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Built to receive the most important people in England


Great Hall
Victorian Service Wing
Parterre Garden
Audley End, in Essex, is one of the most impressive Jacobean country houses in the UK. Even so, it's still only a third of its original size! In its day, this wasn't really a house - it was more like a palace.

Audley End
Photo Keith Evans
Appropriately enough, the monarchy were regular visitors. One of the building's main purposes was to entertain King James I and his Queen, who both had their own set of rooms. This explains the C-shaped layout, which was designed to accentuate the royal procession's formal arrival.
The house was named after a 16th century lord chancellor called Thomas Audley, but built by his grandson, Thomas Howard, the Earl of Suffolk. Altogether, the project cost a reported £200,000, an absolutely astronomical sum in those days. Unfortunately for Howard, everybody found out that much of that money had been embezzled from the crown. To say James wasn't best pleased would be an understatement - he wasted no time in sticking Thomas Howard straight into the Tower of London.

Audley End in 1880
A few years later the house became official royal property, when Charles II bought it. After a few decades he gave it back to the Earls of Suffolk, who realised that, with no kings to entertain, the place was probably a bit too big for its own good. Over the next century various bits were slowly demolished, until the mansion reached its current size.

The North Doorway
Photo Pam Fray
Despite the reductions, Audley End is as extravagant as any other country house you could care to name. Its great hall rises through two stories, and the chapel has detailed Gothic ornaments. The saloon has a ceiling full of carved sea monsters, and the library has pretty garden views. Some rooms were designed by Robert Adam, one of the most renowned craftsman of his era, and the official Architect of the King's Works.
Next to the main house is the Victorian service wing, where armies of servants would work at keeping life for their masters as pleasant as possible. Audley End had its own larder, dairy and laundry. Sometimes costumed staff are on hand to demonstrate the hard work that went on here in the house's backstage.

The Kitchen
Photo Pam Fray
Much of the food came from the estate's own kitchen garden. By the 90s it had become abandoned and overgrown, but a charity called Garden Organic restored it completely. The vegetables, herbs and fruit can all be sampled in Audley End's tea room.
The rest of the grounds are as pretty as they ever were. The highlight is the painstakingly planned Parterre Garden, a riot of rainbow colours and water features. The surrounding parkland was designed by Capability Brown, a man once described as "England's greatest gardener".

The Parterre Garden
Photo Pam Fray
To the south, just across the River Cam, are the recently restored stables. they have horses in permanent residence, and an authentic Victorian groom to take care of them. He's happy to chat to visitors as he goes about his chores. A permanent exhibition highlights the lives of other workers who lived on the Audley End estate in the 1880s. Next door, in the coach house, is the Victorian fire engine that protected the mansion from its biggest fear!

The Stables
Photo Pam Fray

Did You Know?

Audley End Miniature Railway is a delightful 1.5 mile ride on Lord Braybrooke’s private 10 ¼” gauge railway through Estate woodland. Children will enjoy looking out for the teddies that live in the woods, while the adults are reminded of a nostalgic era!
Visitor Information
Audley End is open daily, April to September, 10am to 5pm (plus limited opening in winter). Entry costs around £12.50 for adults, £7.50 children. Audley End, Saffron Walden, Essex, CB11 4JF. Tel: 01799 522842
Audley End Miniature Railway runs a daily timetable during summer months, limited services during spring and autumn, closed in Nov, Jan & Feb (limited Xmas services during Dec). Train fares cost around £7 for a multi-ride adult, £5 for children. Audley End Miniature Railway, Audley End Road, Saffron Walden, CB11 4JBTel: 01799 510726

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