all things Chinese as trade boomed with that vast country, largely thanks to the Dutch East India Company.
Although the Felbrigg wallpaper is not unique, it is one of the best examples to be seen in the country, especially following its restoration during the 1970s. The bedroom was created around 1751 by combining two rooms, and William Windham II ordered the paper from China in 1751-2.
The designs are printed directly on to the paper, with the colours painted by hand, and feature ducks, egrets, pheasants, peonies, arrowhead, magnolia and a lotus seedhead. Six different drop designs can be identified, most of which appear three or four times around the room.
On delivery, the paper was hung on European hand-made lining paper pasted directly on to the plaster. The skill of the paper-hanger can be picked out in the way he matched the relatively wide margins of the individual drops by skillfully cutting and matching to form a continuous panorama. Elsewhere, offcuts have been used to fill in gaps above the chair rail – all cut in a wavy line to disguise the joins.
William Windham was astonished at the cost of hanging this wallpaper – 3/6 a day for labour and 6d per mile for travelling expenses from Norwich. At today’s prices that equates to £31.50 a day and £5.40 a mile!”
The globes in the library
“I never cease to be amazed by the beauty of the two globes in the western alcove of the library behind the desk. One is a terrestrial globe, the second a celestial globe on satinwood veneer stands made by J & W Carey of London in 1799 and 1814 respectively. This company was one of the most important creators of terrestrial and celestial globes in the time of George III.
The library carpet, dating from 1830, is also in the process of being recreated, not just renovated, using original weaving techniques and pigments. It should be relaid during the winter of 2015/16, so everyone needs to come and see it next year.”
The Samuel Scott paintings in the drawing room
“How does one select paintings from the huge archive in the house? My favourites are those by Samuel Scott on each side of the door to the cabinet in the drawing room. These date from the early 1750s when Scott was known as the ‘Canaletto of England’. Scott began his paintings of London in the 1740s, when drawings and paintings of the city became fashionable after the arrival of Canaletto in London in 1746. Our paintings depict Old London Bridge when it still had buildings on top (they were demolished in 1757) and a view of the Tower of London which shows just how the London skyline has changed over the years.
It is fitting that these two paintings should hang here since Scott’s early work (seascapes) were heavily influenced by Van der Velde (father and son) examples of whose work hang on the opposite wall leading to the dining room. Therefore they complement each other totally.”
The Farnese Bull
“Moving into the Great Hall, I am fascinated by the 17th century bronze copy of the Farnese Bull. The original and much larger marble statue was discovered in the Baths of Caracalla in Rome in 1545 and is now in the Museo Nazionale in Naples. It depicts the story of Dirce, second wife of King Lycus of Thebes, who was tied to a wild bull by her stepsons in revenge for her previous treatment of their mother.”
The Morning Room longcase clock
“This eight-day longcase clock must be one of the largest such timepieces in Britain. It was made in Norwich c1920, probably by an enthusiast, and is reputedly made from solid walnut grown on the Felbrigg estate. It is a one-off creation with a fascinating rectangular brass dial with Arabic numerals made of bone and a miniature bone seconds dial. It has obviously been created by using parts of other clocks since the dial has three winding holes but the clock only has a single train movement.”
Felbrigg Hall is open every day in August, from 11am to 5pm. The parkland is open from dawn to dusk; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/felbrigg-hall