The Windham Era

Portrait of William Windham I

The Norfolk Windhams had been here since the estate passed out of the hands of the de Felbrigg family in the mid-15th century, but when their line died out in 1599 the Somerset branch of the Wyndham family took over. In 1621-4 Sir John Wyndham and his son Thomas constructed the south front formed out of the carcass of an early Tudor building, and adopted the Norfolk spelling of Windham.

William Windham I

The son of Thomas Windham and his second wife Elizabeth Mede, he built the west wing in the 1680s with the architect William Samwell.  Some of the rooms at Felbrigg still have this original plasterwork, and the drawing room ceiling contains the date 1687 and the initials WW. In 1669, the year after he came of age, William married Katherine Ashe, the daughter of a rich Twickenham merchant.  Katherine's cookbook from 1707 has survived and is held in the Norfolk Records Office, see link below. 

Ashe Windham

See this portrait in the Dining room at Felbrigg Hall
Portrait of Ashe Windham

Their son Ashe, born in 1673, built the Orangery in 1707. The drawings for the Orangery are unsigned, but Ashe may have been its architect. He married Elizabeth Dobyns in 1709. and their only child William Windham II was born in 1717.  The marriage was not happy and they separated three years later.
 

William Windham II

See this portrait hanging in the Stair hall at Felbrigg
Portrait if William Windham II

William's Grand Tour lasted from 1738 – 1742 and he spent some time living in Rome.  On his return he employed James Paine to make improvements to Felbrigg including the existing staircase, the current dining room being created in the old staircase space.  The staircase was relocated so that he could create his Cabinet where many of the pictures bought on the tour still hang as he directed.  In 1750 he married Sarah Lukin, a widow with three children. 
 

William Windham III

See the original portrait in the Drawing room at Felbrigg
Portrait if William Windham III

Born in 1750, he was known as 'fighting Windham', being sent home from Eton in 1766 for his prominent part in the school rebellion against an unpopular new headmaster Dr. Foster.  He married Cecilia Forrest in 1798, and as they were both in their late forties so there was no prospect of a young family. A statesman, in 1794 he began a seven year term as Secretary at War. As a friend of Samuel Johnson, he inherited some of Johnson's books and bought others at the auction following his death.

Having no direct descendents he had considered leaving Felbrigg to one of his close circle of friends, but in the end settled it upon William, the eldest son of his half-brother George Lukin.