The Dryden family had held Canons Ashby since the sixteenth century and enjoyed the titled status from 1619, when Erasmus was created a Baronet. Following the death without issue of his grandson, Robert (c.1638-1708), the estates passed to Edward Dryden, a successful London grocer who continued to trade even following his inheritance. He made many improvements to a house that had grown piecemeal over the years, although these were limited by an estate income that amounted to £1100 per annum in the early eighteenth century. This relatively modest sum was the backdrop to the thrifty lifestyle of his son, Sir John, and the later financial problems of John’s adopted daughter Elizabeth and her husband, John Turner-Dryden. The latter purchased a Baronetcy in 1793, but died in 1797 leaving debts of £10,980. Elizabeth maintained control over the estate until her death in 1824, when Canons Ashby passed to her second son, Henry
The Windham family acquired Felbrigg in 1599 and it formed their main residence up to death of William Windham III in 1824. Improvements were made to the house in 1621-24 by Sir John Windham and in the 1680s by his grandson, William Windham I. Whilst the basic form of the house has remained largely the same since then, interior alterations were made by successive generations, especially William II following his Grand Tour (1738-42). He created a Cabinet in which to hang his newly acquired collection of paintings. His son, William III, was a politician, serving as Secretary for War in the 1790s, but he was also a man of letters who knew Samuel Johnson, inheriting some of his books. The family were not always blessed with happy marriages: Ashe and his wife Elizabeth separated after only three years of marriage, their correspondence revealing much about their deteriorating relationship. Following the death of the childless William Windham III, the estate passed to the son of his half-brother. It was acquired by the National Trust in 1969.