History behind the scenes with Mary Mackie’s books

Felbrigg Hall — don’t go away, I’m coming! Image courtesy of James Long, Wikimedia Commons.

Northeast of London, in the area of the U.K. known as East Anglia, there is a Stately Home that waits for me to come and visit it. The Stately Home is called Felbrigg Hall, and it’s located at Norwich, Norfolk. It is one of many National Trust houses in the U.K. (For readers not familiar with the U.K.’s National Trust, it’s similar to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the U.S.)

I yearn to see this place one day because of a British author called Mary Mackie. Her husband, Chris, worked as a houseman and general administrator of Felbrigg Hall for seven years and sometimes drafted her to help with his work. She wrote a humorous and entertaining set of books about their time at Felbrigg Hall to describe what life was like behind the scenes. I have the first two books, Cobwebs and Cream Teas and Dry Rot and Daffodils. I’ve just heard of the third book, Frogspawn and Floor Polish, and guess what I want for my next birthday or Christmas?

The books contain various anecdotes about Felbrigg’s history such as workmen finding a secret staircase and Chris finding undiscovered animals in the plasterwork of one ceiling. There’s also stories about German campers, concerts, school tours, the quirks of visitors, and opening and closing the house for the season, as well as dry rot, mildew, blocked drains and other similar events that occur in an aging home.

The best anecdotes from these books, in my opinion, were the following:

1) Mischievous husband Chris decided to dress up as a ghost one summer evening to thrill a bunch of children walking near Felbrigg with their chaperones.

2) BBC crew filmed parts of a TV series, “The Rainbow,” at Felbrigg Hall.

3) Prince Charles paid a visit one winter.

Mackie had her own writing career — she wrote both fiction and non-fiction books and still does. By her account, she also acted as Drain-Clearer, Doorbell-Answerer, Flower Arranger, Wet Umbrella Transporter, Rodent Exterminator (ugh), Window Washer, and Tea Server, as well as a host of other jobs. Versatile, I’d say.

I almost, but not quite, made it to Felbrigg. I was traveling through East Anglia with a British friend and we discovered that Felbrigg wasn’t open that day. But we got to see Walsingham, Blickling Hall, Cromer and Sandringham House, and that helped to make up for it.

Street in Walsingham

A street in Walsingham on a rainy day.

Blickling Hall

Blickling Hall. Image courtesy of Ben W. Bell, Wikimedia Commons.

Sandringham House

Sandringham House, one of the properties owned by the Royal Family. Image courtesy of Elwyn T. Roddick, Wikimedia Commons.

I don’t know when I’ll get to go to East Anglia again, but I figure that Felbrigg Hall isn’t going to pick itself up and go anywhere. There’s always next time.



Filed under Writing

11 responses to “History behind the scenes with Mary Mackie’s books

  1. Sounds wonderful. Now I’m going to have to find copies of those books.

  2. Oh! How I miss that grey sky and that green grass. I spent 2 summers in Oxford and fell in love with walking everywhere with an umbrella. I hope you make it to Felbrigg someday.

  3. Sounds like a fascinating destination! And now I’ve got another author on my TBR list…

  4. I’m putting Felbrigg on my list of ‘must see’ places.

  5. May the next time happen soon, Editor. I hope you visit Felbrigg. I hope we all find a secret staircase in our lifetime.


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