Audley End House and Gardens Houses
1m West of Saffron Walden on the B1383
One of the most significant Jacobean houses in England with 31 opulent rooms on view. Set in 'Capability' Brown landscaped park, with walled Victorian kitchen garden.
Audley End House was commissioned by Thomas, first Earl of Suffolk, on the scale of a royal palace, to entertain his monarch, James I. Unfortunately, Suffolk fell out of favour in the 1620s, shortly after the completion of the house, which then became a drain on his and his successors' resources.
Charles II bought the house in 1668 and used it as a base when he attended the races at Newmarket. By the 1680s, Sir Christopher Wren was warning of the need for major repairs. The cost of this caused William III to cancel the mortgage and return Audley End to the Suffolk family.
The house declined in the 18th century and, when the Suffolk line died out in 1745, it was bought by the Countess of Portsmouth for her nephew and heir, Sir John Griffin Griffin. Following his inheritance, Griffin Griffin also the fourth Baron Howard de Walden and first Baron Braybrooke made changes to the house. By the time of his death in 1797, he had added a suite of neo-classical rooms and a Gothic chapel designed by Robert Adam. Meanwhile, 'Capability' Brown had been employed to remodel the grounds.
Today, the house's interior is largely the result of ownership by the third Baron Braybrooke, who inherited it in 1825. He installed his extensive picture collection and filled the rooms with furnishings. The fourth Baron Braybrooke's natural history collection also remains an appealing feature of the house.
Audley End was requisitioned during the Second World War, after which the ninth Lord Braybrooke resumed possession. In 1948, he sold it to English Heritage's predecessor, the Ministry of Works.
Much has been done recently to restore the park and the fine Victorian gardens including the parterre to their former glory. An artificial lake was created with water from the River Cam and runs through delightful 18th-century parkland. The classical Temple of Concorde, built in 1790 in honour of George III, and restored 19th-century formal parterre garden dominate the views from the back of the house.
Visitors can see Robert Adam's Tea House Bridge and ornamental garden buildings, and the Elysian Garden cascade. This thriving organic walled Victorian Kitchen Garden with its box-edged paths, trained fruit and 52m (170ft) long vine house, still as it was in its Victorian heyday is a memorable part of any visit.
Audley End plays host to open-air concerts and craft and gardening shows during the summer months. Also worth visiting is the historic kitchen and dry laundry.
April-September, Wednesday - Sunday and Bank Holidas, grounds 11-6, house 12-5. October: grounds 11-4 Wed-Fri, Sat-Sun 11-5; House 11-3 Sat-Sun 11-3.
These dates valid until 31 March 2004.
Address1m West of Saffron Walden on the B1383, Audley End, Essex, CB11 4JF
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