"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years." - Abraham Lincoln

Posted on October 30, 2017 by Sioux under General
1 Comment


Built in the 17th century, a palace in all but name, Audley End House is a stately home of magnificent proportions, it is renowned as one of the finest Jacobean houses in England; even the stable block has been described as one of the grandest surviving stables of the 17th century. The gardens, dating back to medieval times, must be seen to be believed. Audley End is now one-third of its original size, and although open to the public, it remains the family seat of the Lords Braybrooke. 

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                                                                                                                                 Originally the site of Walden Abbey, a Benedictine monastery 

                                                                                                                                 in 1538, the abbey was converted to a domestic house for Henry VIII and was known as                                                                                  Audley Inn. It was demolished by his grandson and a much grander mansion built, primarily for entertaining the                                               king, James I. In 1626 the house was on the scale of a great royal palace, and became one when Charles II bought it in 1668 for £50,000 for use as a home when attending the races at Newmarket. Over the next century, parts of the house were gradually demolished until it was reduced to its current size. The main structure has remained little altered since the main front court was demolished in 1708 and the east wing came down in 1753. Major changes were introduced during the late 17th century with the parklands being landscaped in 1762; and a huge picture collection installed in the early 18th century.  

Offered to the government during the Dunkirk evacuation the offer was declined due to its lack of facilities. In March 1941 it was requisitioned and used as a camp by a small number of units before being turned over to the Special Operations Executive, who used the house as a general holding camp before using it for its Polish branch. A memorial to the 108 Poles who died in the service, stands in the main driveway. After the war, the ninth Lord Braybrooke resumed possession, and in 1948 the estate was handed over to the English Heritage foundation and opened to the public. 

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Rooms open to the public include the

kitchen, dairy, dry larder and laundries.

Refurnished and equipped with

original and reproduction Victorian

fixtures and fittings, they are vividly

animated with lifelike sights and

sounds, film projection and even examples of food eaten in the era. This creates an atmospheric portrait of daily life for the individuals – from butler and cook down to dairy maid and lowly houseboy – who once toiled there, governed by an even more rigid hierarchy than ‘above stairs’, and coping with problems like keeping food hot over the 183m between kitchen and dining rooms. 

The chapel at Audley End House

The children’s playroom

The parklands include many neo-classical monuments. The grounds are divided by the  River Cam, which is crossed by several ornate bridges, and a main driveway, that follows the route of an old Roman road. 

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The Neoclassical Temple of Concord, built in 1790 in honour of George III, and the restored 19th-century formal parterre garden dominate the views from the back of the house. The 1830’s Parterre (a formal garden of shaped flower beds) Gardens were restored between 1985 & 1993, tracing the original plan by archaeological excavation. There are currently over 15,000 bedding plants in the garden. 

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The walled kitchen garden was restored in 1999 from an overgrown, semi-derelict state. Renovated to its former glory, it now looks as it would have done in late Victorian times – full of vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers. Some of the apple trees, planted in the 17th and 18th centuries are still bearing fruit today! 

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                                                                                                                                                   The Cedar of Lebanon tree (to the right of the entrance porch) was planted in the 1760’s during the ‘refashioning’ of the gardens. The entrance porches at the west front of Audley End were built between 1605 and 1614. 

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The cascade, River Cam and Robert Adam’s Tea Bridge are various features in the Elysian Garden. 

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On the day I visited, the Heritage Foundation was hosting a “Stables Weekend”, which included costume dressed stand-ins and a number of horse-drawn carriages being used as was the custom of the time. 

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Unfortunately the weather wasn’t playing ball and the heavens opened before the carriages were paraded, sending everyone scurrying for shelter.


I got a few photos before taking cover in the shelter of the main house. 


I meandered in and out of the many rooms open for public viewing, and once the rain stopped, dashed back to the monastery before the rains came back. I would have liked to have seen all the carriages, but it wasn’t meant to be. I guess I’ll just have to come back another time, for tomorrow we head to Cambridge and then home again to Chelmsford.

The magnificent stables building 


One response to “Travel time – new spaces, friendly faces #6 – exploring magnificent mansions”

  1. Pauline Smith says:

    Oh wow – that was soooo interesting. The way that you have done some of the pictures depicting the “Victorian” look is just so awesome. I love the cart horses. And the old apple trees, still bearing fruit…
    Would of loved to have been a fly travelling to where you are going (not the costings!!)

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