History

The early years

A view of the estate taken from the scaffolding. © The National Trust

A view of the estate taken from the scaffolding.

The heart of the estate was built up before the Norman conquest and enlarged by the Felbrigg family. The name 'Felbrigg' is a relic of the Danish invasions. 'Fiolbrygga' is ancient Scandinavian for a plank bridge. When the Normans made their domesday survey in 1086 the village was amongst the many possessions of the Bigod family and had presumably been so since the ejection of the two freemen of Harold's brother Gyrth.

Felbrigg Church © Robert Truman

Felbrigg Church

The Felbrigg name

The earliest record of a family taking Felbrigg as its name comes from the late 11th century when Ailward de Felbrigg and his kinsmen were joined by marriage to the Bigods. In the church is a monumental brass, unusually depicting two lords of the manor and their wives. The first Sir Simon de Felbrigg is thought to have died in 1351 and is shown with his wife Alice de Thorp. Next to them, in armour, is their son Roger and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Lord Scales.

The rise and demise

Wisteria at Felbrigg © NTPL

Wisteria at Felbrigg

By 1394 Roger's son Simon had found a place at the court of Richard II and was described as a 'King's Knight'. A year later he was made royal standard bearer with an annual payment of £100, and other perquisites followed, notably the keeperships of certain royal castles including the old Bigod stronghold of Framlingham in Suffolk. He was made a Knight of the Garter in 1397 and so entered the most exclusive of the orders of chivalry. That he married Margaret, daughter of the Duke of Teschen and maid of honour to Richard II's first Queen, Anne of Bohemia, showed the regard in which he was held by the royal household. The Lancastrian coup of 1399 spelt disaster for Sir Simon who was deprived of the lucrative keeperships and offices by the new King Henry IV. His last ceremonial duty was escorting Richard's second queen, Isabel, into exile in 1400. When Sir Simon died in December 1442 he was buried with his second wife in the choir of the Norwich Blackfriar's church. His will provided for masses to be said for the soul of 'Richard, lately king of England' and instructed that Felbrigg be sold.

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