- The property was built on the site of an old Benedictine Monastery. When Henry VIII suppressed it, he handed Audley over to his Chancellor at the time. A man called Walden.
- The house was built using a Jacobean style between 1603 and 1614. Over the centuries it was expanded to create a massive sprawling house. So large that various generations have since reduced it in size. Today it is still a massive house, so it must have been absolutely huge previously.
- Like most stately homes, during the Second World War it was put to military use. It was used by the Special Operations Executive to train Polish soldiers. A memorial to the 180 Polish soldiers that died in the war are in the grounds.
- In 1948 the house and grounds were sold to the Ministry of Works as the family could not afford the death duties required to enable them to retain the property. The advantage of this sale was that most of the furniture and artworks that had been in the house were also part of that deal. So the house gives great insight, and feeling, for what it was like living in the house.
- The family still live locally. They actually own and run the small model railway attraction across from the pedestrian entrance to the house.
- There is an impressive art collection throughout the house. The guidebook that you can buy, or a folder the staff will give you for free, explains what they all are and the history of each picture. There are also many cabinets packed full of stuffed birds and animals in a number of halls. The collection is enormous and, in my view, a bit creepy. But clearly the family had a great passion for the collection.
- Explore the gardens. These are grand and very impressive, with big sweeping lawns, a formal flower garden, a river and even a cricket pitch that the locals play on at weekends. There is a child playground that clearly is very popular with local families and visitors.
- Tour the House. This is a great tour. Each of the rooms has an English Heritage person that can tell you more about the property, the family and the room. They are friendly and full of facts and stories. The guide book (£4/ $6) is also a helpful guide to use while touring through the house.
- Stable Yard. At the stables are a few horses, a multi-media exhibit to explain how the grounds were run, a small gift shop and then also nearby is the kitchen garden and the child playground.
- Tea Room and Gift Shop. There is an adequate tea room with a selection of sandwiches and hot food. The gift shop is also a fairly good size with a mixture of Audley End branded items and English heritage items on sale.
- Special Events. It is worth checking the official site to find out what events are taking place. On many weekends in summer they hold special events. For example, the weekend we went they were running a “Soldiers and Spies” event focusing on training and spying techniques in the Second World War.
Cost and Opening
- Members of English Heritage can visit for free. Adults cost £13 and Children £7.80.
- The house and gardens are open from April to end of October. The gardens open on weekends in the winter months. Latest opening and prices should be checked on the official website as also the house can be closed for events or filming: Official Audley House Website
While this house is not as intertwined in major historic events as some of the houses that are part of English Heritage, it really is worth a visit. It is a very grand and stunning property. As the house is so full of furniture and art, it also gives great exposure to the heritage of the family and the period.
It is one of the most beautiful gardens and houses I have visited.
See all my photos of Audley House: click here
Watch the Video I made of Audley House and Gardens: